Benefits of Outdoor Exercise

Woman on outdoor fitness equipment net.

Benefits of Outdoor Exercise

Exercise is necessary for everyone, both adults and kids, to help protect against disease, illness and other concerns. Beyond its physical health benefits, exercise is also a proven way to enhance your mental and emotional health, as well as social well-being.

Outdoor exercise, in particular, has greater mood-boosting benefits than indoor exercise. Learn how to leverage the full benefits of outdoor exercise.

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6 Benefits of Working Out Outdoors

Outdoor exercise, also called green exercise, has numerous benefits beyond physical health. Compared to an indoor setting like a gym or recreation center, exercising outdoors can provide additional benefits you may not get with indoor environments.

Many studies have examined how outdoor exercise differs from indoor exercise. Researchers say outdoor exercisers can experience increased mood and mental health, enhanced social connections and numerous other benefits to quality of life. Weather permitting, outdoor exercise can be a great change of pace from the sometimes dark and stifling indoor environments. Below are six benefits of outdoor exercise.

Benefits of Working Out Outdoors Include: 

  1. Can help reduce depression and anxiety
  2. Boosts positive mood
  3. Improves exercise adherence
  4. Increases exercise enjoyment
  5. Connects you to nature
  6. Enhances social well-being

1. Can Help Reduce Depression and Anxiety

Exercise, in general, is a known depression-alleviating practice. During exercise, your body releases endorphins, which are the body’s natural feel-good hormones that also help relieve pain. Studies show that people who exercise are less likely to experience depression than people who are inactive.

When it comes to outdoor exercise versus indoor exercise, some evidence shows that being outdoors has a further optimizing effect on depression-relief than being indoors.

Participants with depression in one study felt more active and experienced improved moods after a bout of outdoor exercise compared to indoors.

Further, a 2017 study found that people who engaged in outdoor physical activity had significantly lower self-reported anxiety levels compared to those who engaged in indoor physical activity. The study also revealed that outdoor physical activity could predict whether a participant would have reduced anxiety levels compared to indoor activity.

Psychotherapists have long recommended an exercise routine to clients with depression and anxiety. Based on the findings, outdoor activity in conjunction with traditional exercise may help boost the benefits of physical activity on depression and anxiety.

2. Boosts Positive Mood

Man taking deep breath outside and smiling

In addition to alleviating negative feelings, like depression, anxiety and anger, physical exercise also helps boost positive emotions. Experts say that within five minutes of exercising, people can notice their mood has improved.

It also seems the relationship between positive mood and exercise goes both ways. One 2018 clinical trial found that already having a positive mood enhanced participants’ motivation to keep pursuing their physical activity goals.

Exercise is a known mood-booster, whether indoors or out. But recently, more research has shown that outdoor exercise can further enhance these mood-boosting effects. According to numerous studies, outdoor exercise is associated with greater feelings of being revitalized, positively engaged and energized.

Exercise also benefits self-esteem. Even five minutes of outdoor exercise resulted in a boost in self-esteem, and those results can be particularly significant in young people. Exercising near water can produce even bigger effects on mood and self-esteem.

3. Improves Exercise Adherence

Sticking to an exercise routine can be difficult. Exercise adherence is particularly challenging for people who are new to physical activity. Research shows that various physical, psychological and environmental obstacles prevent people from adopting an exercise routine. Fitness trackers and goal-setting can help keep people motivated and stick to a fitness lifestyle. Finding other ways to help people stay on track with physical exercise is important in encouraging them to prioritize exercise. Outdoor exercise may give people a motivation boost.

A 2015 clinical trial looked at the differences in outcomes between an indoor training and outdoor training routine. Both groups performed the same 12-week exercise routine, but one group performed it indoors, and the other group performed it outdoors. The results showed that training outdoors was associated with a significantly higher rate of exercise adherence than training indoors. The study also found that depression symptoms decreased and overall activity levels increased for the outdoor group only.

4. Increases Exercise Enjoyment

One of the reasons people don’t stick to an exercise routine is they don’t enjoy it. Some people love cardio exercise, like jogging and cycling, while others prefer strength training, including weight lifting or resistance training. Others prefer group classes like boot camps or Pilates. Trying out a variety of exercise types will help people find the type they enjoy most, increasing the likelihood they’ll keep exercising.

