6 Benefits Of Outdoor Exercise + Helpful Tips To Get Started

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As most of us are well aware, exercising is necessary for our physical and mental health. 

According to the Physical Activity Guidelines provided by the CDC, the average adult needs 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise, or an equivalent combination spread throughout the week for substantial health benefits.

In addition, adults should also include at least two sessions of strength training per week which exercises target all of the major muscle groups. 

But does the type of exercise performed or the location of the training affect its potential health benefits? Is exercising outside better for you than exercising inside? And what are the health benefits of outdoor exercise specifically? Keep reading to find out!

In this article, we will discuss the following: 

  • 6 Health Benefits Of Outdoor Exercise
  • 8 Helpful Tips To Begin Your Outdoor Exercise Journey 

Ready?

Let’s jump in!

A person exercising outdoors on a sunny day.

6 Health Benefits Of Outdoor Exercise

Whether you enjoy playing team sports such as basketball or soccer, prefer to go on a solitary trail run, or want to bang out an intense plyometric HIIT session, physical activity is a must to lead a healthy life, and working out outdoors can provide an extra boost of health benefits for an even more rewarding session:

#1: Outdoor Exercise Can Help Lower Stress Levels 

Studies suggest that exercising outside in a natural environment can be even more successful in improving mental health than exercising indoors.

One of the most significant benefits of outdoor exercise is that nature has therapeutic properties that can help us recover from mental fatigue and stress levels, leaving us feeling revitalized and energetic while boosting our mood. 

Also, achieving goals such as your athletic personal bests, whether it be fulfilling the CDS’s requirements for physical activity, or shaving down your 5k parkrun time, increases your dopamine levels, which also helps relieve anxiety and is another great mood booster.

A person stretching in the grass.

#2: Outdoor Exercise Increases Your Vitamin D Intake 

Another one of the great benefits of outdoor exercise is exposure to sunlight and acquiring the consequent sufficient levels of vitamin D for general health. 

Although wearing sunblock and taking care of your skin is an essential part of exercising outdoors, being in the sun is an excellent way for the body to get a boost of vitamin D. 

Vitamin D deficiency is quite common, especially for those not exposed to sunlight on a regular basis. Also, vitamin D is not readily available in many foods, making it tricky to consume in your day-to-day diet.

Even though some foods, such as certain cereals and dairy products, are fortified with vitamin D, the most important source of Vitamin D is sun exposure. So get out there and enjoy the rays responsibly. 

#3: Outdoor Exercise Can Increase Motivation To Exercise Consistently 

Studies have shown that those who participate in outdoor physical activities enjoy themselves even more than when working out indoors.

In this study, participants showed an increase in overall mood and satisfaction when exercising outdoors, which can significantly promote consistency in exercise

If you’re having fun and enjoying yourself in whatever activity you choose to participate in, there’s a greater chance you will want to repeat the activity regularly to relive that feeling of exhilaration or gratification. 

A consistent exercise regimen can help you maintain a healthy weight and promote an active lifestyle.

A person standing in the sun.

#4: Outdoor Exercise Is Accessible 

Depending on the type of activity you want to participate in, a lot of outdoor exercise options are reasonably accessible.

If you are short on time, you can step out your front door and go for a walk or a run in your neighborhood or do bodyweight functional strength exercises in your backyard or balcony.

If you are more flexible, look for hiking trails in your area to explore, public parks with exercise equipment, or neighborhood programs with group Zumba classes or HIIT training provided for the community.

You could also cycle, skateboard, rollerblade, swim, jump rope, or do bleacher workouts at your local high school stadium or run laps on a public track. 

Outdoor activity options are endless. The most important thing is that you find something you enjoy doing.

#5: Outdoor Exercise Lowers Your Perceived Rate Of Exertion 

Studies have shown that one of the benefits of outdoor exercise is that working out outside can reduce your perceived rate of exertion. 

For example, if you are working out at a vigorous effort which should feel like a 7-8 on the RPE scale, you may feel more like you are exercising at a 5-6 effort level. 

