If you are looking to lose weight, or just improve your overall fitness, you may think running on a treadmill or sitting on a stationary bike for an hour is the best way to get results. Well, you may be happily surprised to know that you don't have to spend a lot of money on a machine or gym membership; you can actually get even greater results using the outdoors.
Running through the woods, over roots, up and down hills, over uneven ground dodging rocks, hopping over fallen trees, ducking under tree branches and waving your arms like a crazy person through spider webs, is going to require the use of WAY more muscles than running on the even surface of a treadmill or sitting your arse on a bike. And the experience of being outside, breathing fresh air and enjoying natural sunlight, really helps time fly by. There are so many things to keep your eye on and distract you from the minutes ticking by.
Now, I teach indoor cycling classes, so I'm certainly not saying that bikes or treadmills are useless pieces of crap, but I've been using indoor cardio equipment for a very long time, and today the outdoors showed me how little that type of exercise has really done for me.
Exercising in the "real world", on natural terrain that our bodies are suppose to be able to handle, is going to make you stronger, more agile, faster, and able to balance and control your movements with significantly greater results. You will have much faster reaction time, better foot/eye coordination, have more explosive power as well as increased stamina.
BUT you need to be CAREFUL! I took it much slower today than I would have if I had been running on paved road or indoors because the risk of injury is obviously greater. I noticed myself holding my breath a few times (a big exercise no no) as I ran over particularly tricky parts of the trail. I had to consciously remind myself to breathe; you're forced to pay attention to your body and surroundings. Rather than mindless exercise, you're engaged in the activity and what you're accomplishing.
Take it slow to start and make sure you're wearing proper footwear. Take someone with you- always! Going alone isn't safe and isn't as fun. So, grab a buddy, find a path in the woods, and go for it!