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Green Exercise is Even More Valuable Than Indoor Exercise

Updated: Aug 6, 2023

by Anna DiMarco, Senior Physiotherapist

Our summers are short and move quickly here in the Peg, but we have been incredibly fortunate to have a beautiful season so far this year, allowing for more time for all of us to enjoy the great outdoors. Be sure to enjoy the rest of the summer by taking your physical activity, whether it be biking, walking, hiking, yoga or strength work outdoors for even greater benefit.

A recent review of the literature available on the benefits of exercise suggests that moving our workouts outdoors is one of the simplest ways to magnify the benefits and get the most impact from our efforts. The improved benefits span the areas of cognitive function, psychological impact, physical health and physical activity behaviours.

In one study that was reviewed, participants were divided into an outdoor group and an indoor group. Both groups walked for 15 minutes duration. The outdoor group was given a tree lined path to walk along. The researchers found that those participants who walked outdoors demonstrated increased cognitive ability as measured by working memory and ability to focus when compared to those who were in the indoor walking group.

In another study, the researchers found that walking outdoors in a "green space" (park, forest, treed urban area) seems to improve motivation over walking at the same pace and for the same duration indoors. The improved motivation can lead to increased activity levels with lower levels of perceived exertion. Win Win! They also found that the outdoor experience made walking feel less like a chore and was ranked "as more enjoyable" than walking indoors.

One study also revealed that participants who exercised outdoors reported greater states of relaxation and decreased tension and demonstrated greater reduction in cortisol levels (the stress hormone) when compared to those who exercised indoors.

According to research published in the scientific journal, NATURE, exercising outdoors during daylight hours appears to improve sleep patterns better than exercising outdoor. It is believed that this is a result of the exposure to daylight and its impact on our circadian rhythms.

Gladwell et al. "The Great Outdoors: How a Green Exercise Environment Can Benefit All" Etern Physiol Med. 2013; 2:3

Boere et al. "Exercising Is Good For The Brain but Exercising Outside is Potentially Better" Sci Rep 2023 Jan 20; 13(1):1140


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