Benefits of outdoor activities

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What are the benefits of walking outdoors?

Any time you can walk in the great outdoors, do — especially if you’re tense and frustrated. Walking (like any physical activity) helps you destress, control anger and get your head straight. A walk on the treadmill might do the trick, but walking with Mother Nature works even better.
Is it the fresh air, the sunshine and the greenery? It’s probably all that and more. There’s something about the great outdoors that gives walking (or any workout) an extra kick. You feel more alive, energetic and optimistic — and more committed to walking every day (experts have studied this).
There’s more:

  • You’ll burn a few extra calories. Credit wind resistance, dodging people/potholes/puddles, and going up and down slopes. Real hills make even more of a difference (and firm your tush).
  • You’ll like yourself more. Self-esteem jumps from all kinds of “green exercise,” including outdoor hiking, biking, surfing, tennis or just striding around the neighborhood.
  • You’ll think better. Just 90 days of moderate walking boosts blood flow to your brain by 15%. Walking also lowers your blood pressure and heart rate.
  • You’ll have fun. Watching people, pets and babies is better than watching most TV.
  • You might just get lucky. Whether you’re looking for love, work or new ideas for the front door, leaving home can help you find it.

Outdoor Exercise Can Boost the Body, Mind, and Mood

There is no debating the health benefits of physical fitness. Getting regular exercise helps prevent heart disease and other chronic illness, improves mood, reduces stress, improves sleep, and more. In order for adults to reap those benefits, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week.

That time commitment may seem like a tall order in your busy life. But the good news is that you don’t have to book sessions in a gym to get in shape. Outdoor exercises are just as effective as indoor ones, can be more fun, and have some other appealing advantages.

Working Out Outside Comes With Perks for the Body and Mind

Outdoor fitness can be a structured exercise program that takes advantage of natural terrain to get you in shape, or it can be as simple as a brisk walk around the block. Outdoor fitness comes in many forms: Light gardening or other yard work, for example, is considered moderate physical activity, and a 154-pound man can burn approximately 330 calories in an hour doing it, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Whichever way you choose to exercise outside, there are numerous benefits:

  • A harder workout When you’re active outdoors — whether you’re running on the beach or hiking up a mountain — your body is encountering a constantly changing environment. To keep up the activity at a consistent pace, you need to adapt to all those minute changes in your surroundings (such as slight inclines, bumps, or obstacles you may need to dodge), which means your body works harder than if you were running on a treadmill or using a stair machine, according to the American Council on Exercise.
  • No membership fees The outdoors belongs to all of us. “You don’t need any special equipment — the outdoors is available wherever you are, just outside your door,” says Tina Vindum, a faculty member of the American Council on Exercise and the author of Tina Vindum’s Outdoor Fitness: Step Out of the Gym Into the Best Shape of Your Life.
  • Cleaner air According to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air can be more polluted than outdoor air even in large cities and metropolitan areas.
  • A free daily dose of D Outdoor exercise is a way to get your vitamin D through sunlight. This is especially important if you are overweight, as research suggests that people who are overweight are more likely to be deficient in vitamin D.
  • Exercise for your mind “When you exercise outdoors, your mind is aware of the changing terrain. Whether you use the hills, the sand on a beach, or a winding path, your mind has to focus differently than it would on a flat gym floor,” notes Vindum. And research suggests the effect of exercise on the mind tends to favor a positive direction. Several studies, including one published in Environmental Science and Technology in 2011, suggest exercise outdoors benefited mental well-being more than the same type of exercise inside.

Here’s How to Get Started if You Want to Take Your Exercise Routine Outside

If you have any health issues, talk to your doctor before starting an outdoor fitness program, and ask any questions you have about upping the intensity of your fitness routine or jumping back into fitness if you’ve been inactive for a while.

And then ease into it, Vindum says. “I tell people to have a goal in mind, start slowly, and work up to their potential. Outdoor exercise can be adapted to anyone’s level of fitness.” Here are some tips to get you going.

  • Exercise early. “People can always find more excuses to avoid exercising outdoors at the end of the day,” says Vindum. In the morning your energy is higher, the air is generally cleaner, the temperature tends to be lower, and you’ll get to feel the post-workout benefits (less stress and a better mood) all day long.
  • Avoid temperature extremes. Although your body can adapt to colder or warmer weather, you should avoid exercising outside in extreme heat or cold. And in warmer temps, watch for signs of overheating, including headache, dizziness, nausea, faintness, cramping, or palpitations, according to information from Harvard Medical School.
  • Don’t get burned. Although some sun is good for you, too much sun is not. “Always protect yourself with a good sunscreen, and wear sunglasses and a hat with a brim,” advises Vindum.
  • Drink enough water. “If you drink about 8 to 10 ounces of water 30 minutes before exercising outdoors, it should hydrate you sufficiently for a 30-minute workout. You don’t need water with electrolytes in most cases,” says Vindum. Remember that you can lose water through sweating, though — even in cooler weather. And you may start to get dehydrated before you feel thirsty.
  • Get some good gear. “Take advantage of the new technology in waterproof, breathable clothing material,” advises Vindum. The right gear lets you feel good in any type of weather.
  • Make outdoor exercises part of your lifestyle. “You can learn exercises that use only body weight and gravity and do them while you are walking to the post office,” Vindum says. Think about walking instead of driving. Plan outdoor activities with your family. Go for a hike instead of a drive.

RELATED: What to Wear for Cold Weather Workouts

“Why would you need bottled aromatherapy when you can go outside and smell nature? Outside exercise uses all your senses and connects your body and mind,” Vindum says. “It can be a life-changing experience.”

Walking: Your steps to health

Exciting benefits of walking for heart health, including lower risk of heart attack and stroke

Updated: July 18, 2018Published: August, 2009

Why should you start walking for heart health? Walking doesn’t get the respect it deserves, either for its health benefits, its value for transportation, or its role in recreation.

Aerobics, walking and health

Ever since the 1970s, the aerobic doctrine has dominated the discussion of exercise and health. In a scientific update of your high school coach’s slogan “no pain, no gain,” the doctrine holds that the benefits of exercise depend on working hard enough to boost your heart rate to 70% to 85% of its maximum, sustaining that effort continuously for 20 to 60 minutes, and repeating the workout at least three times a week.

Aerobic exercise training is indeed the best way to score well on a treadmill test that measures aerobic capacity. It is excellent preparation for athletic competition. And it’s great for health. But intense workouts carry a risk for injury, and aerobic exercise is hard work. Although the aerobic doctrine inspired the few, it discouraged the many.

Running is the poster boy for aerobic exercise. With some preparation and a few precautions, it really is splendid for fitness and health. But it’s not the only way to exercise for health. Perhaps because they’ve seen so many hard-breathing, sweat-drenched runners counting their pulse rates, ordinary guys often assume that less intense exercise is a waste of time. In fact, though, moderate exercise is excellent for health — and walking is the poster boy for moderate exercise.

Walking and exercise guidelines

The benefits of physical activity depend on three elements: the intensity, duration, and frequency of exercise.

