We all know that exercise provides many mental and physical health benefits. What if a simple change in location could exponentially increase those benefits? Turns out, it can! Outdoor exercise, also known as “green exercise”, combines two health-enhancing activities: moving your body and getting outdoors. If you’re looking to enhance your mood, save money, and avoid the time and trouble of getting to the gym, look no further than the great outdoors.
Here are FIVE benefits of getting your sweat on with Mother Nature.
1. Improved Mood and Reduced Depression
Outdoor exercise provides a mental health boost beyond that of indoor gyms. Moving outdoors has been shown to reduce anger and depression, and improve mood. Exposure to sunlight enhances vitamin D production, which may be partially responsible for this mood-enhancing effect. You don’t have to run a marathon or crush an outdoor boot camp to reap the benefits. Low-intensity activities, like walking or gardening, also provide exceptional results. For a quick afternoon pick-me-up, head outside on your break for a 15-minute walk, and return to work feeling energized.
2. Enhanced Self-esteem
Research shows that as little as five minutes of outdoor exercise can improve self-esteem. Any outdoor location will do, but being near greenery or water enhances this effect even more. Interestingly, low-to moderate-intensity physical activity shows greater improvements in self-esteem than high-intensity outdoor exercise. Activities shown to improve self-esteem include walking, cycling, horseback riding, fishing and gardening. A regular dose of outdoor activity can help boost the already powerful esteem-enhancing effects of exercise.
3. Low Cost
People often cite cost as one of the biggest factors prohibiting regular exercise. The outdoor environment provides a low-cost solution for exercise enthusiasts. While high gym or studio prices can act as a barrier to exercise, outdoor venues such as low-traffic neighborhood streets and local parks offer free space for physical activity.
4. Ease of Access
Lack of time is another common barrier to exercise. Navigating traffic, parking garages, and crowded locker rooms add additional time needed to be active. Taking advantage of the great outdoors can reduce these time constraints. Local hills, tracks, and neighborhood streets provide ideal settings for walking, running and cycling, while nearby parks offer ideal venues for resistance training, boot camps, and yoga classes. Many outdoor areas include benches, trees, inclined roads, and even designated exercise equipment, allowing for a variety of resistance-training exercises.
5. Connecting With Mother Nature
One of the greatest benefits of outdoor exercise lies in its inherent opportunity to connect with Mother Nature and the people and places in your community. Finish your bike ride at a local coffee shop, wave hello to your neighbors as you jog the streets, or set up a weekly walking group with friends and neighbors. Exercising outdoors can help you feel grounded, deepen your connection to your environment, and enhance your appreciation for the beauty around you.
Whether it’s completing a circuit workout at your local park, mountain biking through nearby trails, or walking your kids to the bus stop, any movement counts. All you have to do it get out and go!