When most people think of exercise, they typically think of hitting the indoor gym.
While that may seem like the only practical option during the cold, snowy winter months, or during the blistering heat of summer, there is overwhelming evidence that exercising outdoors, otherwise referred to as green exercise, is better for you – both physically and mentally.
Outdoor exercise, combines two health-enhancing activities: moving your body and getting outdoors. And the results are exceptional. 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.
You’ll get happier.
Think you need a lush forest or a nearby beach to reap the benefits of outdoor exercise? Think again. A 2015 study out of Stanford University found that students who walked through a campus park for an hour were less anxious than those who didn’t, and a study published last year found that simply looking at pictures of greenery improves happiness. In other words, all you need is a few trees and a sturdy pair of shoes for a mood boost. Plus, people who exercise outside actually enjoy it more.
You’ll get a stronger workout in.
While running inside on a treadmill is infinitely better than not exercising at all, you’ll likely get a stronger workout in if you take it outside. In a study on running indoors versus outdoors, researchers found that outdoor exercisers exert more energy to cover the same amount of distance as treadmill runners, indicating that if the goal is physical fitness, outdoor workouts are the way to go.
Your immune system will get stronger.
If you haven’t heard of forest bathing, you’re missing out. The decades-old Japanese practice encourages people to get outside and take a walk in nature not just for the mental health benefits but because it improves the immune system. “Trees shower (or bathe) themselves in an antimicrobial, antifungal, antibacterial compound called phytoncides,” explains Ben Page, founder of Shinrin Yoku LA. “This is how trees combat disease. When humans inhale these phytoncides, it triggers the human body to produce a specialized white blood cell called NK cells, or Natural Killer cells.” These NK cells then attack cancerous and tumorous growths in the body, improving immune strength.
You’ll improve your heart health and lower your blood pressure.
Want to live longer? Outdoor exercise can help with that. A study published in PubMed found that immersing yourself in nature lowers cortisol, pulse rate, and blood pressure. That’s an impressive fix.
You’re less likely to get injured.
Here’s a surprising one: People who take their exercise outside are less likely to suffer from injury. The repetitive pounding on a treadmill with no change in terrain can be tough on the body, leading to overuse injuries. When people run outside, they’re more likely to flex their ankles more and be met with downhill terrain, leading to stronger, more resilient muscles overall.