Because walking is less intensive than running, you have to walk for longer periods, get out more often, or both to match the benefits of running. As a rough guide, the current American Heart Association/American College of Sports Medicine standards call for able-bodied adults to do moderate-intensity exercise (such as brisk walking) for at least 30 minutes on five days each week or intense aerobic exercise (such as running) for at least 20 minutes three days each week. That makes running seem much more time-efficient — but if you factor in the extra warm-ups, cool-downs, and changes of clothing and shoes that runners need, the time differences narrow considerably. Add the time it takes to rehab from running injuries, and walking looks pretty good.

Mix and match to suit your health, abilities, personal preferences, and daily schedules. Walk, jog, bike, swim, garden, golf, dance, or whatever, as long as you keep moving. Remember that Einstein himself explained, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”

Walking for heart health

Hundreds of medical studies show that regular exercise is good for health — very good, in fact. But many of these studies lump various forms of exercise together to investigate how the total amount of physical activity influences health. It’s important research, but it doesn’t necessarily prove that walking, in and of itself, is beneficial.

In a report that included findings from multiple well done studies, researchers found that walking reduced the risk of cardiovascular events by 31% cut the risk of dying by 32%. These benefits were equally robust in men and women. Protection was evident even at distances of just 5½ miles per week and at a pace as casual as about 2 miles per hour. The people who walked longer distances, walked at a faster pace, or both enjoyed the greatest protection.

Benefits of walking for your health

The cardiovascular benefits of walking are biologically plausible; like other forms of regular moderate exercise, walking improves cardiac risk factors such as cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, vascular stiffness and inflammation, and mental stress. And if cardiac protection and a lower death rate are not enough to get you moving, consider that walking and other moderate exercise programs also help protect against dementia, peripheral artery disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, colon cancer, and even erectile dysfunction.

Ready, set, walk.

Walking vs. running

Walking is not simply slow running; competitive racewalkers can zip by recreational joggers. The difference between the two is not based on pace. At any speed, walkers have one foot on the ground at all times, but runners are entirely airborne during some part of every stride. As the pace increases, the percentage of each stride that is airborne increases; competitive runners have “hang times” of about 45%.

What goes up must come down. That’s why running is a high-impact activity. Each time they land, runners subject their bodies to a stress equal to about three times their body weight. In just one mile, a typical runner’s legs will have to absorb more than 100 tons of impact force. It’s a testament to the human body that running can be safe and enjoyable. At the same time, though, it’s a testament to the force of gravity that walkers have a much lower (1% to 5%) risk of exercise-related injuries than runners (20% to 70%).

Walkers have one foot on the ground at all times.

Daily life of a walker

Make walking part of your daily life. Walk to work and to the store. If it’s too far, try walking to the train instead of driving there, and then get off the bus or subway a few stops before your destination. Instead of competing for the closest parking space or paying extra for a nearby lot, park farther away and walk to your destination. Go for a walk at lunchtime instead of spending all your time in the cafeteria.

You don’t need any special equipment to walk in the course of your daily life. Supportive street shoes will suffice, but if you prefer, you can change into walking shoes for your commute or lunchtime stroll. And since you don’t need to push yourself enough to sweat, you don’t need special clothing; just stay warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and dry in the rain. But when the weather is really harsh or the streets slippery, put safety first and walk down long hallways, in a mall, or on the stairs (see box).

Walking your steps to health

Walking on streets and trails is superb for health. And so is walking up stairs. Coaches, cardiologists, and housewives have long been in on the secret of stairs. Many football coaches “ask” their players to charge up flight after flight of stadium steps to get in shape, and other competitive athletes put gymnasium stairwells to similar use. In the days before stress testing held sway, doctors would often walk up stairs with their patients to check out cardiopulmonary function. Even today, cardiologists tell heart patients they are fit enough to have sex if they can walk up two or three flights comfortably, and surgeons may clear patients for lung operations if they can manage five or six flights. As for housewives, taking care of a two- or three-story home is one reason American women outlive their husbands by an average of more than five years.

What’s so special about stairs? Researchers in Canada answered the question by monitoring 17 healthy male volunteers with an average age of 64 while they walked, lifted weights, or climbed stairs. Stair climbing was the most demanding. It was twice as taxing as brisk walking on the level and 50% harder than walking up a steep incline or lifting weights. And peak exertion was attained much faster climbing stairs than walking, which is why nearly everyone huffs and puffs going upstairs, at least until the “second wind” kicks in after a few flights.

Because stairs are so taxing, only the very young at heart should attempt to charge up long flights. But at a slow, steady pace, stairs can be a health plus for the rest of us. Begin modestly with a flight or two, and then add more as you improve. Take the stairs whenever you can; if you have a long way to go, walk part way, and then switch to an elevator. Use the railing for balance and security (especially going down), and don’t try the stairs after a heavy meal or if you feel unwell.

Even at a slow pace, you’ll burn calories two to three times faster climbing stairs than walking briskly on the level. The Harvard Alumni Study found that men who average at least eight flights a day enjoy a 33% lower mortality rate than men who are sedentary — and that’s even better than the 22% lower death rate men earned by walking 1.3 miles a day.

Does walking for transportation pay off? And how! A study of 12,000 adults found that people who live in cities have a lower risk of being overweight and obese than people who live in the suburbs. In Atlanta, for example, 45% of suburban men were overweight and 23% were obese; among urbanites, however, only 37% were overweight and 13% obese. The explanation: driving vs. walking. To stay well, walk for 30 to 45 minutes nearly every day. Do it all at once or in chunks as short as five to 10 minutes. Aim for a brisk pace of three to four miles an hour, but remember that you’ll get plenty of benefit from strolling at a slower pace as long as you stick with it.

If you want to set more precise goals, aim for two to four miles a day. As a rule of thumb, urban walkers can count 12 average city blocks as one mile. Another way to keep track of your distance is to buckle a pedometer to your belt. Some just keep track of your steps, while others have bells and whistles such as timers, clocks, alarms, and bells — or at least chimes that ring out little tunes. You can get a decent pedometer for under $40. Even the best models can sometimes mistake a jiggle for a step, but a pedometer can help you keep track and can motivate you to take extra steps whenever you can. If you have an average stride length, count 2,000 steps as about a mile of walking. And if you’re counting steps, you can use another rule of thumb to estimate your intensity: 80 steps a minute indicates a leisurely pace; 100 steps a minute, a moderate to brisk pace; and 120 steps a minute, a fast pace. Even without counting, you’ll do well simply by reminding yourself to walk briskly. It’s the only direction that researchers gave to a group of 84 overweight, sedentary volunteers, yet even without athletic experience, all of them achieved heart rates in the moderate 58% to 70% of maximum range.

Walking for transportation is a good way to start any exercise program, and it’s an excellent way to protect your health. Still, many men will get extra benefit from setting aside dedicated time to walk for exercise, health, and pleasure.

Are benefits of walking for health genetic or kinetic?

The meta-analysis of 18 walking studies did not address a question that has bedeviled most studies of exercise and health: is the exercise itself protective, or do genetically healthier people simply tend to exercise more? But another important European study sheds light on the issue.

To learn if the effects of exercise depend on genetics and early family life, doctors in Finland studied nearly 16,000 same-sex twins. The participants were all healthy when the study began in 1975. All the volunteers provided information on their exercise habits and other known predictors of mortality. People who reported exercising for more than 30 minutes at least six times a month at an intensity corresponding to brisk walking were classified as conditioning exercisers, subjects who exercised less were considered occasional exercisers, and those who did not exercise were considered sedentary.

