Benefits of Exercising Outdoors

The Benefits of Exercising Outdoors

Did you know that exercising outdoors has many key health benefits? In fact there are many reasons to move your exercise routine outside. The truth is, while physical activity can be done almost anywhere, research has shown that working out in the great outdoors can be especially helpful when it comes to improving both mental and physical health.

Regular physical activity in general, whether indoors or outside, provides many health benefits. For example, it can help improve heart health, strengthen our bones and muscles, and reduce the risk of disease. It can also improve sleep quality, mood, and energy levels, and can be a tool for managing stress, anxiety and depression.

Taking your fitness routine outside can have an even greater positive impact on overall health. In this article, we review the benefits of exercise in general but specifically, we highlight the benefits of exercising outdoors.

Physical benefits of exercising outdoors

Improved Heart Health

Regular physical activity can strengthen our heart muscles, thus improving the body’s ability to pump blood and oxygen throughout the body. Meanwhile the heart’s ability to more easily send oxygen to our blood and muscles helps reduce fatigue and cramping when exercising. A strong and healthy heart ultimately reduces the risk of heart disease.

Added benefits of exercising outdoors:

Studies indicate that outdoor exercise improves heart health by lowering the demands on the cardiovascular system. It also improves heart health markers such as cholesterol levels and blood pressure. 

Stronger Bones and Muscles

Physical activity strengthens our bones and muscles as they respond to the stimuli we place them under. When exercising, our bones and muscles adapt to the opportunity to grow, and they adapt by getting stronger and denser.

Added benefits of exercising outdoors:

Outdoor exercise can be a great way to improve the strength and density of your bones and muscles by providing an opportunity to engage in weight-bearing exercises like walking, hiking or jogging. 

Another benefit to exercising outdoors is Vitamin D. When we spend time in the sun, the UV rays help to activate Vitamin D in our skin. This Vitamin D, along with calcium, plays a role in improving our bone density and strength.

Reduced Risk of Disease

Exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of diseases such as heart disease, stroke, Type 2 Diabetes, infectious disease and many others. Regular physical activity can help with improving our heart and lung strength, making our bodies more capable of breathing in and utilizing oxygen.

Added benefits of exercising outdoors:

Exercising outdoors can help lower levels of cortisol, a common stress marker. Research indicates that with lower levels of cortisol, improvements can be seen in areas of heart health including lowered blood pressure and heart rate. All and all, lower cortisol leads to reduced stress and decreased risk of heart disease.

Sunshine is a source of Vitamin D, which plays a role in improving the strength of our immune system. A strong immune system is better able to fight off disease. For more on the role of Vitamin D and its impact on the immune system, click here.

Heading outside for some exercise can also help to increase our interest and motivation for exercising, making it more enjoyable and sustainable. The more consistent and interesting our exercise routine is, the more likely we are to stick with it. In short, exercising outdoors has been shown to help with reducing our risk of diseases because we are more inclined to continue with it long-term.

Mental Benefits of Exercising Outdoors

Improved Sleep Quality

According to an article from Johns Hopkins Medicine, moderate aerobic exercise (such as jogging or power walking) has been shown to increase the amount of slow wave sleep we get each night. Slow wave sleep is also known as deep sleep. Increasing our amount of deep sleep allows our bodies to rest, rejuvenate and repair.

Added benefits of exercising outdoors:

Outdoor exercise can improve our ability to calm down and transition to sleeping at the end of the day. Regular exercise outdoors can also help our body naturally regulate sleep and wake cycles due to exposure to the natural light from the sun. 

Improved Mood

There is plenty of evidence that exercise can have a positive impact on one’s mood and general outlook. In fact, exercise is known to reduce stress and even decrease levels of anxiety and depression. (Scroll down for more on this topic.)

Added benefits of exercising outdoors:

Being outside and enjoying the fresh air and sunshine can help naturally lower levels of stress and anxiety. Sometimes the simple change in scenery, the birds chirping or a friendly passersby can bring about a new mindset.

Exercising outdoors can also boost our sense of accomplishment when we see how far we have walked around a track, or how many miles we have biked on a trail. Being able to see the distance and visualize how far we have come from the starting line can be more motivating than working out on a treadmill or stationary bike.

Increased Energy Levels

Engaging in regular exercise helps our body naturally increase our energy levels for everything our day has in store for us. You may be thinking “‘Won’t exercise make me more tired?” It may sound counter-intuitive that working out increases our energy levels. However when we exercise, our bodies produce more mitochondria within our cells. Mitochondria are the components of our cells that help create energy from the food we eat and the air we breathe. The more of these we have, the more efficiently and effectively we can use our fuel to power our workouts.

Added benefits of exercising outdoors:

Exercising outdoors can be a helpful way to keep your fitness routine interesting. It also provides challenging terrain that we may not see in the gym. Due to the increased effort required, our cells work harder to meet that effort and keep us going. In turn, our body produces more mitochondria, which helps us achieve our goals and continuously level up our fitness.

