The Benefits of Outdoor Activities for Physical and Mental Well-Being

Outdoor activities are widely seen as a healthy alternative to sedentary indoor lifestyles, providing numerous physical health advantages as well as mental wellbeing enhancements.

But could the environment in which you exercise have an impactful role in these effects? This review seeks to address an existing gap in literature regarding whether natural versus urban context of outdoor physical activity influences psychological outcomes.

1. Reduces Stress

Most outdoor activities involve some sort of physical activity that’s beneficial to both body and mind. Exercising releases endorphins that reduce stress while improving your mood; plus the stunning natural backdrop provides a great distraction while you work out!

Science Direct conducted a study that demonstrated how nature excursions helped participants reduce stress and improve mental health, even simple activities like taking a walk outside or gardening had this positive impact.

If you live near a river, floating on your raft for fun and relaxation is an enjoyable activity that will also provide some exercise. Set up camp at an impressive natural monument to experience nature from another perspective. Sitting on a swing, taking time to appreciate its motions can also help relieve stress and relax you.

2. Improves Mood

Outdoor exercise not only helps elevate your mood, but it can also help you relax and focus on what’s happening now.

Studies have demonstrated that people feel happier after engaging in outdoor activities rather than remaining indoors and doing nothing. It’s thought that physical activity combined with nature may boost mood while alleviating stress levels and relieving tension.

Studies have also demonstrated the power of gardening and green exercise to boost mood in those suffering from long-term mental health conditions like depression or SMI. Studies that demonstrated its efficacy included those that spanned 12 weeks or more and provided services through groups settings.

Walking can be an ideal outdoor activity to bring fresh air and exercise together, with studies indicating a 10-15 minute stroll increasing happiness, self-esteem and concentration levels.

3. Reduces Anxiety

Nature and physical activity combined have been found to significantly boost mood states and reduce anxiety levels. Hiking and other outdoor activities allow individuals to focus on breathing to ease tension, while taking in breathtaking sights distracts them from dwelling on past trauma that causes anxiety.

Exercise and physical activity also release endorphins, which boost mood. Being outdoors provides various means of physical activity to release these endorphins – from hiking and biking, running, gardening to even gardening! All these activities help relieve stress, making them immensely valuable to mental wellbeing.

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4. Increases Self-Esteem

Outdoor activities offer children a safe and fun environment in which to develop social skills and boost self-esteem. From developing communication aptitude and collaboration capacities to understanding nonverbal signals, playing outdoors helps children build confidence while strengthening their abilities over time.

Adults looking to reduce stress may find the great outdoors an effective outlet. From hiking and cycling to camping, outdoor activities help people unwind in nature’s tranquility.

Studies suggest that physical activity performed outdoors offers greater health advantages than indoor activity, or so-called green exercise. Studies have linked it to decreased negative mood and an increase in feelings of vitalisation.

5. Improves Sleep

Participating in outdoor activities helps foster healthy sleep patterns by encouraging physical activity during the day and increasing exposure to natural sunlight. Furthermore, outdoor activities allow children to reconnect with nature while distancing themselves from technology which has been proven to raise cortisol levels.

Researchers found in a recent study that those who spend more time outdoors experience improved moods and more regular sleeping patterns. Researchers utilized data from the UK Biobank which tracks lifestyle habits such as exercise, social activities, sleep and diet.

Study results show that increased sunlight helps both mood and sleep by helping reset our 24-hour circadian rhythms – the 24-hour process which regulates our sleeping-wake cycles – which means it improves our ability to fall asleep easily at night and wake up feeling rejuvenated in the morning.

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