During the study’s 20-year follow-up, 1,253 participants died. Even after accounting for other risk factors, exercise proved strongly protective, reducing the death rate of conditioning exercisers by 43% and occasional exercisers by 29%. But was the protection genetic or kinetic? Even among genetically similar twins, exercise was a strong independent predictor of survival. Twins who exercised regularly were 56% less likely to die during the study period than their sedentary siblings, and even twins who exercised only occasionally had a 34% lower death rate than their sedentary sibs.

Your shoes may have more to say about your health than your genes.

Put on your walking shoes

Whether you walk in a business suit or a sweat suit, on city streets or country roads, it’s still the same left, right, left for health. In fact, it’s not a question of either/or, since every walk you take is a step toward good health.

Walking for walking’s sake shows you are giving exercise the priority it deserves. It will get you away from the demanding routines of daily life, a nice plus for mental health. And by changing into walking shoes and athletic togs, you’ll be able to build up to a pace that’s difficult to achieve on the way to work.

Good shoes are important. Most major athletic brands offer shoes especially designed for walking. Fit and comfort are more important than style; your shoes should feel supportive but not snug or constricting. Look for a padded tongue and heel pad. The uppers should be light, breathable, and flexible, the insole moisture-resistant, and the sole shock-absorbent. The heel wedge should be raised, so the sole at the back of the shoe is two times thicker than at the front. Finally, the toe box should be roomy, even when you’re wearing athletic socks.

Your shoes are worth a little thought, but your clothing is strictly a matter of common sense and personal preference. A T-shirt and shorts are fine in warm weather. An ordinary sweat suit will do nicely when it’s cool, but a nylon athletic suit may be more comfortable. Add layers as the temperature drops; gloves and a hat are particularly important. If you really get into it, a water-repellent suit of Gore-Tex or a similar synthetic fabric will keep you warm without getting soggy with sweat.

For safety’s sake, pick brightly colored outer garments, and always wear a reflector on country roads if it’s dark. Walk facing cars if you don’t have a sidewalk underfoot, and avoid high-speed and congested traffic. Beware of dogs and, for that matter, people; be sure unfamiliar locations are safe, and even then, try to walk with a companion.

Before you take a serious walk, stretch to warm up; stretch again to cool down afterwards. Start out at a slow pace, and slow down toward the end of your walk as well. Begin with routes that are well within your range, and then extend your distances as you improve. The same is true of your pace; begin modestly, then pick up your speed as you get into shape. Intersperse a brisk clip with a less strenuous stride, and then gradually extend these speedier intervals. Add hills for variety and additional intensity.

One of the nice things about walking is that you don’t need special skill, much less lessons. The main thing is to walk naturally and comfortably. But if you want to aim for an ideal stride, a few tips may help. Try to keep your posture erect with your chin up, your eyes forward, and your shoulders square. Keep your back straight, belly flat, and butt tucked in. Keep your arms close to your torso, bent at the elbow. Take a natural stride, but try to lengthen your stride as you improve. Land on your heels, and then roll forward to push off with your toes. Swing your arms with each stride, and keep up a steady, rhythmic cadence.

To stay motivated, walk with a friend or listen to a radio or MP3 player. And for some people, the best motivation is a dog — studies show that owning pets is good for health, and walking the dog is a major reason for this benefit.

To avoid problems, back off if you are ill or injured, always listen to your body, stay well-hydrated, and avoid hazardous conditions. Consider walking in a mall if it’s too hot, cold, wet, or slippery outdoors. You can also consider using a treadmill at home or at a health club.

Walking and weight loss

Exercise burns calories. In the case of walking and running, the calories you burn depend much more on the distance you cover and your body weight than on your pace. This table shows calories burned per mile of walking or jogging on the level for people of varying weights:

A hundred or so calories a mile might not seem like much, but they can add up to better weight control. For example, a 2009 study of 4,995 men and women found that the average American gains about 2.2 pounds a year during middle age. But during the 15-year study, people who walked gained significantly less weight than those who didn’t; the more walking, the less weight gain. And the benefit was greatest in the heaviest individuals. For example, walking for just 35 minutes a day saved a 160-pound person about 18 pounds of flab over 15 years of aging.

Walking calorie calculator

Your weight

Approximate calories per mile

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Walking the walk

Walking has it all. Simple and natural, it doesn’t require any instruction or skill. It can be a very modest form of exercise or it can demand enough skill and intensity to be an Olympic sport. You can walk alone for solitude or with friends for companionship. You can walk indoors on a treadmill or outside in the city or country, at home or away. You can get all the benefits of moderate exercise with a very low risk of injury. And to boot, walking is inexpensive. All things considered, Charles Dickens got it right: “Walk to be healthy, walk to be happy.”

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As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

30 fun ways to get 30 minutes of physical activity today

When you were a kid, you moved your body while playing; you didn’t think about exercising. Swinging from the monkey bars, running around the park and playing soccer with friends were par for the course of an active childhood.

If as an adult the thought of breaking a sweat breaks your spirit, it might be time to think about fun ways you can get active, just like you’re a kid again.

It’s recommended that adults do 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a week. Starting with just 30 minutes a day will put you right in the middle of that range. But no one wants to spend half an hour a day slogging it out doing something they hate. You’ll get the most out of physical activities that you enjoy, and you’ll keep coming back for more.

Below is a list of activities that will get your heart pumping and add a bit of fun into your schedule at the same time.

Ready, set, play!

1. Walking/running games

Going for a walk or a jog is an easy and accessible type of exercise, but lapping your neighbourhood can get boring quickly.

There are heaps of apps you can download that will transform your walk or run into an adventure. Zombies, Run! puts you in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, where zombies chase you as run to gather much needed supplies for your community. Geocaching games, like Ingress or Pokémon GO, ask you to interact with virtual objects placed in your real world.

2. Dance party

How long has it been since you had a dance to your favourite music? Let your hair down, draw the curtains if you’ve got particularly nosy neighbours, pump some beats, and get moving. It’ll only take about eight songs for you to get your 30 minutes in, so make sure you choose your best bangers to get your heart beat up!

3. Build your own workout

If getting to a gym class, or paying for one, is putting you off working out, don’t worry – you can get the same benefits from a home workout. Use the ready-made Healthier. Happier. workouts, or build your own routine of individual exercises.

4. Frisbee

Frisbee is a quick and easy way to get moving with a friend. Count how many times you can throw the frisbee back and forth without dropping it, and make it more of a workout by asking them to make you run for it.

5. Catch and kick

Anyone with kids will know that sometimes entertaining them takes priority over looking after your own health. Kill two birds with one stone and take them to the park to kick a footy or throw a ball back and forth. Once everyone’s practised their kicking, throwing and catching skills, take things to the next level by asking them to throw or kick long and make you run for it.

6. Take the stairs

An oldy but a goody, taking the stairs instead of an escalator or lift is great for working the major muscle groups in the legs and glutes. It might not seem like the most fun option for a workout, but you can fit a surprising amount of activity into every day by taking the stairs whenever they are an option. And if you get hooked, you can even become a competitive stair climber.

7. Walking meetings

If your workplace demands a lot of meetings, suggest making one every day a ‘walking meeting’. Head out of stuffy office rooms and to a nearby park, or just the footpath, and pound out a few steps while you talk business. Don’t forget to Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide when you’re outside during the day!

