You cannot beat outdoor exercise! For invigoration, variety and that glowing sense of accomplishment, outdoor exercising is the best possible workout experience.

And official studies show greater mental and physical benefits from exercising in the natural environment.

I have always been very outdoors orientated. Right from a very young age I was exploring, hiking, climbing mountains and I have kept going ever since, including international Adventure Racing through remote jungles and tackling Himalayan peaks.

But this isn’t about the limit-pushing extremes, it’s about something we can all do on a regular basis – take our physical activities outside.

And this has come more into focus for me than normal recently. I have just returned to the UK after living in the Swiss Alps for 14 years. My new home comes complete with fields, extensive woodlands and a beautiful stream running through them. I have been developing exciting trails and workout stations throughout to create a wonderful woodland workout.

I want to give my clients and groups a genuine sense of adventure when they come to me. But, more than that, studies show there are benefits to outdoor physical activity that are simply not replicated indoors.


Mounting evidence

A review carried out by Peninsula College of Medicine & Dentistry concluded that the outdoors delivers mental and physical benefits and published its research in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

In collaboration with the European Centre for the Environment and Human Health analysed a huge amount of data and, although there is a huge amount to be done in terms of further research, all signs are that we are better outside.

Dr. Jo Thompson-Coon commented, “The hypothesis that there are added beneficial effects to be gained from exercising in the natural environment has generated considerable interest. By adding the data we currently have available to us, we have added strength to the link between mental health and physical wellbeing and outdoor exercise”.

Professor Michael Depledge, senior author of the study, added, “75% of the European population lives in urban environments, so increasing efforts need to be made to re-connect people with nature. Our data from a wide variety of sources adds significant weight to the case for spending more time in the natural environment as the public and their clinicians fight to counteract the negative outcomes of modern living, such as obesity and depression”.

Mind & Body

The benefits of outdoor exercise are clear and extensive. I was recently talking to the man who created an incredible camera that shows the brain’s neural transmitter activity and colours areas of the brain according to their stimulation. he pointed to a picture of a brain during computer gaming activities. It showed the brain to be in its more dormant state. Despite the apparent excitement of the game, the brain was ‘flat’.

Then he showed me a picture of a brain whose owner was enjoying a gentle and solitary walk in a park. The brain showed bright red, fixing with stimulation and activity. Just imagine how it would be with dynamic outdoor exercise!

So the benefits of outdoor exercise seem to be very clear. But even when you strip the science and the studies away, it is simply more fun and creates a greater, lingering feelgood sense of accomplishment.

In the second part of this feature I will look at four significant health benefits of outdoor exercise.

  • If you are interested in joining me for workout programmes in my studio and/or my Woodland Workout Trails (and occasionally the beach!), contact me through or via Insta/Twitter – @joeybullfitness

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