Exercise itself is important, we all know that, but what are the benefits of exercising outside? Is it possible one could receive additional benefits simply by taking it outside?
Why do people choose to work out inside a gym versus the great outdoors, anyway? Well, there are some things that do make it appealing, such as a controlled temperature, a safe atmosphere, variety of equipment, the group setting. That said, evidence seems to support the fact that outdoor activity kicks in some additional benefits when it comes to exercise. Research shows that exercising outdoors can actually increase the benefits you derive from activity.
According to a study at the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, there are tons of health benefits of exercising outside. Dr. Michael Depledge, senior author on the study, explains, “Our research, which brings together data from a wide variety of sources, adds significant weight to the case for spending more time in the natural environment as members of the public and their clinicians fight to counteract the negative outcomes of modern living, such as obesity and depression.”
So, with that in mind, what are the additional and amazing benefits of exercising outside over doing the same old, same old at your local fitness facility?
15 Health Benefits of Exercising Outside
1. Sunshine!— Vitamin D is a necessary nutrient you get from the sun. Studies show a lack of vitamin D can contribute to depression and the “winter blues.” It’s a good idea to get a certain amount of real sunlight each day. Just don’t go too far and get burned, and make sure to use sunblock if you’re going to be out for a significant period of time.
2. Exercise on the cheap— you may not want to shell out the bucks for a gym membership, but that doesn’t mean you’re relegated to the couch. Take full advantage of the free outdoors for recreation, enjoyment, and exercise!
3. Alleviate depression— if you’ve been finding yourself feeling low and leaning toward depression, getting yourself out the door can help. There’s just something about being outside that seems to lift your mood and bring on the happy. And science supports this. According to research reported in Environmental Science Technology, “Compared with exercising indoors, exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalization and positive engagement, decreases in tension, confusion, anger, and depression, and increased energy.”
4. Boost self-esteem— hey, exercise is where it’s at if you’re not feeling the love… get yourself going and enjoy the benefits of both the great outdoors and moving your body.
5. Change of scenery— bored with the same old, same old? Not anymore. The outdoors is always a little different. And, a change of scenery can boost your motivation and spark a desire to try different exercises.
6. Commune with Mother Nature— there is something to be said about the meditative qualities of just being outside in the fresh air and sunshine. Getting away from all the electronics, piped in air, loud music, and gym chaos is a welcome reprieve.
7. Get fresh air— don’t underestimate the power of fresh air. According to a study on environmental pollution, trees help clean the air of toxins, and naturally, getting away from piped-in air is a good thing.
8. Extra energy— you’ll also get a natural boost in energy, according to scientists, to help you lose that addiction to energy drinks and caffeine.
9. Easy access— no worries about hours, crowds, or parking. One of the benefits of exercising outside is that it’s right there, any time you’re ready to go.
10. Happiness— people report feeling happier when they exercise outdoors than when they do so inside a fitness facility. Feeling the sunshine, smelling flowers and freshly cut grass, and getting a boost of fresh air has been shown to significantly boost mood.
11. Better workouts— studies show that you use more energy covering the same “distance” outdoors versus when you’re inside. You burn more calories and studies even show that people put forth more effort during outdoor activities.
12. Less stress— interestingly, studies have shown lower cortisol levels among those who exercise outdoors.
13. Motivation— this seems to increase when exercising outdoors. Researchers can’t really pinpoint why, but outdoor exercise does tend to push people to do more.
14. Improve your immune system— “Exercise leads to an increase in natural killer cells, neutrophils, and monocytes, which ultimately increases immune function,” says Ather Ali, ND, MPH, assistant director of Complementary/Alternative Medicine Research at the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center. Researchers in Japan also measured what happens in our cells when we’re surrounded by fresh air and discovered that a single day trip in the outdoors can boost your immune system for more than a week.
The Great Outdoors Is a Great Place for Exercise
One of the key benefits of exercising outside is that it’s the perfect place for some fantastic bodyweight exercises. Try some of these next time you’re taking a walk, jog, or run through the park:
- Run the stairs— if you’re near a stadium (available at many schools and college campuses), you can run the stairs.
- Drop and give yourself 10— if you’re walking or you’re running, you can stop every now and then and throw in some pushups to intensify your workout.
- Plank— turn your walk into an ab workout, too, by stopping every ten minutes for a 30-second plank.
- Park equipment— some parks even offer circuit-type equipment along some of their paths. Try out the monkey bars, climbing walls, and balance beams as you walk or jog through the park.
Now, what are you waiting for? Isn’t it time to take it outside?