8. Dance class

Swing dancing, tap dancing, ballet or salsa – there are so many different styles of dance that will raise your heart rate and challenge your coordination. Most dance classes take one-off or term-based sign-ups, so you can try one style for a few months, and then switch it up.

9. Hiking

Getting out and about in the great outdoors is a wonderful way to stretch your legs and see some of the state’s amazing scenery. Need some inspiration about where to go? Follow our #weekendactivetip every Friday for a great spot to get active in Queensland.

10. Rock climbing

Challenge your strength and experience the adrenalin rush of defying gravity as you scale a rock wall. Find an indoor gym or an instructor that will show you the ropes on one of Queensland’s outdoor climbs.

11. Water balloon battle

For some people, the best way to get active is to make it a competition. Gather some friends, fill a basket with pre-filled balloons and try to stay dry!

12. Take your dog to a doggy meetup

Lots of Queenslanders get their steps in walking the dog each day. If you’re a dog owner, spice up your routine by taking your dog along to a dog meetup, where you can meet other likeminded canine-lovers and go for a walk, run or hike together.

13. Master a jump rope routine

Jumping rope is great aerobic exercise and will get your heart rate up in no time. Get fancy by learning a jump rope routine – you can find tutorials online for everything from basic tricks through to complicated routines.

14. Practise a yoga arm balance

If you’ve been thinking that yoga is all about gentle flows and deep breaths, think again. Arm balances call on core, arm and shoulder strength as well as the focus yoga is renowned for fostering. Start with something easy and spend some time each week developing your strength.

15. Hula hoop

Hula hooping was a bit of fun as a kid, but as an adult it can be a serious workout. Grab a hoop and work those abs!

16. Try out that sport you always wanted to do as a kid

How long has it been since you tried something new? While starting a new sport or heading to a new class might be daunting, changing up your routine might be just the thing to get you excited about being active. Make a list of all the activities you thought would be really cool to try as a child – ice skating, fencing, kendo, ballet, fan dancing – and then pick one to try.

17. Join a team sport

Playing sport as part of a team can help you get active while making friends and feeling part of your community. This list of links will lead you through to sports clubs and fixtures across the state, or you can use the My Community directory to search for your sport of choice.

18. Make date night active night

Date night (or any time you hang with loved ones or friends) doesn’t have to be spent sitting in a cinema or binging Netflix. Get active on your next date by going bowling, playing laser tag or paintball, or sinking balls at minigolf.

19. Orienteering

Orienteering is a cross country navigation activity done on foot or bike, that requires competitors to locate and travel to different areas on a map as fast as possible. While learning navigation skills, orienteering also provides opportunity for a great outdoor workout that can be done by people of all ages.

Orienteering Queensland coordinates clubs and events across the state.

20. Deep clean

Did you know that getting your house and yard in tip-top shape can be good for your body, too? Check out this table by Diabetes New South Wales, which compares the energy used to do household tasks to common exercise workouts, pick a job and get moving!

21. Shopping

You might not think of it as a physical activity, but shopping can add a lot of steps to your day. Next time you need to buy a few things, take the long way between shops, maybe doing a little window shopping on the way. Bonus points if you park your car further away from the entrance or walk to and from the shops.

22. Learn a musical instrument

Depending on the instrument, playing music can be a beneficial form of physical activity. According to 8700.com.au, playing guitar burns almost as many kilojoules as weightlifting, while playing the drums or playing in a marching band use significant amounts of energy.

23. Slide/roll down a hill (and run back up)

Got a spare cardboard box lying around the house? Find a hill and get sliding! As well as the adrenalin rush of whooshing down the hill, you’ll burn energy when you run back up to the top. If you’re not into embracing your kid-at-heart and rolling down the hill yourself, pop your kids on a blanket, drag them down the hill, and run back up. They’ll have a ball and you’ll get your heart pumping!

24. Boxercise

Got some pent-up energy to release? Boxercise is a great cardio workout inspired by the workouts of pro-boxers. Boxercise is a great way to get fit and strong and even let out your daily frustrations, without having to actually play the contact sport.

25. Slacklining

Did you ever dream of running away to join the circus? It’s not quite a high-wire, but slacklining is about as close to tightrope walking as you can get in your own backyard. Originally created by rock climbers as a way of getting between peaks, you can rig up a slackline (made of slightly elastic webbing) between two trees or poles and wobble your way across. Watch an introductory how-to video here.

26. Trampolining

Jumping on a trampoline can be a great way to relax, have some fun and do moderately strenuous activity at the same time.

If you don’t have a trampoline in the yard, you can head to a trampoline centre to have fun on Olympic-sized trampolines, long tumbling runs and even trampolines that run up the wall.

27. Fair games fun

Egg and spoon races, two-legged races, sack races, wheelbarrow races – there’s nothing like a silly race to get people competitive! If it’s been awhile since you balanced an egg while running or tied your leg to someone else’s, it might be time to hold your own backyard fair.

28. Active games night

Games night doesn’t have to mean you’ll be sitting around a board game all night. Work some active games into your fun, like Twister, charades or salad bowl, or play an active video or VR game.

30. Bike riding

Bikes are some of the best active fun you can have outside, and kids know it. What kid isn’t thrilled with a new set of wheels for their birthday?

If you haven’t ridden a bike since childhood, don’t worry, it’s pretty much like, well, riding a bike! Start off slow on an easy bike path, and as you grow your confidence you can graduate to heartrate raising hills or even off-road trails.

You can find a list of bike paths in Queensland here and trail bike tracks here.

Find fun outdoor Summer activities to do with friends

This is the ultimate list of outdoor activities listing physical and recreational outdoor activities and hobbies for kids, adults and family. Find new summer activities from the different outdoor activities and hobbies that best suit to your current reasons for getting active outdoors. Some are physical activities, some are just plain fun. Discover something different to do with your time with these ideas for outdoor recreation and hobbies whether you are on your own, in a group, with your teens, friends or family.

The Big List of Outdoor Activities for Recreation and Hobbies

Outdoor activities are ways in which you can spend recreation time outdoors being physically active, creative, relaxing, having fun or being social. Discover exciting outdoor activities and the best adventure sports in the outdoor activities list below.

The most popular ideas for outdoor summer activities include outdoor activities to do on the weekend with friends, outdoor activities for couples, or perhaps you prefer to use a summer checklist like my bucket list of summer activities for boyfriend and girlfriend.

What are the Different Outdoor Recreational Activities?

To help you choose which outdoor recreational activities and hobbies you might find interesting, I have rated them under five categories:

  • Relaxing outdoor activities to just unwind and take things easy or to improve your mental health
  • Fun outdoor activities that are a laugh where it’s all about fun and friends.
  • Exciting outdoor physical activities that provide adventure and challenge for an adrenalin buzz or for personal development.
  • Extreme outdoor activities for thrill seekers that give a serious adrenalin rush and require great skill
  • Outdoor sports activities that need a few friends to join in and are competitive

Outdoor Activity Environment Picker

Use the images below to jump to the section in the outdoor activities list with the environment for you.


If you are seeking outdoor activities and ideas for team development, you’ll find my section on outdoor team building activities a quick and easy way to deliver the character building training you need.

List of Outdoor Air Activities

This list of outdoor air activities includes birds, planes, flying toys and some seriously exhilarating aerial experiences.

