FITNESS

The Benefits of Outdoor Exercise

by Stephanie Margolis, R.D.

Nothing makes you feel better than lacing up your shoes on a sunny, 72 degree day. But did you know that that “boost” you feel from getting outside is rooted in science? The impact of exercising has been long studied. In recent decades, it has become more relevant as more countries become urbanized with fewer green spaces and we see a trend of declining physical activity among people.

Why We Feel Better Outdoors

Exercising outdoors offers many benefits that can’t be replicated inside. For example, exposure to sunlight stimulates production of vitamin D. Vitamin D is vital for bone health, helping to push the calcium into our bones, preventing cramps and muscle spasms, helping with glucose metabolism, reducing inflammation, and promoting cell growth. There is early (but still insufficient) evidence vitamin D also has a role in reducing the severity of symptoms related to COVID-19.

Beyond vitamin D, here’s what studies have found as it relates to outdoor activity:

  • Post-exercise blood pressure returns to baseline faster when outside.
  • Viewing nature positively impacts recovery after mental stress
  • Being outdoors reduces anger, depression, anxiety, and rumination (when you get stuck in a thought pattern or worry).
  • Exercise outdoors leads to better sleep, greater happiness, increased prosocial behavior, improved social connections, and improved perception of general health.
  • Clinically we see a reduction in blood pressure, less vitamin D deficiency, improved immune function, and lower resting heart rate in individuals who are outdoors more often.
  • Scientists have also studied the impact on your bones when working out outdoors and found similar effects when comparing treadmill running to street running.
  • People were found to exert themselves more when outdoors (thought to be connected to the visual input).

Read more here, here, and here.

Better for the Whole Family

We know getting outside puts you in a better mood—and when mom’s happy, the house is happier. We also know that parental physical activity behaviors directly influence kids’ activity patterns and attitudes towards exercise. So the more you are outside, the more likely your kids will want to and enjoy being outside. The more we are in green spaces, the better our mood and self-esteem—especially in kids. It has also been shown that adults who step outside during the workday have an increased vigor in returning to activities. While the study has not been done, it is reasonable to think that when kids get some fresh air after school, they can finish their homework or head to gymnastics with a little more energy.

Bring your phone or tablet outside and try this fun driveway workout in the Moms Into Fitness Studio. >>

Get Outside, but Be Prepared

While it’s easy to step outside and go, you want to take into consideration the weather, hydration, and personal safety. Layer appropriately, wear sunscreen, start hydrated, and make sure you stay aware of your surroundings. Finally, enjoy and soak up that vitamin D!