Now that spring has officially sprung (well, almost), what better way to welcome the warmer weather than to spend a little more time outdoors? Time to replace your weekly (or nightly) netflix and chill session with an outdoor adventure or stroll in the park. Not only does spending time in the sun increase our vitamin D intake (make sure to wear SPF!), but recent studies have also proved that being outside has many psychological benefits as well.
Surrounding yourself with nature has a profound impact on our brains and our behavior, helping us to reduce anxiety, unhappiness and stress, and increase our attention capacity, creativity and our ability to connect with other people. Although a strong emphasis has historically been placed on the importance of physical activity and exercise to reduce stress and anxiety, increasing evidence has proved that these negative feelings can be even further reduced in an outdoor setting. When we workout or spend time in natural environments, we experience more stress relief and less fatigue, as well as increased happiness, creativity and energy levels.
If you live in a suburban area or have easy access to a more natural setting, then you’re in luck! There are big differences in the body’s response to taking a walk through a city center versus strolling through a park or woodland. The more greenery you can surround yourself with, the better. For the many urbanites out there, we know it can be a challenge to make time for a city escape, so we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite unique NYC spots to catch some fresh air!
1. Hudson River Park
A favorite amongst cyclists and runners, this park stretches along the Hudson River, running from West 57th street all the way down to Battery Park. There are numerous cafes, dog runs, sports courts and green lawns along the way - making it an ideal place for almost any activity! Head south to experience large grassy lawns combined with a surreal view of downtown Manhattan and (if you make it far enough) the Statue of Liberty!
2. Prospect Park
Often overlooked for Central Park, Prospect Park offers 526 acres of serene greenery, without the many tourists and horse carriages. With several wetlands and thickly wooded ravines, you might even forget you’re still in the city. Along with large grass lawns, Prospect Park also offers various outdoor sporting facilities like tennis and volleyball courts, and soccer and baseball fields.
3. Owl’s Head Park
For those who are able to venture to Brooklyn’s southwest point, Owl’s Head Park is one of the most picturesque green spaces in the city. Stunning views of the Manhattan skyline mix with rolling hills, quaint pathways and thick trees to create an ideal destination for green-seekers. What’s more? The park has built-in fitness equipment, a skate park and lots of room for your furry friends.
If you still feel like you need an instructor/group atmosphere to get you motivated, there are tons of free outdoor workout programs in NYC (yes, free!). Jack Rabbit offers free group running sessions at various locations across the city, while The Rise and The November Project will have you completing different cardio and strength workouts at different outdoor spots in the city throughout the week. These group workouts happen early in the morning, meaning you can sneak them in before work to feel refreshed and ready to start the day!
Don’t get us wrong, we love a good spin or barre class, but sometimes a little fresh air and sunshine can do wonders to the body and mind. Use these warmer months to sneak in extra outdoor time and you will be shocked (and, of course, happy) to discover the endless positive health benefits!