Managing Stress, Anxiety and Depression

Managing your mental health can be difficult, and it may feel almost impossible to exercise when you are not feeling 100%. However just as exercise can help increase your physical energy, it may also help with increasing your mental energy. Exercise, in any form, has been linked to lower rates of stress, anxiety and depression. Exercising outdoors provides even greater benefits.


Exercising can help with managing stress by reducing our level of cortisol, increasing our endorphins, and providing a mind break.

Cortisol is a steroid hormone that affects almost every organ and tissue in our body and is a key component for regulating our body’s stress response. Exercise can help to reduce the level of cortisol in our body and can help mitigate some of the negative side effects associated with stress.

Exercise also increases our endorphins, also known as our “feel good” hormones. These hormones can be increased when we participate in movement, especially movement we enjoy.

Added benefits of exercising outdoors:

Research has shown that spending just 20 minutes outside in nature can help decrease our body’s levels of cortisol. Meanwhile the more we can regularly participate in outdoor exercise, the more our body will produce endorphins.

In addition, outdoor exercise can help us give our minds a break from the stress of everyday life. Participating in a friendly competition on the tennis court or challenging ourselves to run up that next big hill can help us forget the stresses of everyday life. By focusing on the next swing or the next step we take, we allow our minds to focus only on our body’s movement. Focusing on your next move can help with de-stressing, and can make exercise more enjoyable.


Exercising, especially outdoors with sunshine and fresh air, can be a helpful tool for managing anxiety by reducing our bodily sensitivity to it. Exercise can help increase levels of endorphins, reduce cortisol, reduce tension and can increase physical and mental energy. Through these changes seen in the body, our responses to anxiety may be lowered when we experience it.

Added benefits of exercising outdoors:

Outdoor exercise can help with generating more neurons in the brain, which some studies have suggested can help with reducing symptoms of anxiety.


Participating in enjoyable movement can be a helpful tool for warding off depression. Specifically, there are a number of studies that indicate that when this enjoyable exercise is done outdoors, there is an even greater impact on depression. Physical activity in general produces endorphins (our “feel good” hormones), whether it is done indoors or outside.

Added benefits of exercising outdoors:

Sunshine helps our body to naturally produce serotonin, a chemical messenger that helps with regulating our moods. Normal serotonin levels usually produce more focused thinking, more emotional stability and can improve levels of happiness and calmness. Exercising outdoors also helps our body produce endorphins, helping us feel good and manage our stress.

Outdoor Exercise Ideas

Remember, exercise is all about moving your body in different ways…and that does not always have to take place at the gym. In fact, we recommend getting outside when possible to keep things interesting and sustainable. Engaging in outdoor exercise can also help you take advantage of the added benefits we outlined above.

Whether we exercise outdoors or indoors, we should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. While that may seem like a big time commitment, it breaks down to just 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.

This recommendation is also just that: a recommendation. When it comes to reaping the benefits of outdoor exercise, throw the “all or nothing” approach right out the window. Heading outside for some fresh air for just a few minutes is better than not at all! Any movement is good movement, regardless of the duration. Feel free to start out with 5 minutes a day each week, and work up from there.

Ready to see take advantage of some of the benefits of exercising outdoors? Start by finding something that you enjoy doing, something that you may have done when you were younger, or something new you have always wanted to try. Feel free to use some of the suggestions we have below to get started. Remember, the goal is enjoyable movement that you’ll want to do for the long-term.


Walking around the local park

Riding a bike around the neighborhood

Walking lunges in the sunshine

Stretching or yoga at the park


Speed walking or jogging outside with or without small weights

Rollerblading or rollerskating at the skate park

Jump squats at the park



Running at the local park

Hiking up challenging trails

(High Intensity) Interval training

Rock climbing or bouldering outside

Resources for Getting Started

When it comes to introducing more outdoor exercise (or any exercise), getting started can be the hardest part. However there are many apps and programs ideal for every level, including beginners. Below are some of the options that can help you bring your workout outdoors.

Apple Fitness +

Get Move Program


Nike Training Club

…And many more! Some of these apps will have free trial periods and others may charge a membership fee monthly or annually. We encourage you to try them, to see which one suits you best. At the end of the day, any kind of movement will help you in your health journey. But bringing your exercise outdoors can help keep things interesting and keep you motivated!

How Anderson’s Nutrition Can Help

More about our Get Moving Program

It is our mission here at Anderson’s Nutrition to not only improve your nutritional health but also improve your overall wellness, which includes physical activity. We have therefore designed a program that makes exercising easy and achievable.

Our Get Moving Program is a tailored, personal experience specific to YOU, your location, exercise interest, and equipment. Our personal trainer will work with you to find an exercise routine that is interesting, motivating and tailored just to you. Click on the link below to learn more.