4 of the best benefits to exercising outdoors

The warm weather and longer days might be just the motivation you need to take your workout outside. From walking to running, HIIT workouts and cycling, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to outdoor exercise ideas. Plus, aside from the fact that exercising outdoors is free, there are actually a wealth of other benefits to be gained from an outside workout session. Need some convincing? Check out these research-backed benefits…

Improves mental health

Simply just being outside has been proven to lower the amount of the stress hormone cortisol[1]. Hectic day at work? Try an evening outdoor workout to help relieve work stress.

There’s also research that exercising outside could lower levels of depression and anxiety, as one study published in 2021 found that those who exercise more, specifically outside, are less likely to experience these mental health conditions than those who exercise less[2].

As well as this, there’s research to show that 20 to 90 minutes of ‘nature-based interventions’ including gardening and green exercise, were helpful with improving mental health outcomes in adults[3].

Offers more challenges for the body

When you head outside to exercise, you are unknowingly walking on uneven terrain, unlike the floors of your home or the gym.

Walking on uneven terrain has been shown to boost energy expenditure (aka, calorie burn) and it requires more work from the legs too[4].

If you fancy enjoying a workout that doesn’t feel so tough, then heading outside to exercise might just be the way to do it.

One study found that outdoor, natural environments (which can include the garden, park or nearby green space) still increase physical activity levels but with ‘lower levels of perceived exertion’[5]. Pretty impressive, right?

It’s proven to be more enjoyable

Good news, there’s research to show how exercising outside can actually make us happier[6]. Plus, in the same study, which was based on hiking, participants admitted to getting more enjoyment out of an outdoor workout, as opposed to walking on a treadmill inside[7]. Enjoying the exercise you do is undoubtedly a great way to ensure you remain consistent. After all, no-one wants to continue with a workout plan if they don’t enjoy it!

Could help boost your immune system

Getting outside in the summer months allows for more sun exposure, which is a great way to increase levels of vitamin D as the body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin[8]. Vitamin D is needed for healthy bones, teeth and muscles[9], plus it’s been proven to support immune health[10].

Outdoor exercise essentials…

Before you head out, just be sure you have plenty of water with you, particularly on hotter days when your body is likely to lose more fluid by sweating. Sunglasses are useful to protect eyes from sun damage and sun cream is important too.

If it’s a particularly hot, sunny day, try to workout in the shade between the hours of 11 to 3, when the sun is strongest.