The hard work you put in tends to feel more manageable and enjoyable when exercising outside, leading to increased motivation to work out and more overall satisfaction. 

Three people holding up their water bottles after a workout.

#6: Outdoor Exercise Allows For Social Interaction 

Even though you can interact socially when exercising indoors, exercising outdoors can make it even easier because of accessibility.

Exercising outdoors is readily accessible to most, where you can walk in a park, hike a trail, or participate in community activities. 

Taking a friend or family member with you to share your exercise routine is excellent motivation. It will give you a sense of commitment and responsibility to keep at it. Knowing that someone is counting on you will give you that extra push you need to get out the door in the morning. 

If you work out alone and haven’t complied your exercise buddy group just yet, you can meet new people at outdoor community activities, such as a running club. 

Some of the best of friends have been made while huffing and puffing through workouts together!

Look into available options in your community so that you can work out and make new ties at the same time. 

So, have we inspired you to take on an outdoor exercise goal in the near future?

Now that you are familiar with the health benefits of outdoor exercise let’s get you started with some helpful tips! 

A group exercise class outside.

8 Helpful Tips To Begin Your Outdoor Exercise Journey 

#1: Wear Sunscreen

Even though sunlight provides great vitamin D exposure, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to protect your skin.

Be sure to wear sunscreen and reapply as often as indicated on your specific product. As you will be exercising, your sweat can decrease the effectiveness of the sunblock, so use a sweatproof sunscreen and reapply often to be on the safe side. 

Also, wear a hat, sunglasses and appropriate clothing for extra protection.

#2: Stay Hydrated

Exercising outdoors, especially in the heat and humidity, can cause you to sweat more than usual and increase your risk for dehydration.

Be sure you drink sufficient water and electrolytes before, during, and after your outdoor exercise. 

A person power walking outside.

#3: Wear Supportive Footwear

Using appropriate footwear for your specific activity is a must to protect your body and reduce the risk of injuries.

Different activities will require different specificities in the shoes you should use, whether walking, running, hiking, weight training, or playing team sports. 

#4: Wear Suitable Clothes

You want to be as comfortable as possible during your workout so you can give your best and enjoy your session.

Layer up if it’s cold outside with appropriate gear such as a hat, gloves, and warm socks. Use wicking fabric so your clothing doesn’t stay wet with sweat and is able to breathe and dry out.

Ensure you are properly geared up for whatever your activity may be and the corresponding weather.

#5: Be Safe On The Road

When walking or running on the road, always go against traffic so that you can see the cars and the cars can see you.

If you are exercising in the dark, take all necessary precautions, such as reflective clothing and carrying a light.

A person running in the dark.

#6: Take Percautions When Exercising Alone

If you absolutely must exercise alone, always let someone else know where you will be and when you should be back.

There are also safety features on GPS watches and phones, such as Strava Beacon, to alert someone of where you are at all times.

Of course, the best option is always to go with a buddy, but that is often impossible.

#7: Check The Weather Conditions

Hydrating for moderate hot weather may be enough, but if conditions are going to be dangerous, either too hot and humid, too cold and icy, or the air quality too poor, take a day to work out indoors for your personal safety.

#8: Have Fun!

This is the most important one.

Choose an activity you love and are motivated to partake in. If you are enjoying yourself, it will motivate you to get your minutes in and, hopefully, even surpass them. It won’t even feel like exercise in the end! 

Two people high-fiving next to a lake.

Now you are ready to get those shoes laced up and head out the door.

If you would like some ideas for working out outside, check out the following articles to get started: 

Park Workout Guide: 25 Exercises You Can Do In The Park

The Parkrun Essential Guide: + Expert Tips To Improve Your 5k Time

The Best Bodyweight Exercises For A No-Equipment Workout

People high-fiving outside.
Photo of author
Katelyn is an experienced ultra-marathoner and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for the trails. In the running community, she is known for her ear-to-ear smile, even under the toughest racing conditions. She is a UESCA-certified running coach and loves sharing her knowledge and experience to help people reach their goals and become the best runners they can be. Her biggest passion is to motivate others to hit the trails or road alongside her, have a blast, and run for fun!

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