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Benefits of Outdoor Exercise


Tid Bits of Info

  • Outside exercise can help to elevate the level of vitamin D (helps with absorption of calcium) in your blood.
  • Outdoor exercise tends to raise energy levels and decrease stress levels greater than an indoor routine.
  • If you injure yourself while working out, treat the injury with the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) principles of acute injury treatment.
  • Outdoor exercise tends to be more enjoyable by most people, therefore they will continue to perform the routine more consistently.
  • If you suffer an injury while working out outdoors or indoors, seek help from your Physical Therapist.

Long sunny days call us outside. There’s just something about nicer weather that motivates us to participate in outdoor exercise. In fact, there is evidence that exercising outdoors can raise our spirits and reduce our stress levels more effectively than indoor exercise. After performing an outdoor exercise routine, most of us feel energized and eager to pursue the tasks at hand.

Outdoor exercise routines can invigorate and benefit us in a variety of ways. At a basic level, they are simply more interesting. With an ever-changing landscape, outdoor exercise stimulates our sense and can make the workout less tedious than an indoor routine. They also tend to challenge us to step up to the next level of exertion. For example, running, walking or cycling into a head wind will cause us to use more energy to perform the task at hand.

The changing terrain can make in impact. Performing a cardio routine while running up and down hills requires more energy.  Most people run differently on a trail than they do on a treadmill in many ways.  We have to adjust for obstacles and changing road surfaces. Plus, the simple fact that the ground does not rotate like the treadmill belt increases the amount of friction against the feet, and this friction increases the amount of energy required to complete a workout.

Outdoor exercise forces us to move our lower bodies more. People tend flex their hips, knees or ankles through a greater range of motion to ensure their ability to “swing” their leg through the normal gait cycle. If they do not, it is almost certain that they will “catch” their foot on a part of the uneven terrain and end up tripping and falling to the ground. The extra motion throughout the lower extremity will require a greater amount of energy.

The nervous system also works harder.  The ability to run or walk on uneven terrain without falling is dependent on the participant’s capability of maintaining balance via neurological feed-back.  The ability to stay upright is a combination of strength, reflexes, flexibility and neurological control of the musculoskeletal system.

Running and walking down hills has muscle building benefits that cannot be duplicated on a treadmill.  The muscle structure in the legs works predominately eccentrically. This type of a contraction occurs when the muscle fibers are under a great deal of tension during muscle contraction. The fibers are elongating instead of shortening (concentric).  This type of contraction has been linked to an increased amount of muscle soreness following an exercise routine.  It has been shown to be associated with higher enzyme levels that indicate that muscle damage has occurred.  As long as proper recovery steps are taken, the damaged muscle(s) will heal and will be stronger.

Outdoor exercise can be fun and beneficial, but any type exercise is worthwhile and worth pursuing. Both forms can help you successfully achieve the desired results whether you exercise indoors or outdoors.  It appears that the biggest benefit of an outdoor exercise routine is more mental than physical. The good, relaxed, positive feelings associated with an outdoor exercise routine can make it more enjoyable to perform and a person will most likely be more willing to “stick” to it.  Be active inside or out, but be active!

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