Do you ever feel that exercising in a gym just doesn’t compare to a hike, a trail run or a swim in the sea? An indoor activity doesn’t leave me feeling invigorated and energised as much as an outdoor activity does. I thought this was a matter of personal preference until reading about research that proves that outdoor activities really are better for you!

Scientific evidence

The most recent study polled nearly 2,000 active participants in the 2008 Scottish Health Survey and found that outdoor physical activity had a 50 percent greater positive effect on mental health than going to the gym. The researchers, from Glasgow University, found that walking, running, biking and other outdoor activities through green space lowered stress.

Lead researcher, Professor Richard Mitchell, said: “I wasn’t surprised by the findings that exercise in natural environments is good for your mental health, but I was surprised by just how much better it is for your mental health to exercise in a green place like a forest, than in other places like the gym.

A 2011 study found that outdoor exercise was associated with greater decreases in tension, confusion, anger and depression when compared to indoor activity. And a 2010 study found that even just five minutes of exercise in a green space can improve mood and self-esteem.

Other proved benefits include:

  • Improved Attention and Focus
  • Greater Likelihood to Keep Exercising
  • Lower Risk of Being Overweight
  • More Energy
  • Faster Healing and Less Pain
  • Higher Vitamin D Levels

“Findings tend to support the notion that participation in wilderness experience programs results in positive benefits, such as enhanced self esteem and sense of personal control, and negative results from participation are virtually non-existent” ~ Studies of the Use of Wilderness for Personal growth, Therapy, Education, and Leadership Development: an Annotation and Evaluation. By Gregory T. Friese and J. Taylor Pittman, Graduate Research Assistants and John C. Hendee, Director, University of Idaho

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