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Here's Why Working Out Outside Is Good For Your Mental Health

Anyone who exercises regularly knows that frequent strenuous activity can work wonders for physical health. But did you know exercise - especially exercise conducted outside - can work wonders on your mental health as well? It’s true, and the results might just encourage you to get off the treadmill and take your next workout into the great outdoors.

Group of cyclists giving each other high fives.

Physical activity, indoor or outdoor, causes the body to release endorphins, which reduce stress and diminish feelings of pain. On top of that, exercise conducted outdoors has been shown to have even more mental health benefits. Numerous scientific studies have found that outdoor activity leaves participants with more energy, reduced stress, and lower levels of depression than those who participated in indoor physical activity. As our society becomes increasingly urban, researchers are finding that access to the natural world is critical to sustaining a healthy mind.

Man sitting on a rock with hiking socks on.

But why does exercising in fresh air provide so many more benefits than exercising inside a gym or at home? There are many factors involved in outdoor exercise that may all work together to have this effect. Some believe that increases in Vitamin D which result from exposure to sunlight can have positive mental health effects for those who are Vitamin D deficient. Fresh air also provides a decrease in air pollution and can boost the immune systems of those who spend time in urban areas (who are at greater risk of mental illness). Exercising outside also provides a break from digital stimulation and lets the mind recuperate away from the screens and bombarding messages that dominate our lives at work, home, and even the gym.

While outdoor exercise is not easily accessible to everyone and is not a cure-all for mental illnesses, the benefits can be immediately noticeable for those with or without mental illness. If possible, try trading your indoor workout for an outdoor one once a week and see how you feel!