  • Aeroplane flying and aerobatics experiences
  • Air Sphering
  • Astronomy
  • BASE Jumping
  • Bungee Jumping
  • Falconry experience days
  • Gliding lessons
  • Gyrocopter flying
  • Hang Gliding experience
  • Helicopter Flights
  • Hot Air Balloon Rides
  • Indoor Skydiving
  • Kites and Power Kites
  • Microlights
  • Model airplanes, helicopters and multirotors (drones)
  • Model Rockets
  • Paragliding and Paramotoring
  • Parascending
  • SCAD – Suspended Catch Air Device
  • Skydiving
  • Wing Walking

List of Outdoor Land Activities

This vast list of outdoor land activities provides inspiration for fitness, downhill fun, relaxing creative hobbies, personal challenges, new skills to learn and activities that will leave you with a huge smile.

  • 4×4 driving experience
  • Activity Holidays for families and teenagers
  • Adventure Races
  • Air rifle and air pistol shooting
  • Airsoft
  • American Football
  • Animal Parks, Wildlife Parks and Zoos
  • Archery
  • Assault courses and Obstacle course races
  • Athletics
  • Backyard Sleepovers
  • Badminton
  • Baseball and Softball
  • Basketball
  • Baton Twirling
  • Battle Reenactments
  • Beach Activities
  • Beachcombing
  • Bicycle Polo
  • Bird watching holidays
  • BMX biking
  • Boccia
  • Bootcamps for fitness
  • Bouldering
  • Bowls
  • Brushboarding
  • Bubble Football
  • Bushcraft and survival courses
  • Camel trekking holidays
  • Camogie
  • Camping
  • Canyoning and Canyoneering
  • Capoeira
  • Carnivals
  • Carriage driving
  • Cave biking underground
  • Caving and potholing
  • Cheerleading
  • Chinese Martial Arts
  • Circus Skills
  • Clay Pigeon Shooting
  • Climbing courses and climbing holidays
  • Concerts, Festivals and Gigs
  • Conkers
  • Cookout
  • Crazy Golf and Mini Golf, Pitch and Putt
  • Cricket
  • Croquet
  • Cycling fitness training
  • Dance, Street Dance
  • Den Building and Bivouacs
  • Digger and JCB driving
  • Dodgeball
  • Dog Scootering
  • Drag Racing
  • Driving Experience Days
  • Duathlon
  • Eclipse Sphering and Eclipse Zorbing
  • Equestrian (horse Riding, eventing, racing, dressage, cross country)
  • Exercise and fitness
  • Exploring holidays
  • Fencing
  • Fives (rugby)
  • Floorball
  • Folk Dancing
  • Footbags
  • Football and Soccer
  • Free Running and Parkour
  • Fruit Picking
  • Fun fairs
  • Futsal
  • Gaelic Football
  • Gap Year Travelling
  • Gardening
  • Geocaching
  • Gladiator Training
  • Goalball
  • Go Ape forest high wire adventures ropes courses
  • Go Karting
  • Golf Holidays
  • Grass skiing
  • Grass sledging
  • Grass karting
  • Greyhound Racing
  • Grow Your Own Vegetables
  • Grouse Shooting
  • Gymnastics
  • Handball
  • Harness Racing
  • Hiking holidays
  • Hockey
  • Horse Boarding
  • Horse Racing
  • Horse Riding
  • Hurling
  • Jogging and running
  • Jousting
  • Kite Boarding
  • Kite Buggying
  • Korfball
  • Lacrosse
  • Landboarding
  • Land Sailing and Land Yachting
  • Landscape painting holidays and art holidays
  • Laser Clay Shooting
  • Laser Tag
  • Lawn Mower Racing
  • Live Action Role Playing Games
  • Llama trekking
  • Marathon Running
  • Minimoto
  • Modern Pentathlon
  • Monster Truck Driving Experience
  • Motorcycling, Motocross and dirt biking
  • Motor Sports
  • Mountain Bikes
  • Mountain Boarding
  • Mountaineering
  • Mud Racing
  • Multi Use Games Areas
  • Nascar
  • Netball
  • Open Air Theatre
  • Orienteering
  • Outdoor Movie theatres and cinemas
  • Outdoor Photography
  • Paintballing
  • Parks – Chess, Ping Pong, picnics, football, sunbathing…
  • Pentathlon
  • Petanque
  • Picnics
  • Piggy Back Fights
  • Pogo, extreme pogo and pogopalooza
  • Pony Trekking Holidays
  • Polo
  • Polocrosse
  • Quad Biking
  • Rally Driving Experience
  • Rambling
  • Remote Control Cars
  • Rock Climbing
  • Roller Coasters and Theme Parks
  • Roller Skating and Roller Blading
  • Roller Hockey, Puck Hockey
  • Rope Swings
  • Rounders
  • Rugby and Tag Rugby
  • Quoits
  • Safari Holidays
  • Sandboarding
  • Scavenger Hunts
  • Scooter Freestyle
  • Segway Offroading
  • Shinty
  • Shooting (air, clay, crossbow, pistol, rifle, longbow, compound bow)
  • Show Jumping
  • Skateboarding
  • Skeet Shooting
  • Skid Pan Experience Days
  • Skipping
  • Sightseeing
  • Slacklining
  • Soap Box Kart racing or Extreme Gravity Racing
  • Softball
  • Soft Martial Arts – Tai Chi, Chi Kung
  • Speedway
  • Sphering
  • Steam Train driving experience
  • Stock Car Racing and Demolition Derby
  • Stoolball
  • Street Hockey
  • Street Improvisation and Drama
  • Street Luge and Downhill Skateboarding and Downhill Skating
  • Table Tennis
  • Tag Rugby
  • Tank Driving Experience
  • Team Building Outdoor Activities
  • Tennis Holidays
  • Throw and Catch an American mini football, frisbee or frisbee golf
  • Tractor Pulling
  • Trail Running
  • Trampolining
  • Treasure Hunting and Metal Detectors
  • Tree Climbing
  • Treehouses
  • Triathlon Events
  • Tug of War
  • Ultimate Frisbee
  • Unicycling
  • Via Ferrata
  • Volleyball
  • Walking Holidays
  • Walk the dog
  • Wash the car
  • Watch the sunrise or sunset
  • Water Fights
  • Wildlife Conservation
  • Wildlife watching holidays
  • Yoga
  • Young Drivers – Car racing for teenagers, and driving experiences for 11 year olds and over
  • Zorbing

List of Outdoor Water Activities

These outdoor water activities provide wet and wild inspiration in, on or under water.

