Plenty of people know that outdoor exercising can be refreshing, but what’s not as widely known are the specific scientific benefits and just how powerful their effects truly are. Whether you’re hiking through the trees or running out on the open trail, that crisp flow of open air isn’t just making you feel better; it’s legitimately making nearly every layer of your health better on a molecular level.
Exercising outdoors is formally referred to as “green exercise”, a term that originally emerged in 2003. Two years after the term was coined, a 2005 peer-reviewed study demonstrated more than just a few benefits to fresh air in a workout. Plenty of studies over the past decade have proven that getting outdoors can be one of the best ways to supercharge exercise efficiency in more ways than one.
The Benefits of Outdoor Exercise
As far as we may have come in the past few hundred years in terms of indoor exercise equipment, there is a lot that we can learn from the millions of hours that our ancestors spent running, hunting and foraging in the great outdoors. The following are all some the most powerful reasons to consider moving your workout to an outdoor space for a change of pace.
Green Exercise Correlated with Higher Frequency
By making the process feel more seamless and natural by default, studies have shown that simply exercising outdoors can increase workout frequency.
Different people exercise for a lot of different reasons. Some people may exercise simply to become more physically impressive while others may be do it for more personal, intrinsic reasons; of course, there is also a lot of room for overlap in-between.
Though many people may have many different core motivations to feel the burn, one of the most universally common challenges is consistent adherence.
Outdoor Exercise Boosts Your Immune Defense
Clinical observations of green exercise have shown that it has a positive relationship with immune strength, meaning that simply exercising outdoors can be an amazing way to reduce the chance of diseases in all forms.
Even with all the motivation in the world, there is no doubting the fact that immune defense has an extremely impactful effect on exercise efficiency. A strong immune system is what allows you to maintain the state of health necessary to keep on exerting yourself to the fullest of your abilities on a regular basis. Of course, it also goes without saying that the less necessary sick days you have, the less workouts you’re at risk of missing down the line.
A Nature Workout Creates a Mindfulness Effect
Rachel Kaplan’s “Experience of Nature” touched on the fact that the lack of attention-stealing distractions in a natural environment can restore attentional focus overall, making it that much easier to give exercise your full physical and mental commitment.
Apart from adherence to a scheduled exercise routine in general, attentional focus during the workout itself is a powerful predictor of results. Just showing up to workout is fine and well enough, but if the mind is out to lunch while the body is being called on to work, you may not be able to get the full mileage out of your efforts.
Different people have different maximum levels of potential willpower and focus, but whatever that may be, mindfulness is crucial for making that potential manifest. Through natural environment immersion during exercise, it becomes that much easier to focus on physical tasks at hand.
Green Exercise has Lower Perceived Effort and Higher Exertion
Studies have shown that green exercise has given people the ability to work at identical or higher physical output while reporting a lower level of exertion; in other words, they’re working harder without necessarily feeling like it’s more difficult.
It’s not just about how hard or how often you work, but also the level of difficulty that you subjectively perceive while you are in the midst of a workout. A person who simply perceives less difficulty when they are exerting themselves is generally more capable of keeping up a high level of exertion for a longer period of time, even if the level of work being done is objectively the same as another person who is just as physically capable but perceives a more daunting task.
In one study wherein participants reported their perceived exertion level in a computer-generated cycling simulation, the color green alone was shown to have a very visceral effect. Participant groups were assigned to complete their virtual cycling sessions while viewing a simulated trail with foliage along the path. Each group-designated simulation completely identical save for the foliage color.
Of all the groups in the study viewing different colors of computer generated foliage, participants in the group that viewed green foliage reported the lowest perceived level of exertion despite having identical physiological markers to all the other groups.
Green exercise is strong potential way to strengthen the immune system, incentivize exercise commitment, enhance mindfulness, and increase your subconscious capacity for effort while reducing the feeling of difficulty at the same time.
Considering just how many benefits there are to getting outdoors for workout, it pays to have a good idea of exactly where these areas can be found in your community in the first place. Even if you aren’t necessarily situated right next to the woods, making use of places like outdoor tracks and parks is highly recommendable.
Top Image Photo Credit: lzf/Bigstock
I’m Dwayne Lindsey. I am a writer, NASM trainer and fitness tech researcher. When I was younger, dropping down from 330 to 190 was more than just weight loss; it was an exercise in regaining control over life itself. I believe that mindful treatment of the body extends to realization of one’s own place in the universe. I believe that the true ideal of fitness is the manifestation of mankind’s determination to be more intimately and actively engaged in its own existence.
What we have now in fitness technology is the power to bring objective meaning, reason, and a willfully directed sense of purpose into that which once seemed completely out of our hands to control. I believe that the refinement of these developments will be a major step for the continued development of a healthier and more empowered world. It is both an an honor and a privilege to be alive in a time when I can document it as it happens.
When I’m not researching and writing, I like to help others who’d like to know a bit more about the active exercise aspect of health and fitness get closer to their goals as a trainer. Truly there has never been a better time in history to be invested in understanding one’s wellness!