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Seven Health Benefits Of Taking Your Workouts To The Great Outdoors

Seven Health Benefits Of Taking Your Workouts To The Great Outdoors

by Andrew Cassidy, PT, DPTLeave a Comment

Regular exercise is key to a long and healthy life. While there are countless exercise styles, methods, and equipment, the most important aspect is picking an exercise that we are most likely to stick with. Have you ever been curious to try exercising outside? When people run past you on the sidewalk, or complete a set of pull-ups while your children are on the playground, do you wish you could do the same thing? These outdoor exercisers may be on to something, and we could all benefit from more fresh air during our next workout.

There are several benefits to taking your workout outside. In this article we will go over seven benefits of taking your workouts to the great outdoors:

1. Improved Mood

Countless studies have demonstrated the mood enhancing benefits of exercise1,4. Just think back to your last exercise session, and how good you felt after its completion. The sense of accomplishment following a workout does wonders for our mood. This effect is even more pronounced when that exercise is completed outdoors. People who exercise are more likely to have a stronger enhancement in their daily mood (less irritability, calmer, more optimism) if they completed that session outdoors.

2. Increased Sense Of Energy

The view from a treadmill or an exercise bike never changes. The view on a trail run or bike ride around a park is constantly in motion. The progressive change in scenery when exercising outdoors commands our full attention. We are fully engaged in our exercise, not able to zone out as one might on an exercise machine or treadmill. That demand on our attention makes us more awake and alert when we exercise, leading to higher reports of energy for exercise participants4.

3. Vitamin D

Deficiency in Vitamin D is associated with poor bone health, poor immune system function, and even heart disease5. Our bodies use natural sunlight to make Vitamin D. A 30-minute outdoor workout gives our body an excellent boost of Vitamin D to keep our bodies healthy. Just remember to use sunscreen.

4. Reduced Anxiety

The concept is referred to as green space exposure. Surrounding ourselves with natural settings (such as the green coloration of grass fields or forests) reduces our rating of our own anxiety. Even simple physical activity like walking in a neighborhood park has been shown to reduce anxiety1. This benefit is especially true for adolescents.

5. Lower Perceived Effort

Researchers had two groups of people complete the same workout, with one major difference. One group completed the exercise indoors in a standard gym, while the other group completed the exercise outdoors. Following the workout, the group who completed the exercise in an outdoor setting rated the workout as less strenuous. The researchers’ theory is that the natural lighting, fresh air, and dynamic scenery contributed to less attention given to discomfort while exercising2. If you are new to exercise, or don’t like the discomfort associated with workout out, taking it outside might be your best option!

6. More Likely To Develop A Habit

The mood enhancement, positive change to emotion, and sense of accomplishment we get from outdoor exercise makes us want more. The more you exercise outdoors, the higher likelihood you will make exercise a regular habit3,4.

7. Less Expensive Than A Gym Membership

All that you really need for outdoor exercise is a good pair of shoes, and appropriate clothing. A quality pair of running shoes or trainers will last over six months, while clothing can last even longer. Compared to the price you might have to pay for a monthly gym membership, outdoor exercise is a bargain.

Need some inspiration on what to do once you are outdoors? Check out this article for an outdoor exercise routine. Any injuries holding back your workouts? Athletico offers free assessments to see if physical therapy can help you get back to doing what you love. Click the link below to find a location near you! Free assessments are available in-clinic and virtually through our Telehealth platform.

Schedule a Free Assessment

*Per federal guidelines, beneficiaries of plans such as Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, VHA and other federally funded plans are not eligible for free assessments.

The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

1. Coventry, P. A., Brown, J. E., Pervin, J., Brabyn, S., Pateman, R., Breedvelt, J., Gilbody, S., Stancliffe, R., McEachan, R., & White, P. L. (2021). Nature-based outdoor activities for mental and physical health: Systematic review and meta-analysis. SSM – population health, 16, 100934.
2. Lahart, I., Darcy, P., Gidlow, C., & Calogiuri, G. (2019). The Effects of Green Exercise on Physical and Mental Wellbeing: A Systematic Review. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(8), 1352.
3. Noseworthy, M., Peddie, L., Buckler, E. J., Park, F., Pham, M., Pratt, S., Singh, A., Puterman, E., & Liu-Ambrose, T. (2023). The Effects of Outdoor versus Indoor Exercise on Psychological Health, Physical Health, and Physical Activity Behaviour: A Systematic Review of Longitudinal Trials. International journal of environmental research and public health, 20(3), 1669.
4. Thompson Coon, J., Boddy, K., Stein, K., Whear, R., Barton, J., & Depledge, M. H. (2011). Does participating in physical activity in outdoor natural environments have a greater effect on physical and mental wellbeing than physical activity indoors? A systematic review. Environmental science & technology, 45(5), 1761–1772.

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