  • Argo Cats
  • Banana rides
  • Blackwater rafting
  • Boating, Pedalos and Punts
  • Body Boarding
  • Bore Surfing
  • Bridge Jumping
  • Canoeing
  • Cave Diving
  • Coasteering
  • Crabbing
  • Diving (swimming)
  • Dragon Boat Racing
  • Exploring Rock Pools
  • Fishing Trips
  • Flyboard, waterjet powered hover board
  • Free Diving
  • Hovercraft Experience
  • Hydrospeeding and Riverboarding
  • Jet Skiing
  • Kayaking
  • Kitesurfing
  • Kneeboarding
  • Model Boats
  • Motor Cruising Holidays
  • Narrow boat holidays
  • Octopush Underwater hockey
  • Pond Dipping
  • Pooh Sticks, paper boats, duck races and dam building
  • Powerboating Courses
  • Raft Building
  • Rib Riding
  • River Bugging
  • Rowing
  • Sailing
  • Scuba Diving
  • Sea Kayaking
  • Skim Boarding
  • Snorkelling
  • Stand up paddle boarding
  • Surfing
  • Surf Life Saving
  • Swimming
  • Swimming with dolphins
  • Tall Ship Holidays
  • Tombstoning
  • Wakeboarding
  • Water Jet Pack Flying
  • Water Parks and flumes
  • Water Polo
  • Water Skiing
  • WaterWalkerz water sphering
  • Waveskiing
  • Whale Watching Holidays
  • Whitewater Rafting Trips
  • Wild Swimming
  • Windsurfing
  • Yacht Charters
  • Yachting
  • Zap Cat Racing

List of Outdoor Winter Activities

This list of outdoor winter activities is all about snow and ice.

  • Airboarding
  • Biathlon
  • Bob Rafting
  • Bobsleigh
  • Curling
  • Dog Sledding Holidays
  • Heliskiing and Heliboarding
  • Ice Climbing
  • Ice Diving
  • Ice Hockey
  • Ice Karting
  • Ice Racing and Ice Driving
  • Ice Skating
  • Luge
  • Skeleton Bob
  • Skiing
  • Skiing Holidays
  • Skijoring with dogs, horses or a 4×4
  • Sledges and toboggans
  • Snowball fights, snowmen and free fun winter activities for teenagers
  • Snowblading
  • Snowboarding
  • Snowbombing
  • Snowcat Piste Basher Driving
  • Snow Kiting
  • Snowmobiling
  • Snow Rafting
  • Snow Shoeing
  • Snow Tubing and Doughnutting
  • Winter Olympics

Popular Outdoor Activities for Adults

This list of outdoor activities is forever growing as new sports and activities develop. For more entertainment activities for adults and recreational fun, explore the most popular outdoor summer activities everyone else is reading about:

  • Exciting outdoor activities for groups
  • Best Adventure Sports
  • Outdoor summer activities holidays for families

Adults, Recharge Your Energy Levels With These Outdoor Activities

If you are an adult who has a busy daily schedule, then keeping some time aside to indulge in interesting outdoor activities is a great idea to recharge your energy levels for another hectic week ahead.

Everyone is trying hard to move ahead in today’s world of tough competition. Every person is extremely busy with a packed daily schedule. Are you one of them? You may have experienced that you often end up feeling exhausted. This is the right time to take a break from your daily routine and get some much-needed relaxation. As children, we had so much fun playing with our friends on the playground, swinging upside down and hanging out on those colorful slides. But who says that adults can no more have fun doing outdoor activities? Firstly, as counter-intuitive as it may sound, outdoor activities are very revitalizing for the mind, soul, as well as the body. Secondly, they keep you feeling fit and young. Now, would you say no to some adventure and amusement? Check out some interesting options for activities that you could consider for your next weekend trip.

Interesting Outdoor Activities for Adults

Modern lifestyle is loaded with so much stress and tension, it fails to surprise me that we now suffer from such a ginormous list of physical and mental health problems. Many people opt for different relaxation techniques for stress management. Wonder if it truly helps though! Anyway, I really believe that inside each one of us is a child who is waiting to be set free. You see what I mean? I find outdoor activities as one of the best options to relieve stress and get refreshed physically and mentally. They give us an opportunity to enjoy the beauty of nature, and can be used as an effective medium for education and team building too. You could do it alone and feel a sense of accomplishment of a one-man/woman mission, or be accompanied by a group of friends and bond more with each other. Either way, you create memories as you go along.

Would you like to write for us? Well, we’re looking for good writers who want to spread the word. Get in touch with us and we’ll talk…

Let’s Work Together!

There are several different types of outdoor activities that adults can enjoy. They can be categorized as forest activities, mountain activities, aero activities, desert activities, freshwater activities, and beach and sea activities.

Mountain Activities

In a Forest…

Beach & Sea Activities

In addition to these, there are some interesting outdoor sports for adults that can be enjoyed as well.

  • Baseball
  • Football
  • Dodge ball
  • Golf
  • Guessing games like ‘land and water’ and treasure hunt
  • Recreational games like ‘tug-of-war’, sack race, running race, and three-legged race

To participate in these outdoor activities and games, you need to select the appropriate clothing. Make sure you select comfortable clothing and other necessary accessories. While enjoying outdoor activities, you should consider your age and overall health. Take care and see to it that no activity or game causes you serious injury or overexertion.

Safety: As mentioned earlier, adulthood can often lead people into indulging in outdoor activities that are way more dangerous than the days of childhood fun. If you are participating in adventure sports, it is necessary to ensure that all the safety equipment is well-functioning and have been thoroughly checked before using. Carry sufficient supplies of food, water, and clothing with you. They will come in handy in case of an emergency. Always keep those around you informed about your outdoor plans, and ask them to raise an alarm if you are not back by the stipulated time period. If you or any of your fellow mates is suffering from a health condition that could be worsened by an outdoor activity, such as asthma, arthritis, cardiac problems, allergies, or any other conditions, do not allow such a person to indulge in activities that could prove to be fatal.

So friends, what’s your plan for this weekend? I’d say, just get ready to enjoy various outdoor activities. They are a healthy way of enjoying life in the outdoors. Take pleasure in these activities, and be ready to accept new challenges with a healthy mind and body!

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Get Out! 5 Benefits of Outdoor Exercise

You know that exercise provides many mental and physical health benefits. What if a simple change in location could exponentially increase those benefits?

Turns out, it can.

Outdoor exercise, also known as “green exercise,” combines two health-enhancing activities: moving your body and getting outdoors. And the results are exceptional. If you’re looking to enhance your mood, save money and avoid the time and trouble of getting to the gym, look no further than the great outdoors.

Here are five benefits of getting your sweat on with Mother Nature.

1. Improved Mood and Reduced Depression

Outdoor exercise provides a mental health boost beyond that of indoor gyms. Moving outdoors has been shown to reduce anger and depression and improve mood (Barton and Pretty, 2010). Exposure to sunlight enhances vitamin D production, which may be partially responsible for this mood-enhancing effect (Kerr et al., 2015). You don’t have to run a marathon or crush an outdoor boot camp to reap the benefit. Even low-intensity activities, like walking or gardening, will do. For a quick afternoon pick-me-up, head outside for a 15-minute walk break, and return to work feeling energized.

2. Enhanced Self-esteem

Research shows that as little as five minutes of outdoor exercise can improve self-esteem (Barton and Pretty, 2010). Any outdoor location will do, but being near greenery or water enhances this effect. Interestingly, low- to moderate-intensity physical activity shows greater improvements in self-esteem than high-intensity outdoor exercise. Activities shown to improve self-esteem include walking, cycling, horseback riding, fishing and gardening. A regular dose of outdoor activity can help boost the already powerful esteem-enhancing effect of exercise.

3. Low Cost

People often cite cost as one of the biggest factors prohibiting regular exercise. The outdoor environment provides a low-cost solution for exercise enthusiasts and trainers alike. While high gym or studio prices can act as a barrier to exercise, outdoor venues such as low-traffic neighborhood streets and local parks offer free space for physical activity. Trainers can benefit from these spaces as well. A local permit and small fee is often all that’s needed to hold training sessions in public use areas, resulting in reduced overhead and increased earnings.

