The Benefits of Outdoor Exercise for Your Mental Health—Get Started

While many people work to maintain their health and improve their fitness, others do it for their mental health. The link between physical activity and mental health is in the chemicals your brain releases to make you feel good, including endorphins. This boosts your self-esteem, improves your concentration, and helps you feel better overall.

However, did you know that you can further boost the effects of exercise on your mental health by taking your workouts outside? The phrase ‘nature heals’ actually has some truth to it, and you can experience its effects on your mental health once you start outdoor exercises. If you’re still unconvinced, here’s how outdoor exercise can benefit your mental health and how you can start:

How outdoor exercise benefits your mental health

It helps you stay positive

Spending time in nature generates many positive emotions, including happiness, calmness, and creativity. Plants and trees can take credit for this, as they boost air quality, improve concentration, and clear the mind. Even just seeing green and purple plants can naturally decrease your stress and anxiety levels. That’s because humans have an evolutionary response to such colours, making you feel like you’re in a sanctuary, thus reducing negative feelings. Coupled with exercise, this can help you feel better overall.

It improves your mental health

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for the body and mind. It helps the body absorb and keep calcium and phosphorus for better bone health. At the same time, it supports mental health by preventing internalising problems related to depression, loneliness, and anxiety. A study on infants given vitamin D daily revealed that they grew up with reduced internalised psychiatric symptoms, decreasing their chances of developing mental health problems.

Although you can get vitamin D by eating foods like egg yolk and fish, you also receive it from sunshine. When you exercise outdoors in sunlight, you’re multitasking by not just releasing endorphins, but also improving your mental health—and possibly experiencing a reduced risk of developing issues like depression and anxiety.

Get started with exercising outdoors

Protect your skin

Even if you’re not exercising under direct sunlight, its UV rays can still damage your skin. UV radiation is necessary for vitamin D creation, but too much can lead to sunburn and skin cancer. That means long-term exposure can harm your physical health, rather than help it.

Protect your skin by using sports sun care products, which are becoming more popular because of increasing public awareness of UV radiation. One of the key players in sports sun care is Neutrogena, particularly its Sport Face Oil-Free Lotion Sunscreen. It’s rated as having an SPF 70+ for heightened sun protection, and it’s also sweat-, water-, and rubbing-resistant for 80 minutes, so you don’t have to worry about reapplying too often while exercising.

Guard your eyes

Besides your skin, your eyes are subject to UV damage. The eyes can get harmed easily through photokeratitis (sunburn on the eyes), cataract formation, and early vision loss. So, it’s vital to protect your eyes during outdoor exercise.

This is why you must opt for a good pair of performance sunglasses. This type of sunglasses features the latest technologies—like polarised lenses that reduce the sun’s glare and heightened durability, so they don’t break easily in harsh weather—compared to regular sunglasses with only UV protection and stylish frames. Oakley is one activewear brand that creates many reliable performance sunglasses models, including the HSTN, which has a no-slip grip so they don’t slide off and break when you’re sweating and the Sutro, which covers your entire eye area for maximum protection. By protecting your eyes with sturdy sunglasses like these, you can have more comfortable outdoor workouts.

Build discipline and endurance

Aside from protecting your skin and eyes, you must prepare your mind to take on the challenge of outdoor exercise. If you’ve already taken online fitness classes, you know self-discipline is needed to stay consistent. Sometimes, exercising indoors can be more convenient, since you won’t have to face the heat or cold. During these instances, you can push yourself to go outside because you know how it can improve your mental health.

You should also build your endurance, as the outdoors isn’t always kind. You can get tired quickly from the heat or perform poorly because of the cold, so you must slowly get used to these factors to sustain outdoor exercising. Start by working out for 15 minutes daily, then 30, and then 1 hour. If you’re feeling lightheaded or unwell, remember to stop and rest because you can try again tomorrow.

Outdoor exercise boosts your mental health by releasing endorphins, reducing negative feelings, and preventing you from internalising your problems. Remember these tips before beginning your outdoor workouts for your health and safety.

About the Contributor:

Georgina Todd is a freelance writer who favours writing pieces revolving around health, wellness, and sustainability. In her free time, she enjoys attending dance classes, going to flea markets, and doing DIY home projects.

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