Woman working out in outdoors gym

Science-backed Benefits of Exercising Outdoors

Are you tired of the same old workouts at the gym? Is working out from home not that appealing anymore? Perhaps it's time to take your workouts outside for a change of pace and, more importantly, to see better results.

 

Are you tired of the same old workouts at the gym? Is working out from home not that appealing anymore? Perhaps it's time to take your workouts outside for a change of pace and, more importantly, to see better results.

Exercising outdoors is not just about getting some fresh air. The advantages of working out in the great outdoors and the perks of having your own outdoor gym equipment are many and go beyond traditional indoor workouts.

Research consistently shows that outdoor exercise has a pronounced effect on mood and happiness. Sunlight exposure and greenery play key roles in this enhancement, with studies indicating that physical activity done outdoors, especially in natural settings, significantly boosts mental well-being.

Moreover, exercising outdoors introduces a dynamic element to your routine. Unlike the controlled environment of a gym, outdoor workouts expose you to various terrains and conditions, challenging different muscle groups and improving balance and coordination.

 

Difference between Indoor and Outdoor Workouts

Young couple exercising outdoors


Before diving into the benefits of outdoor exercise, it's essential to understand the fundamental differences between indoor and outdoor workouts. While both have their merits, outdoor workouts definitely have unique advantages that can enhance your progress and help you see better results.

Indoor workouts, typically conducted at gyms, fitness centers, or even the comfort of your own home, provide a controlled environment. You have access to a wide range of exercise equipment, weights, and amenities like showers and saunas. The controlled environment can be beneficial for focused, structured training, especially during rough weather.

On the other hand, outdoor workouts take place in natural settings like parks, trails, or even your backyard. These environments introduce variables that indoor settings can't replicate. You'll contend with uneven terrain, changing weather conditions, and a connection to nature that can invigorate your workouts like you never thought possible.

 

 

Benefits of Exercising Outdoors: What the Science Says

The science is clear: exercising outdoors provides numerous physical, mental, and emotional benefits that extend beyond what you can achieve indoors. The combination of fresh air, exposure to natural light, diverse terrain, and a sense of connection with the environment are the deciding factors.

From enhancing your mood and reducing stress levels to improving cognitive function and boosting the immune system, outdoor workouts are extremely advantageous. Moreover, exercising in natural settings often feels less like a chore and more like an adventure, making it easier to stay committed to your fitness goals.

1. Improve Your Mood

Outdoor exercise can significantly boost your mood. Exposure to sunlight and greenery increases the release of endorphins, the body's natural mood lifters. It reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression, making your workouts a mental health booster on top of a healthy way to stay active and moving.

2. Boost Your Immune System

Spending time outdoors can boost your immune system since exercising in a natural environment exposes you to diverse microorganisms in the soil and air, which can strengthen your body’s natural defenses against infections and allergens.

The improved mood and reduced stress associated with outdoor workouts also contribute to your overall well-being. Lower stress levels can enhance your immune function, making you less susceptible to illness.

3. Make Tough Workouts Feel Easier

Research has shown that working out outdoors can lead you to enjoy exercising and even feel like routines you previously thought were a grind to get through are now easier and more fun to complete.

Another study revealed that older adults who normally exercised by walking mostly indoors on a treadmill found they were exercising for an extra 30 minutes when walking outdoors and wearing an activity tracker.


Read more: Step counters vs smart devices: what is more accurate?


4. Enhance Creativity and Cognitive Function

Exercise, in general, has a positive impact on cognitive function. Taking your workout outdoors might amplify these effects since nature provides a serene and engaging environment that can boost creativity and cognitive abilities.

Spending time in natural settings improves cognitive performance and creativity. The combination of fresh air, natural scenery, and the mental engagement required for outdoor exercise can enhance your problem-solving skills, memory, and overall cognitive function.

Woman doing a push-up outdoors


5. An Excuse to Get Out of the City

Just being outdoors might not be enough if you’re surrounded by buildings and traffic. Exercising in urban settings is less beneficial for your long-term mental health than performing the same exercises in greener environments, such as parks or forests.

