The research is in – outdoor exercise does wonders for your psyche
“Your muscles can’t differentiate between where and when you train. However, your psyche knows the difference - and it prefers when you exercise outdoors,” says researcher and exercise expert Mikael Mattsson.
Photographer Luca Mara
Most people probably recognize the old cliché "You never regret a training session," especially not if the training is done outdoors. It's true! Outdoor training does wonders for your psyche.
“It is important for public health that we move. There are several reasons why it's better to move outdoors than indoors,” says Mattsson. Mikael Mattsson is one of Sweden's most prominent researchers in exercise and physiology. Today, he is active at Stanford University and the exercise analysis company Svexa in California, where he investigates, among other things, how people move in their everyday lives. He tells us that there is research supporting that, while outdoor training may not have any increased direct physical benefits compared to indoor training, there are other significant benefits to training outdoors:
“The most important thing is that you do your training, regardless of whether it takes place indoors or outdoors. But if we operate as though we will work out either way, it is better on several levels to do it outside. Above all, it has to do with the experience. It gives positive feelings and increases the motivation to continue training.”
“For the good of society, it would be good if we made it easy for people to walk, run, or cycle to work.”
Studies show that outdoor exercise gives us more energy and makes us less depressed. An outdoor workout also tends to make us happier than its indoor counterpart, and we are more likely to do the same activity again soon.
“The training effect between indoors and outdoors is small. But if you consider that the experience will be better, that you will have increased motivation and lower stress levels - then it may mean that you also respond a little better to your training if it is carried out outdoors.”
Given that the most important thing is that we are active and that outdoor training is highly beneficial, Mikael Mattsson advocates for getting this exercise in while we go to and from work.
“Many of our problems would be solved if we were more active, and a fantastic way to do this is to do it is to exercise while still transporting yourself. So, it would be good for society if we made it easy for people to walk, run, or cycle to work. It would be best if the places where we do this were also lined with lots of green areas, so we can enjoy nature while we exercise. Then we would achieve many advantages at once.”
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