Physical activity is important for maintaining good health and well-being. It has been shown to improve cardiovascular health, decrease the risk of chronic diseases, and enhance mental health. While exercising indoors can be beneficial, getting outside for moderate exercise has unique benefits. In this article, we will discuss the research-backed benefits of physical activity done outdoors.
Improved Mental Health
Research has consistently shown that spending time in nature has positive effects on mental health. Physical activity done outdoors has been associated with reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression. Being surrounded by green spaces can also help reduce stress and improve mood. A 2019 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that outdoor physical activity was associated with reduced stress, anger, and fatigue.1
Increased Vitamin D Intake
Spending time outdoors can help increase vitamin D intake. Vitamin D is essential for bone health and has been linked to reduced risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and certain cancers. Exposure to sunlight is the primary source of vitamin D for most people. Engaging in physical activity outdoors can help increase sun exposure and, therefore, increase vitamin D levels. So, get out there and start soaking up the sun!
Improved Physical Fitness
Outdoor physical activity can also improve physical fitness. Activities such as hiking, running, and cycling outdoors can challenge the body in different ways compared to indoor exercises. The uneven terrain, wind resistance, and changes in elevation can increase the difficulty of the activity and help improve overall fitness.
Increased Connection to Nature
Being outdoors for physical activity can also increase connection to nature. This connection has been shown to have positive effects on mental health, as well as an increased sense of well-being. Research has also suggested that a connection to nature can help promote pro-environmental behaviors. It’s an easy way to “go green!”
Greater Social Interaction
Outdoor physical activity can also provide opportunities for social interaction. Engaging in group activities, such as team sports or group hikes, can help build social connections and increase feelings of support and connectedness. This is especially important for those who may feel isolated or disconnected from others.
So, the benefits of working out, or completing physical activity outdoors can be seen in both one’s physical and mental health, including increased exposure to nature, vitamin D intake, and social interaction can all contribute to overall well-being. Incorporating outdoor physical activity into a regular exercise routine can help individuals reap these benefits and achieve their health and fitness goals.
Need some help coming up with ideas for outdoor activities in Arizona? We’ve got you covered! Read our list here.
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- Wicks C, Barton J, Orbell S, Andrews L. Psychological benefits of outdoor physical activity in natural versus urban environments: A systematic review and meta-analysis of experimental studies. Appl Psychol Health Well Being. 2022 Aug;14(3):1037-1061. doi: 10.1111/aphw.12353. Epub 2022 Mar 8. PMID: 35259287; PMCID: PMC9544808.