As of July 2023, 64.19 million Americans have a gym membership, the most of any country in the world. This is a nearly two fold increase since 2,000 when gym memberships doubled from 32.8 million to 64.2 million. Despite this, America is still the most obese country in the world. Why is this? And is going to the gym actually good for you?
In this article I’m not going to focus on the general pitfalls of traditional gym workouts, instead I'll discuss the negative effects of exercising in a blue lit gym and the enormous health benefits of outdoor gyms and outdoor workouts.
First of all, working out in an indoor gym largely limits the exercises that you can perform. Humans have evolved to walk, run and throw. Therefore, our training should revolve around and resemble these three primary functions. Unfortunately, the equipment, space, and expectations of what a “gym” workout should look like prevent people from working out in a way conducive to their biomechanical blueprint. Gym culture encourages bilateral, uniplanar lifts that only train muscles in one dimension. Most exercises don’t account for our body’s web of myofascial connections that dictate our movement and physiological health. Outdoor workouts and outdoor gyms on the other hand give you the freedom and space to explore “functional” exercises that relate to jumping, running, throwing, and changing direction such as the ones we promote at FP.
Beyond the biomechanical implications of engaging in gym culture, working out inside exposes your skin, eyes, and cells to large amounts of blue light and EMF’s. Prolonged or intense exposure to blue light, particularly while exercising can be especially damaging to mitochondrial function which is crucial for optimal physical performance. Numerous Lab studies have shown that short-wave or blue light (400-480nm) that impinges on the retina affects flavin and cytochrome constituents (proteins in the mitochondria). This impingement decreases the rate of ATP formation, making it more difficult to generate energy. The slowed down metabolic rate stimulates ROS (reactive oxygen species) which causes apoptosis (programmed cell death).
Blue light exposure, especially at high intensities, can also cause constriction of blood vessels in certain areas, such as the retina. Similar vascular responses occur in other tissues, which reduces blood flow and thus oxygen delivery to those cells, contributing to localized hypoxia (deprivation of oxygen from your cells). The final electron acceptor in the electron transport chain is oxygen through cytochrome C. In cytochrome oxidase, the electron combines with oxygen to form water. So, if your cells don’t have enough oxygen, then your cells won’t produce enough water, the electron transport chain will grind to a halt and electrons in the chain will become backed up and unable to flow. When electrons are unable to flow they are oxidized and released into the intermembrane space as free radicals. High levels of free radical release damage mitochondrial DNA and trigger the cell to again commit apoptosis.
Finally, blue light significantly suppresses your body’s release of melatonin. Melatonin is a powerful hormone that significantly influences mitochondrial function and health through its antioxidant capabilities, regulation of mitochondrial dynamics, support of the electron transport chain, and protective roles against stress-induced damage. These functions of melatonin extend beyond its well-known role in circadian rhythm regulation, highlighting its importance in cellular metabolism and mitochondrial physiology. Inhibition of melatonin secretion is another example of how blue light can suppress bioenergetic functions.
Now, comes the really bad part. While exercising, your metabolic rate increases 3-4 fold above resting metabolic rate to match the energy demands of your workout. As discussed earlier, blue light exposure decreases the electron transport chain’s efficiency, which results in DNA damage, oxidative stress, and cell death. So, at a time when energy demands are highest, and your body needs the most water, and cells are under immense stress, mitochondria need to be most efficient. Exposing yourself to blue light while working out therefore kills your cells and causes DNA damage at a four times higher rate than just sitting in front of your computer. If your cells aren't able to produce the energy they need, they will assume metabolic dysfunction and trigger apoptosis. To put it simply, by working out while exposed to blue light, your cells are significantly more likely to kill themselves and your DNA is far more likely to mutate.
Benefits of Outdoor Gyms and Outdoor Workouts
So, we’ve discussed some of the detriments of working out inside, now let’s discuss some benefits of outdoor workouts. The three primary benefits of exercising in outdoor gyms are:
- Sunlight Exposure
- Outdoor gyms provide exposure to natural sunlight, which, most notably, is crucial for vitamin D synthesis.
- Exposure to full spectrum UV also significantly enhances mitochondrial function and efficiency
- Sunlight exposure also helps regulate the circadian rhythm, improving sleep quality and overall health.
- Grounding Benefits
- Exercising outdoors, particularly in bare feet on natural surfaces like grass or sand, facilitates grounding or earthing. Grounding reduces inflammation and improves health by transferring electrons from the earth to the body.
- These electrons act as antioxidants, neutralizing free radicals, improve metabolic function, and reduce inflammation and disease.
- Micro Frequencies
- Micro Frequencies in nature refer to the subtle, often low-intensity natural electromagnetic frequencies that occur in the environment. These frequencies can be contrasted with the artificial electromagnetic frequencies generated by human-made technology like cell phones, Wi-Fi, and power lines.
- Micro Frequencies include:
- Schumann Resonances, global electromagnetic resonances generated and excited by lightning discharges in the cavity formed by the Earth's surface and the ionosphere.
- Geomagnetic Frequencies: The Earth has its own magnetic field, generated by the movement of molten iron in its outer core. This geomagnetic field fluctuates slightly, creating low-frequency electromagnetic waves. These frequencies are vital for navigation in migratory animals and are thought to affect human health and behavior.
- Infrasound: Infrasound refers to sound waves below the frequency of human hearing (less than 20 Hz). These low-frequency sounds are produced by natural phenomena such as ocean waves, wind, earthquakes, and volcanic activity. Infrasound can travel long distances and is thought to be detected by various wildlife species.
- Biorhythms and Frequencies: Living organisms themselves produce and respond to a variety of frequencies. This includes the circadian rhythms governed by the natural light-dark cycle, as well as frequencies generated by the brain (brainwaves), heart, and other bodily processes.
- Natural Radio Waves: The Earth and its atmosphere naturally emit low-level radio waves, which are a part of the natural electromagnetic background. These are different from man-made radio frequencies used for communication technologies.
Outdoor workouts and being outside in general is crucial for overall health and metabolic function. Being outside and working out can not be replaced by indoor workouts. The benefits of exercise are heavily outweighed by the metabolic and physiological determinants of engaging in gym culture and indoor exercise. To achieve true radiance and optimal health, work on aligning yourself with nature both in terms of your physical habits and thought processes. Instead of imposing your beliefs on reality, let nature dictate the actions you take and what you choose to believe. I hope this article encourages you to do more outdoor workouts, and workout in a fashion that respects your paleobiological blueprint. Humans evolved to stand, walk, run and throw, outside. Your training should revolve around those functions.