The Surprising Mental Health Benefits of Bringing Your Workouts Outdoors

Exercise + sunshine + fresh air = happier people.

By: Emily Freeman

There’s nothing like exercising outdoors in the fresh air and sunshine. From increased motivation and energy to less stress and a better mood, what’s not to love? Plus, it’s an easy way to meet new people or invite your friends to join in on the fun (for free).  And, beyond getting a good base-tan going (don’t forget your sunscreen), getting outside for your workouts has proven mental health benefits. Exercise alone helps boost serotonin and release endorphins — two happy hormones that help improve your mood, focus, productivity, and sense of peace. Add in a nice breeze, some vitamin D, and the greenery of outdoor spaces, the benefits of outdoor workouts are hard to beat.

The Mental Health Benefits of Outdoor Workouts 

Studies have shown a proven correlation between outdoor workouts and reduced levels of stress, depression, and anxiety because of the “restorative” properties of natural environments. This is especially true for those who live in an urban environment and may be in a constant state of overstimulation. Getting outside for a workout even once a week can create “soft fascination,” or exposure to scenery that captures attention while simultaneously eliciting feelings of pleasure and restore directed attention. 

Similarly, if you work from home, it can be hard to disconnect from feeling “on” and actually allow yourself to be present during your workouts, or anything else for that matter. Getting outdoors in a new environment can give you that feeling of “being away,” allowing you to put your obligations in the back of your mind and be present for your workout. And even if you don’t have the time for a full workout, you can still get the mood-boosting benefits of nature and movement from a walk around the block or a walking meeting! It’s all about finding what works best for you.

If you don’t have open space to escape to, you can get similar benefits by going to outdoor spaces with other expansive elements like sculptures, greenery, or even a neighborhood park. These environments can also stimulate fascination and feelings of “being away.”  If that’s not an option, try bringing the greenery to you! Don’t undermine the benefits of gardening or yard work. Aside from boosting your mood and lowering stress, gardening has been shown to build strength and burn calories!

Other Benefits of Taking Your Workouts Outdoors 

If you weren’t already convinced to exercise outside, the benefits of outdoor workouts go beyond your mental health. If you’ve been working out at home to save money, taking your workouts outdoors can increase your results and doesn’t cost a cent. 

Saves Time & Increases Time in Nature

If you’re lucky enough to live near open space, you can also cut down on commute time to and from the gym by just running (or walking, cycling, etc.) out the door and getting started on your workout right away (though don’t forget to warm up!). 

You’ll Soak in the Sunshine Benefits

Many people are deficient in Vitamin D, putting them at risk for bone density loss leading to osteoporosis and potentially other chronic conditions. One of the easiest ways to get Vitamin D… get in the sun! As a bonus, vitamin D has been shown to support mood, making an outdoor workout a win-win. 

Burns More Calories

If you’re looking for a little extra calorie burn, whether it being cooler or hotter, will take your exercise energy expenditure up. Just make sure to prepare correctly for the heat or chill, so you don’t end up with heatstroke or hypothermia.

You’ll Meet New People 

Aside from enjoying a new scenery, taking your workout outdoors comes with the added bonus of community. When the weather is warm and the sun is shining, you’ll likely find lots of like-minded people getting their sweat on outdoors — it’s a great way to meet new people!

What You Need to Take Your Workouts Outside 

One of the other beauties of working out outdoors is you need very little equipment. Beyond the obvious cardio exercises like running, walking, or swimming, there are plenty of effective body weight resistance exercises to include in your routine. When heading outdoors, always start with sunscreen and the necessary layers if you’re exercising in the cold. And you wouldn’t forget your water bottle, would you?

Other than that, the rest of your equipment is up to you. If you know you’ll be on rough or irritating ground and plan on doing exercises that are on the floor like bicycles, planks, hip bridges, downward dog, hundreds, and pushups, then you’ll probably want to bring a mat (and we know just the one). If you want to add extra resistance to your workouts, resistance bands are your best bet. They’re light and easily portable. Plus, it’s an easy way to burn out your legs and glutes without the added stress of heavyweights!

If you want a little extra guidance for your outdoor workout, don’t forget your phone so you can press play on your favorite workouts on the FitOn app!

Getting Started With Outdoor Workouts 

Ready to reap all the benefits outdoor workouts offer? Take your FitOn workout outdoors! Try these FitOn favorites alongside some fresh air + sunshine and get ready to see just how good they leave you feeling!

Flexibility and stretching are important and one of the most overlooked elements of fitness. Open up your joints and lengthen your muscles with this feel-good stretch which will help you take away tension in your body and feel your best. You deserve it.

Some days a simple flow is still a bit much. Dial it back a notch with this simpler flow that shows you that moving and breathing is the key to a healthy & happy life. 

Get the best of both worlds with this lower body focused strength and cardio workout. Strength and cardio together will help sculpt all your major muscle groups. 

A Little Fresh Air Always Helps

Getting active outdoors doesn’t have to be complicated. Even a brisk walk around the block can do wonders for your mental health. If you love your indoor workouts but feel like your brain could use a boost, try adding one day of outdoor exercise to your programming or even try to get outside during your hectic day for a quick stroll to get the benefits of outdoor workouts.