Why biophilia is the new buzzword in fitness by Martin Colegate.

Why biophilia is the new buzzword in fitness by Martin Colegate.

Here at Swell Fitness, we’ve always called it working ‘out-out’ but we’ve noticed it’s got a new buzz-name – biophilia!  Biophilia was a term first coined by Harvard naturalist, Dr Edward O, and it’s set to be the buzzword of 2023.  It refers to a human’s desire to interact with other forms of life or nature.  Think about it and it’s not really surprising… humans and nature are part of one connected system. We rely on nature and biodiversity for the air we breathe, the water we drink (and fill our Swell Fit Bags with), traditional and modern medicines, and so much more. We rely on nature to keep us healthy.

During lockdown, when gyms were shut, people had to exercise outdoors.  Sport England figures show that the number of people walking outdoors increased significantly during the pandemic as gyms (and bars and restaurants) were closed.  Running and cycling took a smaller upturn too.  People were encouraged to spend an hour exercising outdoors every day and, with little else to do, and some surprisingly good weather, people took to nature.  Perhaps, unwittingly or otherwise, we’ve sensed that this was good for us as the trend for walking for leisure purposes continues to grow.    

But, it’s not just walking we should be doing outdoors.  At Swell Fitness, we are huge advocates of the outdoor workout.  Swell Nel herself (a biophilia queen) is passionate about practising yoga in nature – whether it’s on her brother’s balcony in London in sub-zero temperatures (she really did), in the Surrey Hills or on the beaches of Grimsby and Dorset, Nel likes to work ‘out-out’; she’s even managed a stint in New Zealand this year!  Not bad for the second week in January. 

Nel says that she finds exercising in nature more beneficial and these five reasons are why:

  • It’s quite liberating when you realise you can work out absolutely anywhere with no, or minimal, equipment. You don’t have to ‘get somewhere’; you can just do it!
  • It’s cooler! Not so much sweat as there would be indoors so you can keep going for longer.
  • You’re more likely to want to do it as exercising outdoors gives you a buzz that’s different from a gym session.
  • You can combine it with finding the light and getting your daily dose of Vitamin D and lumens.
  • It’s often easier to get ‘into the zone’ outdoors. As you connect with nature, you focus less on the exercise (and potential pain from that muscle stretch or heavy lift) and it allows you to workout harder for longer.   

That ‘buzz’ that Nel talks about is real.  There are several scientific studies that confirm that biophilic exercise is better for you.  A study published in Extreme Physiology and Medicine states that outdoor natural environments may provide some of the best all-round health benefits: increasing physical activity levels with lower levels of perceived exertion, reducing stress, restoring mental fatigue, and improving mood and self-esteem.  In addition, there are often social benefits (if you have a workout buddy) which can increase the enjoyment of exercise and mean you’re more likely to commit.

Dr David Hamilton agrees; he believes that humans have evolved to spend time in nature.  Our current built-up environments are relatively modern inventions and our bodies crave some green space.  His research even suggests that nature can help us heal faster and improve how we handle pain.

report from the European Centre for Environment and Human Health, studied over 19,000 people’s time outdoors and found that spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health (59% increase) and wellbeing (23% increase).

Is it any wonder then that some gyms are trying to bring the outdoors in?  Biofit opened its Notting Hill showroom in London in 2017.  Here, you can experience some of the benefits of working outdoors – that feeling of calmness, for example - without having to get wet and chilly!  Whilst there’s a place for this, and it’s surely better than nothing, couldn’t we just don an extra layer and open up the front door?  The beauty of nature is that it changes; the seasons shift, keeping us interested and motivated to experience the wildness ‘in real life’ - as the youth of today might say!

We sincerely hope we’ve motivated you to embrace biophilia and work ‘out-out’!  If you need a little more inspiration, head over to our Swell Tube channel to see how the Swell Fit Bag is the perfect outdoor exercise companion. Stay Wild! We Welcome the New Year with a commitment to stay Wild and keep working out-out in 2023! - YouTube

Keep an eye too on the @swellfitness_hub where we’re planning more Wild workout action soon. Watch this space for pop-ups, broadcasts from the wild and more expert partners we’ll be working with to bring inspiration of how you can get wild and find more “Swellness” – fitness and wellness, this year.

As ever, we’d love to hear your thought on biophilia and your journey.  Get in touch with one of our swellbeings@swellfitness.co.uk to ask questions or share your stories.




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