4. Ease of Access

Lack of time is another common barrier to exercise. Navigating traffic, parking garages and crowded locker rooms adds additional time needed to be active. Taking advantage of the great outdoors can reduce these time constraints. Local hills, tracks and neighborhood streets provide ideal walking, running and cycling settings, while nearby parks offer ideal venues for resistance training, boot camps and yoga classes. Many outdoor areas include benches, trees, inclined roads and even designated exercise equipment, allowing for a variety of resistance-training exercises.

5. Connecting With Mother Nature

One of the greatest benefits of outdoor exercise lies in its inherent opportunity to connect with Mother Nature and the people and places in your community. Finish your bike ride at a local coffee shop, wave hello to your neighbors as you jog the streets, or set up a weekly walking group with friends and neighbors. Exercising outdoors can help you feel grounded, deepen your connection to your environment and enhance your appreciation for the beauty around you.

Outdoor Exercise Precautions

Not all outdoor spaces are suitable for exercise. Traffic, weather conditions and safety are all things to consider before heading outdoors. Carefully assess your outdoor space to find a setting that is safe and meets your exercise needs. Depending on the conditions, sunscreen, a hat, warm clothes or protective rain gear may be necessary.

Get Out and Go!

Don’t let the prospect of outdoor activity scare you. If you’re new to exercise or just getting back into it, start with short exercise sessions and lighter intensity. Even five minutes will do. Whether it’s completing a circuit workout at your local park, mountain biking through nearby trails, or walking your kids to the bus, any movement counts. All you have to do it get out and go!

Barton, J. and Pretty, J. (2010). What is the best dose of nature and green exercise for improving mental health? A multi-study analysis. Environmental Science and Technology, 44, 10, 3947–3955.

9 Unique Benefits of Outdoor Adult Fitness Parks

A diverse outdoor recreation system contributes to community capital by providing a high quality of life for residents. With increasing urbanization, communities are continuously seeking new ways to provide outdoor spaces and activities to residents, and outdoor exercise is one ideal option. Outdoor Adult Fitness Parks can be located by new and existing recreation centers, allowing users to exercise while enjoying natural and designed landscapes in an open air environment.

Well-defined and innovative Outdoor Adult Fitness Parks can serve a diverse range of users while also contributing to overall community health. The 2010 CDC State Indicator Report on Physical Activity shows 80% of US Census Blocks do not have workout options within a half mile, yet Outdoor Adult Fitness Parks can be placed almost anywhere; therefore, going a long way towards reducing this access barrier.

Leisure-Net Solutions’ Outdoor Fitness Classes Report – Is It Better Outside?

Whatever category you fit in, there are proven benefits to exercising outside. Here are 9 unique benefits:

Make Exercise Fun
The addition of nature and fresh air helps make exercising fun and therefore more effective. Combining outdoor exercise, natural light and sensory stimulation has a “salutogenic” effect: reducing stress and encouraging healthy behaviors.

Are Eco-friendly
Equipment used in Outdoor Adult Fitness Parks requires no electricity, is low maintenance, and uses very little human resources. A majority of the materials used in their construction, including aluminum, steel, and sustainable plastics, are recyclable. The minimal impact on the natural environment is attractive to the developer, the funder, and the end user, and many participants may link positive environmental contribution with greater enjoyment of exercise.

Promote Friendships
People who use Outdoor Adult Fitness Parks often socialize while exercising, strengthening community and interpersonal relationships. These relationships may then support increased use as participants more readily interact with each other, offering encouragement, motivation, and support.

Are Available to Everyone
Though there are numerous indoor fitness options, they can be costly and inconvenient. Outdoor Adult Fitness Parks can remove these barriers, which is especially attractive in lower income neighborhoods. In fact, residents of high-poverty counties in the U.S. have obesity rates 145% greater than those in wealthy counties. By increasing the number of Outdoor Adult Fitness Parks available, especially in underserved communities, there is increased likelihood of creating positive change in overall fitness and health.

Improve Health
Regular physical activity is essential to health and longevity. Many people report preferring exercising outdoors, which may also have a greater effect on mental and physical well-being. Outdoor exercise is also rated as being more restorative compared to indoors since natural environments reduce emotional and physiological stress. Exercising outdoors provides all the physical benefits of indoor exercise (blood flow, improved cardiovascular health, improved strength, flexibility, endurance, etc.) and can also provide vital exposure to sunlight that increases important levels of vitamin D, unlike indoor exercise.

Attract New Users to Outdoor Environments
Outdoor Adult Fitness Parks provide additional opportunities for adults to recreate and participate in physical activity outdoors. People who exercise regularly may be attracted to these new outdoor locations, and create a true fitness “destination” within a neighborhood. This may also help attract more non-users to the new and popular destination.

Offer Revenue Opportunities
Trainers who wish to provide fitness classes in outdoor environments can rent the space, augmenting local budgets, while providing organized classes with an alternate environment, instead of the typical indoor gym setting.

Provide Training Opportunities
Outdoor Adult Fitness Parks are ideal locations for people with physically demanding jobs to augment their training. Firefighters, police teams, and college athletes, among others can benefit from the “real world” environment, and the ability to set up training exercises in adverse weather.

Support Community Capital
Outdoor Adult Fitness Parks promote growth in a healthy community. These parks attract health conscious people to a neighborhood and can often influence the behavior of non-exercisers, expanding the benefits associated with regular exercise to a greater number of people.

Resources cited in Outdoor Adult Fitness Parks™: Best Practices for Promoting Community Health by Increasing Physical Activity™

HEALTHY HEART BLOG

Scientists have found the Fountain of Youth! OK, it’s not a literal fountain. Instead, it’s exercise. Research shows physical fitness reverses the effects of ageing on your cardiovascular system. But you don’t want to wait until heart failure develops to enjoy the benefits of outdoor exercise and wellness. Here’s why you need to join the crowd on this one.

It really does keep you young
A 75-year-old who exercises is no different inside than a 45-year-old. That’s according to the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University. Researchers looked at senior citizens who had been running or cycling for decades. They found their hearts were about 30 years younger than the hearts of more sedentary seniors. And their 70-something-year-old muscles weren’t much different than the muscles of 20-somethings. No spa can promise you those kinds of results.

It’s good for your mental health
If getting outside and exercising is good for your physical health, imagine what it does for your mental health. Any form of exercise, from team sports to mowing the lawn, can lower stress, decrease depression and improve mental health, according to a 2018 study. People who get outdoors have less stress and depression and more mental well-being than people who do not. Aerobic exercise, like running, cycling, walking or even gardening, increases the blood flow to the brain.

It helps you sleep better
We’ve all used the excuse, “I’m too exhausted to exercise. Yet even after a long day, you end up tossing and turning instead of getting a good night’s rest. A good workout strengthens your circadian rhythms and helps you get the sleep you need so you’ll have more energy during the day. A word of warning: don’t work out close to bedtime, or you might be too wound up to fall asleep right away.

It boosts your social life
It might seem like a stretch to say that getting outside and working out is good for the community, but it can have a big social payoff. It’s a no-brainer that in order to meet people, you have to get out of the house and go where people are – and people tend to be drawn to areas that have trees. People who spend more time outside are more likely to feel a sense of unity in their neighbourhoods. And that sense of unity can lead to better, safer neighbourhoods, with less crime and more solid bonds between the people.

