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Seeing the lovely views of the park on your jog isn’t the only benefit to exercising outdoors. Working out outside has a 50% greater effect on your mental health than exercising at a gym, according to a 2008 study out of Scotland. Researchers at the University of Glasgow studied 2,000 active people and compared walking, running, and biking outdoors and at a gym. Only the outdoor activities had positive effect on lowering the risk of mental health issues.
The study didn’t look at “serious mental health issues,” as one researcher put it, but more everyday struggles like sleeping troubles, mild depression, stress, and coping issues. While neighborhood streets, backyards, and homes were studied, the biggest effects came from exercising in forest-like areas and parks. Lead researcher Richard Mitchell says that, “[T]hat makes sense with what we thought we knew. That is, the brain likes to be in the natural environment and it reacts to being there by turning down our stress response.” Researchers recommend getting outside to exercise at least once a week.
The Huffington Post reports that other studies have found benefits to being outside as well, like that walking through a park rather than a city street can help children with ADHD to focus, or that sun exposure can increase your vitamin D levels and speed healing from minor injuries.
Just think about how much your stress levels would decrease when you don’t have to worry about racing other gym users to the only empty elliptical machine, or don’t need to fear contracting a wart from the locker room floor. Now that you’re convinced to get outside, here are some exercises to try at a park with a playground.