Our top ten reasons to get out of the gym and into the great outdoors


01) Running outdoors boosts self-esteem, reduces stress and improves mood according to research from the Centre for Sports and Exercise Science, School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex. Studying participants at four different 5km parkruns, it found major gains in mental attitude between pre- and post- event runners, including a 9% uplift in self-esteem and a 9.5% improvement in mood.

02) Hard though it may be to believe in the middle of winter, exercising outdoors in green space alters the perception of effort. A study published in the journal Extreme Physiology & Medicine found that: “For those people engaging in green exercise, the nature element may help achieve a greater intensity of exercise without perception of effort changing.” This is a fitness advantage, because, “If a person perceives exercise to be easier, it has the potential to be more enjoyable.”

03) Outdoor activity in a natural environment generates greater feelings of revitalisation and positive engagement than indoor exercise, according to a report published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

04) Individuals living in a greener environment are three times more likely to be physically active with a 40% lower chance of being overweight or obese, said a study in the British Medical Journal.

05) Green exercise activities help to combat mood subscales, such as tension, anger and depression, said researchers in the journals Integrated Science and Environmental Planning Management. 06 Scientists at the University of Leeds have discovered that spending time in green spaces produces, “levels and patterns of chemicals in the brain associated with low stress and positive impacts on blood pressure.” They also report positive links “between how well people perform at attention-demanding tasks and time spent, either beforehand or during, in green space.”

07) Running, cycling and walking in a natural environment can cut the risk of suffering from poor mental health by half compared to exercising in non-natural environments, according to a study by researchers at the University of Glasgow. They found forests and parks seemed to protect against mental ill-health, whilst a gym did not.

08) A major Scottish study found that levels of c-reactive protein (a marker of inflammatory response in the body) were lower in men living in urban areas who regularly used green space for physical activity than those who did not. The results formed part of the report, “Contribution of green and open space to public health and wellbeing”.

09) Research published in Science, has shown that patient recovery rates improve even if they can only view trees from their hospital window.

10) People living closer to green spaces are more physically active, and less likely to be overweight or obese. People who live furthest from public parks are 27% more likely to be overweight or obese, according to researchers from the Universities of Bristol and East Anglia.