One study found that emphasizing the entertainment and enjoyment benefits of exercising is more effective at increasing physical activity levels than promoting its physical health benefits. This means that people may be more motivated to exercise when they learn that it’s something enjoyable to do with their time. The study further explained that outdoor exercise increases exercise enjoyment by providing an escape from the stress of everyday life.

Woman jogging outside

The authors also suggest that outdoor exercise seems easier when it’s performed in a natural environment compared to an indoor environment, like a gym, that tends to add pressure.

5. Connects People With Nature

Man and son walking through field

Many people enjoy exercise more when they train outdoors because it’s a way to connect with nature. Spending time in nature has physical, mental and emotional health benefits. Exercising outdoors is a great way to get the benefits of both nature and physical activity at the same time.

A 2019 study examined the relationship between self-reported health and well-being and the amount of time spent outdoors per week. Compared to no time spent outdoors the previous week, people who spent a minimum of 120 minutes outdoors the following week were more likely to report higher rates of good health and well-being. The study also found that it didn’t matter how the 120 minutes added up — whether it was one 120-minute episode or six 20-minute sessions, the results were the same.

Spending your exercise time outdoors can help you boost the positive mental wellness benefits that nature provides us.

6. Enhances Social Well-Being

Exercise is also a great opportunity to enhance socialization. Fitness groups and clubs bring people together over a common goal, which is to get healthy and enjoy being part of an active lifestyle. Just as people are more likely to enjoy and stick with exercise when they’re outdoors, people may also be more likely to exercise if there is a social component involved.

Taking exercise groups outdoors can further enhance the mental and physical benefits of activity. Because being outdoors enhances mood, people may feel more likely to socialize with others around them while exercising.

This combination of exercise, nature and socializing could be an effective approach to managing and supporting mental health. Because all three components produce positive mood outcomes, incorporating all at the same time may have a synergistic effect on well-being.

Why Should Kids and Adults Both Exercise Outdoors?

Reasons Adults and Kids Should Exercise Outdoors

Exercising outdoors is a proven way to enhance mood, alleviate negative emotions, encourage an active lifestyle and optimize social well-being. The benefits of green exercise extend to both adults and kids alike.

Outdoor exercise is a great family activity that parents and kids can do together. Below are some of the benefits of outdoor exercise for kids, adults and entire families:

  • Improves family bonds: When kids and parents exercise together, it can create stronger family bonds. Siblings learn to cooperate together and challenge each other, while parents help lead their kids through a workout routine.
  • Teaches kids about the benefits of exercise: Another reason for families to take their exercise routines outdoors is that it can help teach kids about the benefits of exercise. Kids love to play outside, so combining their playtime with exercise reinforces that exercise is a fun and healthy choice.
  • Encourages healthy habits in kids: The more kids learn to enjoy exercise, the more they learn to adopt other healthy habits. Families that enjoy physical exercise outdoors together can continue their healthy habits together in other areas of life. Outdoor exercise provides kids with a foundation for building lifelong skills that they can use to continue making healthy choices into adulthood.
  • Allows kids to burn off energy: Kids have a lot of energy, and having an outlet to release pent-up energy is vital to their physical and emotional well-being. Families can take advantage of outdoor exercise routines as a way to let their kids blow off steam.
  • Promotes interaction with other families: Spending time exercising outdoors is a great way for families to connect with other families that share the same interests. Kids get an opportunity to play with other kids, potentially helping them make new friends. The social aspect of exercising outdoors further enhances the health benefits families experience when they commit to an active lifestyle.

How to Start an Outdoor Exercise Routine

Many people want to start exercising, but they don’t know where to begin. With so much information online, it can be overwhelming to know which types of exercise routines are right for beginners. It’s important to start out slowly, taking into account any previous injuries or current medical conditions.

With that in mind, here’s how to start an outdoor exercise routine:

1. Set a Fitness Goal

Characteristics of a good fitness goal

The first step to starting any exercise routine is to set a goal. To set a goal, you need to be clear on what’s motivating you to get active. Whether it’s weight loss, mental well-being, physical strength or stamina and endurance, there are many different reasons that cause people to start exercising.

Once you’re clear on your motivation for exercising, the next step is to set a goal you want to achieve. Your fitness goal should have the following characteristics:

  • Specific
  • Realistic
  • Measurable
  • Time-bound
  • Achievable

Examples of fitness goals include losing a certain amount of weight within a certain time frame or being able to jog a certain distance within a certain time.

