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6 Reasons to Exercise Outdoors

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
6 good reasons to exercise outdoors

A study review confirms outdoor exercise in a natural environment helps mental well-being and could help curb obesity rates and more.

Researchers who conducted the 2011 study said their review "brings together data from a wide variety of sources" that support spending more time in the natural environmen could counteract "the negative outcomes of modern living, such as obesity and depression."

The research team that is part of the NIHR family of health and research initiatives) in collaboration with the European Centre for the Environment and Human Health (ECEHH), compared the effect of outdoor exercise versus indoor using data from 11 randomised and non-randomised control trials that included 833 adults. They found participants reported improved mental health immediately after exercising outdoors, but noted none of the studies reflected the impact on physical well-being or the effect on sticking to exercise.

Studies are ongoing to help prove physical well-being also comes from reconnecting with natural environments..

Dr. Jo Thompson-Coon, PenCLAHRC Research Fellow, said in a press release: "The hypothesis that there are added beneficial effects to be gained from exercising in the natural environment is very appealing and has generated considerable interest. By using the data currently available to us we have added strength to the link between mental and physical well-being and outdoor exercise, but further research and longer, tailor-made and focused trials are needed to better understand this link."

Senior study author Professor Michael Depledge, Chair of Environment and Human Health at the ECEHH says there is a need to reconnect with the natural environment through programs like the Green Gym and Blue Gym impetus that encourages outdoor exercise activities in groups, many of which are free and easily organized in communities.

Spending time in nature helps cuts obesity rate

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The researchers also note innovative medical practitioners who encourage outdoor exercise for patients suffering from depression and other mental health ailments, lending support to the potential of reconnecting with outdoor activities for overall well-being. The study review "adds significant weight to the case for spending more time in the natural environment as members of the public and their clinicians fight to counteract the negative outcomes of modern living, such as obesity and depression", says Depledge who adds, "Some 75 per cent of the European population now live in urban environments, so that increasing efforts need to be made to re-connect people with nature..."

Depledge says the team is looking forward to conducting more studies to provide evidence that exercising outdoors can help clinicians and the public fight diseases like depression and obesity that have become a recent focus of attention in all population groups.

There is strong evidence that spending time in a natural environment:

  1. Increases mental well-being
  2. Invigorates
  3. Energizes
  4. Boosts mental acuity
  5. Positively influence goals for better health
  6. Combats depression that in turn fuel chronic illnesses.

The researchers hope to prove outdoor exercise is a powerful way to help populations get healthier mentally and physically.


Environmental Science and Technology
"Does Participating in Physical Activity in Outdoor Natural Environments Have a Greater Effect on Physical and Mental Wellbeing than Physical Activity Indoors? A Systematic Review"
J. Thompson Coon, K. Boddy, K. Stein, R. Whear, J. Barton, and M. H. Depledge

Updated 10/24/2013