6. Sleep Better

Quality sleep is essential for recovery, energy, and overall health. Engaging in outdoor physical activities can positively influence your sleep patterns. Exposure to natural light during the day helps regulate your body's circadian rhythm, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up at consistent times.

Additionally, outdoor exercise reduces stress and anxiety, which are common culprits for sleep disturbances. By reducing these factors, you're more likely to enjoy restorative and restful sleep.

7. Develop a Sense of Adventure

Outdoor workouts open the door to exploration and adventure. Whether you're hiking a new trail, cycling through scenic routes, or practicing yoga in a park, each outdoor session offers a unique experience. This sense of novelty and adventure can keep your fitness routine exciting and motivate you to stay active.

Exploring different outdoor locations can also be a great way to bond with friends and family who share your fitness interests. Planning outdoor fitness outings together can lead to memorable experiences and strengthen social connections.

8. Save Money

While home workouts can be a big cost-saver when compared with a gym membership, working out outdoors only requires you to have weather-appropriate clothing and a go-getter attitude. You can also take advantage of already installed equipment in your local parks.


How to Effectively Exercise Outdoors: Tips and Recommendations

Now that you understand the benefits of outdoor workouts, here are some tips and recommendations for making the most of your outdoor fitness routine:

  • Plan Your Workouts: Create a workout plan that suits your fitness goals and outdoor setting. Consider the terrain, weather, and available equipment.
  • Stay Hydrated: Outdoor workouts can be more dehydrating due to temperature variations. Carry a water bottle and sip regularly to stay hydrated.
  • Protect Your Skin: Use sunscreen to shield your skin from harmful UV rays. Also, wear appropriate clothing and accessories like hats and sunglasses.
  • Choose the Right Footwear: Select comfortable, supportive footwear suitable for the terrain. Good shoes can prevent injuries and enhance your performance.
  • Warm-Up and Cool Down: Begin with a dynamic warm-up to prepare your body for exercise. After your workout, perform static stretches to cool down and improve flexibility.
  • Stay Safe: Inform someone about your workout plans, especially if you're heading into remote areas. Carry a charged phone, identification, and a basic first-aid kit.
  • Embrace Variety: Explore different outdoor activities to keep your workouts exciting. From hiking and cycling to kayaking and swimming, the options are endless.
  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body's signals. If you feel fatigued or unwell during your workout, it's okay to rest or cut your session short.
Man exercising outdoors with 3DActive Red Resistance Band

Must-Have Outdoor Gym Equipment

To maximize the benefits of outdoor exercise, having the right equipment is essential. Here's a simple list of must-have outdoor gym equipment to consider:

Resistance Bands: Compact and versatile, resistance bands are perfect for strength training exercises. They're easy to carry and suitable for outdoor use, as well as doubling as alternatives to free weights.

Read more: Master Strength with Resistance Bands: A Comprehensive Guide

Yoga Mat: If you enjoy yoga or floor exercises, a durable outdoor yoga mat provides a clean and comfortable surface.

Jump Rope: A jump rope is an excellent cardio tool for outdoor workouts. It's lightweight, portable, and ideal for interval training.

Fitness tracker: Knowing how much you have progressed and setting goals is an important part of your fitness journey. Having a fitness tracker or pedometer at hand can quickly give you the needed motivation to push through your exercises and achieve your next goals.

Read more: Is your fitness tracker lying to you?

Running or Trail Shoes: Investing in a good pair of running or trail shoes designed for outdoor use will enhance your comfort and performance. Always ensure that your shoes have good ankle support. 

Backpack or gym bag: A sturdy bag is a must-have for carrying your gear, water, and essentials during outdoor workouts.

Incorporating outdoor workouts into your fitness routine and having your own outdoor gym equipment can revolutionize your approach to staying fit and healthy. The science-backed benefits of outdoor exercise, including improved mood, reduced stress, and enhanced mental focus, make it a compelling choice.

With the right equipment and a few simple precautions, you can enjoy the great outdoors while achieving your fitness goals. Step outside, embrace nature, and elevate your fitness journey with outdoor workouts!