Five healthy benefits of enjoying outdoor exercise and recreation
Spending time in nature combined with physical activity can lead to significant health benefits.
Have you ever noticed that you feel better after a walk, run, or hike outdoors? Maybe it’s more energy, less stress, or better concentration, but there is no denying that it can turn your day around. Turns out that it’s not just you—it’s science. The combination of nature and physical activity can have a synergistic effect and lead to significant health benefits .
Get outside and feel better
Here are a few of the top benefits of outdoor exercise and recreation.
- Reduced stress: Some studies have found that exposure to nature can enhance cognitive performance and support “restoration from mental fatigue.”1 In addition, time spent on outdoor recreational activities may support reduced production of stress hormones and improved concentration .
- Improved mood: Both physical activity and being in nature are known to have positive effects on mental health . When compared to exercise indoors, exercising in nature was found to have a positive impact on depression, anger, tension, self-esteem, resilience, and energy levels .
- Improved self-esteem: One study showed that exercising in nature can improve self-esteem. Additionally, researchers found that the first five minutes of “green exercise” have the greatest impact on both mood and self-esteem . Other studies reported outdoor sports to increase self-efficacy and improve self-concept.
- Improved physical health: Outdoor activities have been linked to increased fitness and cardiovascular functioning, reduced obesity, reduced blood pressure, and reduced risk in diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cancer . Subjectively, outdoor activity and sports are associated with a better overall perception of health and increased quality of life .
- Strengthened social connections: Outdoor activity and sports can help people connect with the communities they live in and with one another. In children, it can help foster social connectedness and a stronger community identity .
We live in a world that is increasingly forcing us indoors. It often feels like the internet is the only opportunity for entertainment or connection. The opportunity to spend time in nature and unplug can not only help us live healthier lives, but find balance. Time outside can help us connect with nature, the people around us, and ourselves in ways that leave us feeling refreshed and energized.
 Eigenschenk B, Thomann A, McClure M, et al. Benefits of Outdoor Sports for Society. A Systematic Literature Review and Reflections on Evidence. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019;16(6):937. Published 2019 Mar 15. doi:10.3390/ijerph16060937
 Calogiuri G, Evensen K, Weydahl A, Andersson K, Patil G, Ihlebæk C, Raanaas RK. Green exercise as a workplace intervention to reduce job stress. Results from a pilot study. Work. 2015;53(1):99-111. doi: 10.3233/WOR-152219. PMID: 26684708.
 Ohly H, White MP, Wheeler BW, Bethel A, Ukoumunne OC, Nikolaou V, Garside R. Attention Restoration Theory: A systematic review of the attention restoration potential of exposure to natural environments. J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2016;19(7):305-343. doi: 10.1080/10937404.2016.1196155. Epub 2016 Sep 26. PMID: 27668460.
 Pretty J, Peacock J, Sellens M, Griffin M. The mental and physical health outcomes of green exercise. Int J Environ Health Res. 2005 Oct;15(5):319-37. doi: 10.1080/09603120500155963. PMID: 16416750.
 Thompson Coon J, Boddy K, Stein K, Whear R, Barton J, Depledge MH. Does participating in physical activity in outdoor natural environments have a greater effect on physical and mental wellbeing than physical activity indoors? A systematic review. Environ Sci Technol. 2011 Mar 1;45(5):1761-72. doi: 10.1021/es102947t. Epub 2011 Feb 3. PMID: 21291246.
 Bratman G, Hamilton J, Hahn K, Daily G, Gross J. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Jul 2015, 112 (28) 8567-8572; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1510459112
 Gladwell, V.F., Brown, D.K., Wood, C. et al. The great outdoors: how a green exercise environment can benefit all. Extrem Physiol Med 2,3 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1186/2046-7648-2-3
 Mutz M, Müller J. Mental health benefits of outdoor adventures: Results from two pilot studies. J Adolesc. 2016 Jun;49:105-14. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2016.03.009. Epub 2016 Mar 31. PMID: 27038974.
 Wray A, Martin G, Ostermeier E, et al. Physical activity and social connectedness interventions in outdoor spaces among children and youth: a rapid review. Interventions pour favoriser l’activité physique et l’appartenance sociale chez les enfants et les jeunes dans des espaces extérieurs : revue rapide de la littérature. Health Promot Chronic Dis Prev Can. 2020;40(4):104-115. doi:10.24095/hpcdp.40.4.02