You don’t need to start training for an Ironman triathlon to reap the rewards of exercising outside. Experts say you only need to exercise about half an hour a day, five days a week to get all the benefits of outdoor wellness. As for why you need to join the crowd on this one, there’s a segment of the population that makes working out and getting outside a regular part of their schedule and there’s a segment of the population that doesn’t. You can probably guess which one has a better heart health and quality of life that lasts well into old age.

Guest Post by Laura Dexter
Laura Dexter is a writer for LawnStarter. She is an avid hiker and runner who travels around the country, taking part in marathons and 10ks throughout the year. When she’s not writing about her races or travels, you’ll find her hiking in Colorado with her husband and three children.

Is It Better to Work Out Inside or Outside?

With summer in full swing, it’s the perfect time to mix up your routine by taking your workout outside. After all, exercising outdoors may improve energy levels and decrease stress to a greater extent than working out inside.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. Thompson Coon J, Boddy K, Stein K. Environmental Science & Technology, 2011, Feb.;45(5):1520-5851. But if your habitat is more concrete jungle than bucolic park, don’t sweat it—there are plenty of benefits to exercising inside as well.

Getting Outdoors

According to one review that included more than 800 subjects, exercising outdoors came with a slew of benefits.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. Thompson Coon J, Boddy K, Stein K. Environmental Science & Technology, 2011, Feb.;45(5):1520-5851. Participants reported feelings of revitalization, decreased anger, and increased energy. Another study found that the outdoors have an overall positive effect on vitality, or your sense of enthusiasm, aliveness, and energy. Finally, simply spending more time outside has been shown to prevent increases in obesity among children.A prospective examination of children’s time spent outdoors, objectively measured physical activity and overweight. Cleland V, Crawford D, Baur LA. International journal of obesity (2005), 2008, Oct.;32(11):1476-5497.

And there are other perks. Vitamin D—one of the fat-soluble vitamins essential to strong bones and a healthy immune system—can be attained via sun exposure. While much debate exists around the guidelines, some researchers suggest that five to 30 minutes of sun exposure between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. at least twice a week is sufficient for vitamin D synthesis. Of course, this recommendation also comes with a caveat you already know: Always wear sunscreen and cover up when possible.

Likewise, if you’re outside, you need to pay attention to the weather. Both extreme heat and cold can pose a variety of issues. If you’re sweating during the summer, it’s important to know the symptoms of dehydration and heat exhaustion. In the winter, experts advise you dress in multiple layers to stay warm and get familiar with the early signs of frostbite and hypothermia.

Taking It Inside

If you live in an area prone to air pollution (looking at you, L.A.), you may be better off working out indoors. Pollution and other environmental factors can also trigger respiratory problems like allergies and asthma.

Heading to the gym may also be a better option for those who need extra motivation to make their workout happen. One study found that people who work out with a partner are generally more motivated than solo exercisers.Two-player partnered exergame for obesity prevention: using discrepancy in players’ abilities as a strategy to motivate physical activity. Feltz DL, Irwin B, Kerr N. Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, 2012, Jul.;6(4):1932-2968.

In addition to the social environment offered at gyms, experts say that group workouts led by a certified instructor also ensure participants get a safe and effective workout, learn proper cues, and stay accountable—there’s no skipping those hellish burpees you usually “forget” to do. Plus, you can continually try new, innovative workouts that you may not be able to do on your own.

And let’s face it, gyms have advantages no study needs to prove. Those hot, steamy showers, saunas, pools, and even spas can make any exercise experience feel a lot more luxe.

The Best of Both Worlds

In the end, you don’t have to choose just one. Some workout groups exist entirely outdoors, while lots of gyms offer seasonal classes outside.

As the line between indoor and outdoor exercise continues to blur, what’s becoming clear is that mixing up indoor and outdoor sessions is a great way to keep exercise exciting and, most importantly, fun.

Originally published in June 2011. Updated in June 2015.

Health Advisor is a regular column where contributors share their knowledge in fields ranging from fitness to psychology, pediatrics to aging. Follow us @Globe_Health.

Now that the weather is blissful, I hope that you’re finding it a bit easier to get outside and be more active. If you are increasing your exercise and activity, that’s great; more physical activity will help your muscles, blood, heart and lungs – pretty much everything in your body. I find that getting outside to exercise is so much better than going to the gym. I go to the gym and I like it, but I really love running on trails. Think about running on the treadmill for an hour or going out and running trails for an hour. Instead of looking at a wall or TV screen you get to see scenes like this:

(Dr. Greg Wells)

What’s amazing is that simply looking at pictures of nature can lower your blood pressure, stress and mental fatigue. That’s how powerful nature can be. So if you’re reading this at the office, change your desktop to a nature scene. And preferably a nature scene that includes water – research has shown that images containing water are more restorative than those without. See how this shot makes you feel.

But if you can get outside, by all means get out there. Here’s more about why this should be part of your health, energy and performance-enhancing life.

Exercising in nature has benefits that go above and beyond the benefits you gain by exercising indoors. Research has shown improvements in mental well-being, self-esteem and can even help with depression. This might be especially important for that moody teenager in your life, and it also explains why my wife kicks me out of the house to go on a trail run when I’m stressed out from a crazy day at work. I’ve found that trail-running seems to help me decompress much better than running on a treadmill or even on city streets, and the research backs this up as well. Being exposed to plants decreases levels of the stress hormone cortisol, decreases resting heart rate and also decreases blood pressure.

These studies are really interesting because we often think of exercise as only being good for our bodies. It turns out that exercise can be just as good for our brains and our minds, and that getting outside and exercising in nature might amplify the benefits.

One of the challenges that we are faced with is staying motivated to exercise. About half of people who join a gym don’t stick with it beyond the first year. But people who exercise outside tend to stick with their exercise programs more consistently than those who train indoors, according to a study done in 2004. So if you’re having trouble being consistent, consider adding an outdoor workout to your routine.

Another surprise benefit of getting outside and into nature is that exposure to plants like trees can improve your immune system. Scientists think that airborne chemicals that plants emit to protect themselves from fungus, bacteria and insects (these chemicals are called phytoncides) may also benefit humans. In a study published in 2007, people who took two-hour walks in a forest had a 50-per-cent increase in the levels of their natural killer cells. They sound scary, but they’re your cells that circulate through your body and kill bacteria, viruses, fungus and other invaders.

It also turns out that, if you prefer walking and light activity to running or more intense activities, you’re in luck. Walking in nature improves measures of revitalization, self-esteem, energy and pleasure, and decreases frustration, worry, confusion, depression, tension and tiredness far more than light activity indoors does, according to the latest evidence. Running outdoors, however, does not seem to have a greater impact on emotions or mood than running inside, maybe because running and more intense activities cause the release of endorphins that can cause feelings of elation and exhilaration, regardless of where you run.

So if you want to feel better, just get outside: Try gardening, heading to the beach or a lake on the weekend or going for a bike ride, and don’t worry about whether or not you walk or run.

Dr. Greg Wells is an assistant professor in kinesiology at the University of Toronto and an associate scientist in physiology and experimental medicine at The Hospital for Sick Children. He is a health and high performance expert who inspires better living through better nutrition and better fitness. You can follow him on Twitter at @drgregwells.

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