Get out and play! The benefits of exercising outside

  • 1 Minute Read
Sue Heikkinen
Sue Heikkinen, MS, RDN, CDCES, BC-ADM, ACE-PT - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist

Did you know exercising outside will energize your workouts and benefit your mental health and well-being?

Exercise outside

Top reasons to start exercising outside and enjoy the benefits of being in nature

Boost your mood

Don’t you just feel better after outdoor activity? Unsurprisingly, being outdoors is linked with improved mood and decreased anxiety, likely for many reasons.

You know that ultraviolet light from the sun triggers vitamin D production. Vitamin D deficiency is linked with depression (though research has not yet demonstrated that vitamin D supplementation lessens depressive symptoms). Sunlight exposure also increases serotonin, a chemical involved in mood regulation. Of course, balance these benefits with the risks of sun damage. Cover up or wear sunscreen if you will be outdoors for an extended time.

Nature-based activities have known psychological benefits. Even if you can’t escape the city, access to green spaces in urban environments is associated with health and mental benefits. Green spaces include trails, city parks, or even small garden plots.

Exercising seems like something other than a workout when you seek out a shore, lake, pond, or other water feature outside. According to the blue space theory, just being near water can boost our mood.

Beat boredom

Tired of the treadmill while staring at the TV? No walls mean no limits. Exercising outside offers endless paths, trails, and architecture to explore. There is always a new activity to try— how about climbing, foraging, kayaking, or playing kickball or disc golf?

When exercising outside, no two workouts will ever be the same. You may face constantly changing weather conditions, notice plants and trees in different growth stages, and appreciate the sights and sounds of wildlife.

Improve sleep

Do you notice your best sleep is after time spent outdoors? No wonder. Exposure to daylight is essential in maintaining our circadian rhythm, which is responsible for our 24-hour wakefulness/sleep cycle. Sunlight exposure suppresses melatonin production, resulting in increased alertness. The benefits continue at night, as morning sunlight exposure can help you fall asleep earlier and longer and achieve better quality sleep.

Support a diverse microbiome

Your microbiome contains many helpful organisms. A diverse microbiome means health benefits, including proper immune function and digestive health. Getting out in nature will expose you to a wide range of microbes. Preliminary studies have reported increased gut and skin microbiota diversity after interacting with soil and plants. So don’t be afraid to hug a tree, dig in the dirt, or roll around in the grass after your next outdoor workout!

It’s easy to incorporate exercising outside into your routine

Even if you are committed to your workouts at a fitness center or home gym, you can incorporate outdoor elements, such as a warm-up or cool-down walk or equipment-free bodyweight exercises. In addition, look for local outdoor fitness classes or walking groups to enjoy social connections in the fresh air.

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Exercise->Fun & Games Exercise->Health
Apr 17, 2023

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