2. Choose an Outdoor Exercise Location

Once you’ve decided on your fitness goal, the next step is to choose your exercise location. You can certainly complete your exercise routine in your own backyard, but you might find some public areas to exercise as well. Look for local outdoor fitness parks in your area. These spaces feature equipment for targeting different muscle groups, and they’re typically free, making them accessible to anyone in your community.

You can visit different parks around and decide which one you prefer. You can also choose more than one location to exercise at. Depending on the type of exercise schedule and program you choose, you may want to incorporate multiple different types of outdoor parks into your exercise routine. Fitness parks with exercise equipment are great for strength training, while outdoor tracks and trails are ideal for aerobic exercise.

3. Create an Exercise Schedule

Based on your exercise goal, come up with a schedule that’s realistic, that you can stick to and that will help facilitate achieving your goal.

Use guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help create your schedule. American adults should get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical exercise per week. This is the equivalent of 30 minutes of exercise five days per week. Examples of moderate-intensity exercise include taking a brisk walk or using cardio equipment, such as the stationary bike, treadmill or elliptical set at moderate intensity.

In addition to cardio exercise, the CDC also recommends that adults conduct two or more days of strength training exercises per week targeting all major muscle groups — legs and glutes, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms.

4. Build a Training Plan for Working Out Outside

If you are planning to incorporate strength training into your outdoor exercise routine, you’ll need to build a plan that helps you target each muscle group and add weight or resistance over time. Building a training plan is a completely personal undertaking. It depends on your current level of fitness as well as your current familiarity with weight and resistance training.

Additionally, when building a training plan, you need to consider your needs for rest and recovery in between working out different muscle groups. Below is an example of a training plan for beginners that targets all muscle groups:

  • Back: Bent over rows, pullups and back extensions
  • Chest: Bench press and flys
  • Shoulders: Shoulder press and reverse flys
  • Arms: Bicep curls and tricep dips
  • Core: Sit-ups and Russian twists
  • Legs and glutes: Squats, lunges, hamstring curls and leg extensions

By incorporating a mixture of these exercises throughout the week, you’ll be able to build total body strength over time.

5. Pick up Some Equipment

Outdoor fitness parks have numerous types of fitness equipment. From pullup bars to dip stations to sit-up benches, you can get in a full-body workout at most outdoor fitness parks using exercise equipment. If you have particular fitness goals you want to achieve, you may need some additional equipment to bring with you to help further customize your outdoor workout routine.

Additional fitness equipment to consider includes:

  • Yoga mat for stretching and cool-down
  • Dumbbells in a weight that’s right for you
  • Resistance bands for lower and upper body exercises
  • Medicine ball to add weight to exercises like sit-ups or leg lifts

Don’t forget other essential workout gear like a water bottle, towel and sturdy shoes.

6. Get a Workout Buddy

Another important part of an outdoor exercise routine is a workout buddy. If you know someone who shares your workout goals, invite them to join you. Having a workout buddy makes physical activity more enjoyable, and it’s also a great way to hold each other accountable to your goals.

Find a time and location that works for you and your buddy, and begin looking forward to having someone to share the journey with. You can also create a group exercise routine by inviting many people, which adds to the fun.

People working out together

7. Incorporate Active Recovery

It’s important to take time to recover after a workout. Resting your body allows it to heal and repair itself from intense bouts of physical exertion. Taking time to recover allows you to continue to exercise so you can push yourself to the next level of strength and endurance. Recovery also guards against exercise-related injury.

At the end of each workout, take time to cool down by doing some gentle active stretching. Additionally, you should take at least one day off a week from intense exercise. On recovery days, you can instead go for a long walk in nature or practice some light yoga outside.

Embrace Outdoor Exercise With Miracle® Recreation Products

For high-quality and durable outdoor fitness equipment for adults and kids, choose Miracle Recreation products. Building a local outdoor fitness park offers the whole community a way to embrace the benefits of physical activity.

Learn more about making exercise more fun with outdoor fitness equipment. Browse the Miracle Recreation line of outdoor fitness equipment for youths and our selection of fitness equipment that encourages outdoor exercise for adults. Find a local Miracle Recreation distributor today to learn more.

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