There is a striking correlation between the temperature and our desire to exercise outdoors; as the mercury on the thermometer moves lower, so does our want to exercise outside. While exercising outside in warmer weather is preferable, exercising outdoors is very healthy for our brains in any temperature.
Outdoor exercise in nature results in consistent improvements in energy, motivation and well-being. People who exercise outside, as compared to inside, have less tension, less anger and less depression1. Outdoor exercise seems to help stimulate our brains to produce chemicals that play important roles in gratification, clarity of thinking and motivation. Happiness is also shown to improve when we have a variety of stimulation with exercise2.
Our body benefits from being used at different angles and speeds, which is afforded by the luxury of exercising outdoors. Even the wind helps give us random degrees of challenge, pushing at times for increased effort and resistance or pulling us along the path faster than usual. Overuse injuries are related to a lack of variety that can come from always doing the same workout in the same way, at the same angles, over and over. Moving from trails, to grass, to asphalt, to gravel provides variety for your body, and you also may find yourself with more energy and motivation to exercise outdoors than when you are inside running on a treadmill.
In addition, outdoor exercise is generally not expensive. We – in the four-state region – are blessed to have a great many natural areas and wonders to explore, many of them nearby and free of charge. Whether kayaking on the creek, running a trail, bicycling in the neighborhood, climbing hills or swinging from trees, outdoor exercise has something for everyone.
1 J Thompson Coon, K Boddy, K Stein, et al. Environ Sci Technol. 2011. Mar 1:45(5):1761-72.
2M Khazaee-Pool, R F Majilessi, R Saghedi, et al. J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. 2015. Feb;22(1):47-57.
About the Author
Chris Peterson is a physical therapist at Freeman Rehabilitation & Sports Center. He helps patients recuperate from injuries, illnesses and surgery. He works with patients to help them manage pain and reclaim their lifestyle and momentum. Freeman Rehabilitation & Sports Center features a sports performance section, basketball performance court, balance testing and treatment, sports concussion testing and the only aquatic therapy program in the area. To learn more, visit freemanhealth.com/sportsmedicine or call 417.347.3737.