If it’s blowing a gale outside, don’t let that put you off going running. This Stress Awareness Month, discover why exercising – whether running, walking or cycling – in windy weather is great for stress relief…

Words: Kim Jones | Images: Shutterstock

When the wind’s whipping up a storm outside, it’s tempting to draw the curtains and hunker down indoors. But hiding away from gusty weather could mean you’re missing out on an easy-breezy way to wellbeing. In fact, exercising outdoors in windy weather – be it running, walking or cycling – could provide a multitude of benefits, including stress relief.

Next time it’s blowing a gale, try doing as the Dutch do! Rather than shutting themselves away from the windy weather, they embrace it, deliberately using it as a means of blasting away any stress in a practice known as “uitwaaien”. There’s no English equivalent of the word but, roughly translated, it means “out blow” and it involves getting out into blustery conditions to exercise – whether taking a walk, going on a run or cycling.

More refreshing and exhilarating than indoor exercise, pushing against the wind and letting it take your breath away as you exert yourself helps clear the mind, they say. It blows out the bad air, replacing it with good. As a result, anxiety levels drop.

running exercising outdoors windy weather stress relief benefits

Key benefits of exercising outdoors

There’s no doubt that being active outside can have positive effects. One study published in Environmental Science & Technology found that exercising outdoors, as opposed to indoors, was associated with greater vitality, fulfilment and enjoyment.

‘It’s far more exhilarating than being in a stuffy gym,’ says Kezia Luckett, a positive psychologist. ‘Even just 10 minutes of outdoor exercise has been proven to act as a kind of natural medicine, helping restore mental fatigue, improve your mood and reduce stress. Being out in nature – and specifically in the wind – can make you feel expansive and free; the total opposite to how you might feel in a gym surrounded by other people and standing in line for your turn to go on a machine.’

She adds: ‘A study by Brighton and Sussex Medical School also showed that hearing nature sounds, such as the wind in the trees, can help your brain move to an outward-directed focus of attention, reducing your body’s fight or flight instinct and flicking the switch over to feelings of wellbeing and relaxation.’

How does exercising in windy weather help with stress relief?

Being buffeted by wind seems also to have the power to spur you on if you’re feeling low and lethargic. ‘The wind creates a real sense of movement – a fast-moving landscape of trees, grass, clouds and leaves, which is often felt within your body, enabling you to mimic the same,’ explains Kezia. ‘Likewise, it can change your mood. We’ve all heard the expression “wind of change”. I feel being out in the breeze can change your emotional state from feeling quite heavy and cumbersome to feeling light and liberated instead.’

Harnessing the wind during workouts can bring plenty of physical benefits, too. This is according to Kerry Dixon, an ex-competitive athlete and personal trainer who has always trained outdoors, whatever the weather. ‘Battling through the elements definitely helped build my grit, resilience, strength and fitness, and has always given me a feeling of great accomplishment,’ she says. Walking into a strong headwind on natural terrain can really help improve your strength as your muscles have to respond to every stride.’

Should I go running when it’s windy?

‘Running into the wind will require you to dig a little deeper. But don’t push harder against it – instead try to relax into it. Focus on your form and your core strength to power through. This type of resistance training can make you stronger.’

Having the wind behind you as you run can be really exhilarating, too, adds Kerry. ‘You can use it to your advantage to get your legs turning and you’ll run a little faster, almost effortlessly. This is something that is sure to make you feel really powerful!’

running exercising outdoors windy weather stress relief benefits

Embrace the wind to boost your wellbeing

Embracing blowy weather can bring plenty of other wellbeing benefits and mood boosts. Kezia suggests trying to visualise the wind blowing away your worries as you take a walk. ‘With each gust of wind, imagine the cobwebs and stressors in your mind and body being blown away, as you surrender to the push and pull of the wind’s power,’ she says.

And don’t forget to have fun! ‘Tap into that inner wonderment and excitement that children feel when having fun outdoors,’ advises Kezia. ‘Enjoy that moment when you push against the wind to see how far you can lean against it. Or chase leaves that swirl down the street!’

So, next time you’re looking for a way to shed your stress, the answer just might be blowing in the wind!

Related: Feel good fitness – best exercises for mental health