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5 min read

outdoor exercise - good for sleep, mental health & the environment

Whether getting out for a walk, run or cycle, there’s no doubting how exercising outdoors can make us feel so much better and even more so after a good night’s sleep. We all spend too much time indoors, which means we’re not connecting with nature and appreciating our outdoor surroundings. So, by making an effort to get off the sofa and exercise outdoors, you’ll not only boost your mood, but you’ll start to appreciate the environment more too. 

Read on to find out how exercise can improve your mental health and sleep, the benefits of exercising outdoors and how we can all reconnect with nature, appreciating what we have to protect.

Exercise to improve mental health

We all know that exercise is good for physical health, but it’s actually a great way to improve your mental health. Exercise releases those feel-good endorphins, which in turn helps to relieve depression and anxiety, and enhances your sense of well-being. You don’t have to do lots of exercise, even modest amounts can make all the difference, giving you more energy throughout the day, improving sleep and memory and boosting your overall mood.

Studies show that running for 15 minutes a day or walking for an hour, helps to reduce depression by 26%. Exercise for sure is a powerful way to fight depression and encourages various changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduces inflammation and promotes a feeling of calm. It is also a distraction, helping to disrupt the negative flow of thoughts running through your head. 

Exercise is an excellent stress reliever too, aiding muscle relaxation and easing tension within your body. And as the body and mind are closely linked, when you feel good in your body, you’ll also feel good in the mind.

Exercise for better sleep

As well as being good for mental and physical health, it’s been proven that regular exercise leads to a better night’s sleep. Exercise helps you to fall asleep faster and increases sleep duration, and people who work out on a regular basis report better sleep quality. What’s more, studies have shown that regular, moderate aerobic exercise decreases the time it takes you to fall asleep and increases time spent in deep sleep. 

A good night’s sleep makes you feel more motivated to exercise the next day and quality sleep leads to improved fitness levels. Exercising regularly will help to align your body clock and increase levels of serotonin, which is important in the sleep-wake cycle. You don’t have to do lots of exercise either to feel the benefits, just 30 minutes a day is enough to improve your sleep. Activities such as brisk walking and hilly bike rides get your heart rate up without activating the chemicals that can prevent you from falling asleep.

Benefits of outdoor exercise

Exercising outdoors, and on a good night’s sleep, has many benefits. It’s great for boosting your immune system and sense of well-being, warding off seasonal affective disorder, burning more calories and best of all, it won’t cost you anything!

When exercising outdoors, it’s much more stimulating and motivating compared to a gym or an indoors environment. Being in the great outdoors leads to more enjoyment, energy and enthusiasm, and you’re more likely to work out longer and harder, plus you’ll get a burst of vitamin D on those sunny days. Exercising on various outside terrain is more challenging for your body too, compared to working out on a flat surface.

According to a study at the University of Queensland, people who exercise outdoors often have higher levels of serotonin, compared to those who workout inside. They also have increased levels of endorphins, especially in green environments.

Another benefit of outdoor exercise is that it gives you an opportunity to reconnect with nature and your surroundings. Fresh air, grass, trees and natural colours have a positive effect on us all, making us more appreciative of our environment and leading to taking more steps towards protecting it.

So, if we all make an effort to exercise outdoors more, not only will you benefit from a better night's sleep and improved mental and physical health, you'll grow an appreciation of the natural environment and see just what is worth protecting. After all, who doesn't enjoy a long walk in the beautiful countryside or by the coast - we all have a responsibility to protect our environment, so we can enjoy it now and for years to come.

Author - Liz Tabron

Liz Tabron

Liz has over 7 years' experience in writing lifestyle, home, health, and eco content. Liz's mission is to make accessible our expert team's knowledge.