The Amazing Benefits of Exercising in Nature

Meg Sharp, Director of Training & Education WFCC

Mand and Woman doing yoga outside

We’re not going to pretend the pandemic is anything to be super happy about. But we do think it helps to embrace all the silver linings. Especially for us, those that can have a positive impact on our fitness and health.

Such as?

Exercise snacks. Those 20 second – to 3 minute quick bouts of activity we can easily work into the day!
Working out in your barefeet. True strength begins from the bottom up!

Woman stretching

Great classes and trainers live in your living room. And exercising in nature.

Since the pandemic began, more and more Canadians are exercising in the parks and trails in the great outdoors. And this “green exercise” trend it turns out, is a really fabulous one.

Woman biking outdoors

For starters, we evolved to be comfortable, even thrive outdoors. We’re born with an innate affiliation with nature. So getting out there can help us connect with the natural rhythms of the sun, and the natural healthy rhythms of our own bodies.

Exercising in nature has been shown to restore your ability to focus. So wandering through the woods subsequently reduces the tendency for the mind to so wander facilitating better concentration and productivity.

woman going yoga outside

Natural undulations in views and terrain provide visual stimulation and challenge and train balance and agility. Turns out this additional stimulation also burns more calories.

Want to increase your intensity? Turns out people will naturally walk faster, work harder but report lower perceived exertion relative to a slower treadmill-based walk! (More calories again!)

People tend to rate exercise in natural settings as “enjoyable” and are therefore far more likely to repeat the experience. Given exercise adherence is such a challenge in North America, this benefit is a really powerful one.

And – if I may – being super obsessed with adherence: We know that lack of results negatively impacts adherence. And we know higher intensity exercise tends to garner better results. So if nature inspires higher intensity exercise…?! Win!

woman walking outdoors

There is also preliminary evidence to show that exercising in nature may boost immune system function and help recovery from illness better than physical activity inside.

Need one more reason? While you connect with nature, you can safely connect – socially distanced of course – with a few fellow human beings.

Woman and man walking outdoors together
Inspiration of the Day:
“The antidote to exhaustion isn’t rest. It’s nature.” – Shikoba

Thompson Coon, J.; Boddy, K.; Stein, K.; Whear, R.; Barton, J.; Depledge, M.H. 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. Environ. Sci. Technol. 2011, 45, 1761–1772.
Focht, B.C. Brief walks in outdoor and laboratory environments: Effects on affective responses, enjoyment, and intentions to walk for exercise. Res. Quart. Exerc. Sport 2009, 80, 611–620
Pretty, J.; Peacock, J.; Sellens, M.; Griffin, M. The mental and physical health outcomes of green exercise. Int. J. Environ. Health Res. 2005, 15, 319–337
Rogerson, M.; Brown, D.K.; Sandercock, G.; Wooller, J.-J.; Barton, J. A comparison of four typical green exercise environments and prediction of psychological health outcomes. Perspect. Public Health 2015.