Exercise is so often construed as being performed a fitness studio or gym – what if you could get started today with no equipment of membership!

Outdoor Exercise / Physical Activity

Outdoor Exercise can consist of variety of different modalities, ranging from sport, hiking, trail walking/running, swimming or even just a park walk!

Regular and appropriate levels of exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle – we all know that! Exercise can also provide a lot more benefits than simply preventing harmful health conditions (checkout our article here, where we cover the importance of exercise: https://www.emep.com.au/post/movement-is-medicine).

Performing Exercise outdoors is a great tool for our health and wellness, not only providing a range of the physiological benefits from the physical stimulus and adaptation, and it can also provide additional benefits when performed outdoors.

The Benefits of an Outdoor Setting

Research has shown increased training affective responses and increases in adherence to exercise when exercising outdoors. This means the physiological markers (acute physical benefit) from exercise was found to have a greater impact when performed outside, than opposed to indoor exercise, and individuals completing exercise outdoors are more likely to turn this exercise behaviour into a sustained routine.

Outdoor exercise was also found to have an increase in reducing depressive symptoms, cause increased pleasure, enjoyment and tranquility when compared to indoor training groups, even when they were completing the same exercise regime (From the 1Health and Social Services Center).

What’s going on here?

“Wilderness Immersions”, have been known to trigger stronger sensations of happiness, timelessness & serenity, and interestingly, has been viewed as analogous to transcendent experiences.

When our attention is drawn by a pleasant task, we are more likely to experience a “flow” state. This allows us to be fully connected with the activity we are completing, and the environment we are completing it in. This positive sensation is likely a key component in translating to higher levels of adherence, that is, more likely to be a sustainable to change in a participant’s long-term routine (From the 1Health and Social Services Center).

The Wilderness Immersion effect appears to be triggered by stimuli such as fresh air, colours such as green from trees and plants, dynamic colours in the sky, sensations from the wind and increased exposure to vitamin D from the sun (Gladwell et al., 2013).

Furthermore, researchers have shown that individuals who complete a combination of both indoor and outdoor exercise have better mental and physical health & well-being than just indoor exercising groups alone (Loureiro & Veloso, 2014).

Exercising outdoors has been associated with reduced perceived rates of exertion. This is important because the acute and chronic benefits of exercising are in some sense proportion to the intensity of exercising, RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) has been an important marker for this. To optimse benefit of exercise, certain intensities need to be reached, this is because the intensity of exercsie you are completing is the stimulus for physiological adaptations. In other words, we need to reach a particular threshold to cause a physical anatomical improvement in our health systems. Since the RPE is typically lower in exercising outdoors, it is easier to achieve, because it is “les physically difficult”, this is likely a consequence of the Wilderness Immersion Phenomena as mentioned above (Gladwell et al., 2013).

I’m new to Exercise, what can I do today?

Exercise exists on a spectrum, it is more important to complete exercise regularly, than to get it “perfect” from the get go. Exercise won’t help your health and wellness if not completed for the long term. So, the key is to start small and build from there.

As covered above, outdoor exercise can consist of a range of different sports and activities. Below is a helpful list to refer to:

    • Park Walk/Run
    • Outdoor Yoga Classes
    • Bush Walking/Hiking (consists of a wide range of difficulty, from beginner to advanced)
    • Outdoor Sports; such as soccer, touch football, ping pong, frisbee, catch etc
    • Boot Camps
    • Calisthenics

When you’re not sure where to start, begin small, and start by doing what you know and feel comfortable with. Sustainability is key! This might include going for a mindful walk or participating in an outdoor yoga class (or anything you feel comfortable with form the list above!).

As you begin increasing your physical activity levels, you’ll find you’ll be able to complete exercise more intensely, and more regularly. Many people we have worked with have surprised themselves with how much they are now exercising, and now if they miss a day of exercise they find themselves more irritable and don’t feel as good! They get hooked! And inevitably, improve their health and reduce their pain.

If you’re not still not quite sure how to begin incorporating outdoor exercise into your lifestyle, talking to an Accredited Exercise Physiologist, Exercise Scientist or Personal Trainer is a great idea! If you’re hesitant or living with an injury, pain or other health condition, please consult your GP or Accredited Exercise Physiologist on how to exercise outdoors safely.


Adherence to exercise and affective responses: Comparison… : Menopause, LWW. Available at: https://journals.lww.com/menopausejournal/Abstract/2015/07000/Adherence_to_exercise_and_affective_responses_.11.aspx (Accessed: November 27, 2022).

Gladwell, V.F. et al. (2013) The great outdoors: How a green exercise environment can benefit all – extreme physiology & medicine, BioMed Central. BioMed Central. Available at: https://extremephysiolmed.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/2046-7648-2-3 (Accessed: November 27, 2022).

Loureiro, A. and Veloso, S. (2014) Outdoor exercise, well-being and connectedness to nature, Psico. Available at: https://revistaseletronicas.pucrs.br/index.php/iberoamericana/N%C3%83%C6%92O%20https:/www.scimagojr.com/index.php/revistapsico/article/view/19180 (Accessed: November 27, 2022).