June 05, 2024 4 min read

By Shane Robert

Since the creation of the first cities, and food surpluses that led to the development of what we would now call “desk jobs,” the importance of spending time outside, ideally with some form of movement or recreational exercise, has been viewed as a wholly necessary part of one's day. What the proponents of what we now call green exercise have all realized, from ancient philosophers to Arnold Schwarzenegger to modern TikTok influencers, is that we existed within the natural outdoor environment for thousands of years, and humans have an innate affiliation with nature that benefits every aspect of our health, whether bio, psycho, or social. Scientific studies confirm these suppositions.   

From the ancient Greeks we get the word gymnasium – literally “school for naked exercise”. These spaces were expansive outdoor areas typically constructed by governments as public works projects to serve as venues for various physical activities. These impressive structures featured dressing rooms, baths, and training facilities, as well as designated spaces for competitions, lectures, and discussions on subjects such as philosophy, literature, and music. As the name boldly proclaims, the exercise was undertaken fully nude in the open air. There are many differing cultural explanations as to why they did this, ranging from honoring Zeus to removing social/class distinction among participants. We now know that full body exposure to the sun would have increased vitamin D production, a hormone necessary for essentially everything the body does. Of course, Greek gyms were only open to males 18 and older, so mimicking them is less likely to happen in the modern world of co-ed gyms. Still, taking your workout outside, and shedding some layers, will pay dividends. 

Kim Abt, a trainer and founder of LA-based PwrGrl Fitness, discovered the benefits of green workouts for herself and her clients. Partly out of necessity (she has a newborn baby girl, Venice, who has to tag along to all of her training sessions), and partly out of fun, Kim has started taking her training groups to the beach, something that had proven difficult in the past.  “Before we had the Verse Agile Rack, we came out here with actual squat racks. We had to take them apart each time. We had to rent a big van to bring them out here. [With the Agile Rack] we don't need to rent a big car; we don't have to bring screws and screwdrivers to set it back up. It's easy to carry, and it looks good.” When asked ‘why train at the beach?’, besides the obvious fact that she is in LA and close to some of the most famous beaches in the world, Kim sees it as beneficial to her clients. “You're using a lot more stabilizer muscles, which makes it harder…you are using those small little muscles that you don't use on an even surface. You're still going to get other benefits of training in the sand, feeling your feet really connecting to your body and nature.” 

Science is starting to agree with Kim. Recent research shows that simply walking in nature for as little as 15 minutes increases working memory and concentration than walking indoors. In addition, a study from China compared walking in a park or a gym on alternate days. Subjects reported feeling considerably less stress and enjoying exercise more when they walked outside. This may come as little surprise to anyone who has battled through the tedium of a treadmill workout without some sort of distraction like weightlifting videos on YouTube, however, the effects are not limited simply to enjoyment. Even when exercise is strenuous, subjects report it feeling easier (and still more enjoyable) when in nature. It also led to, on average, 30 extra minutes of exercise when compared to similar indoor efforts. Heart rate and blood pressure, which were higher in the outdoor group due to the more strenuous demands of the exercise, returned to baseline, or lower, faster, and remained low through the rest of the day compared to the indoor group. 

The Verse Agile Rack is tailor-made to take your training outside. Whether you want to mimic the Austrian Oak and spend a day in the woods with friends doing 500-pound calf raises between beers, or go more for the PwrGrl Fitness aesthetic of the beach, some situational awareness might be needed. “Make sure to find as flat and level a place as you can. ​​Make sure that the surface is pretty even. Then we just wiggle it in (the sand) a little bit and it's super sturdy.” 

In the busy plugged-in world we live in, it can be easy to find oneself going from indoor space to indoor space, the only outside interaction being the time it takes to walk from inside to a car, through a parking lot to another inside space. Even if this plays out multiple times per day, the total outdoor interaction is very small. This is a massive oversight in our health, performance, and well-being. If you feel the wisdom of the ancients doesn’t apply to you, that the science isn’t thorough enough, that tools like the Agile Rack are not convenient enough, to convince you we need to spend more time outside in nature, perhaps the words of Physical Culture pioneer, the “Russian Lion”, George Hackenschmidt will:

“I have found that those who have lived an active outdoor life have retained and enjoyed brightness born of health far longer than others.”

Watch this video of how & why PwrGrls trainer, Kim Abt, takes her workout to the beach.


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