Believe it or not, there is a huge difference between whether you choose to exercise indoors versus outdoors. When you decide to go to a gym, studio, run, walk, outdoor fitness class, you're controlling external factors - what you're seeing, hearing, experiencing. This can increase or reduce our stress and impact not only your mood but also how your nervous, endocrine and immune systems are working (1).
A research study found that more than two thirds of people seek a natural surrounding when stressed.
So why might this be?
1. Nature is natural therapy
Nature's smells, sights and sounds reduce anger, fear and stress, making you feel better emotionally. This in turn reduces blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and the production of stress hormones. It is a perfect antidote to overactive minds and can help us find focus; refreshing us for new tasks ahead.
In fact, nature is having such a great effect on people that the term 'green therapy' has been coined for the impact of nature on wellness. A recent study published by Mind found that taking a walk in nature reduced depression by 71% of participants (even more interesting is compared to the control group who walked in a shopping centre, 45% had reduced depression but 22% actually felt more depressed)(2).
2. Leave the screen
From TV and laptop through to our mobile phone's it's almost impossible to get away from screens these days. The way we sit using screens is usually terrible for our posture, the screen is linked to eye problems, and the content we're consuming is impacting our stress levels.
Being outside is a great way to escape the unnatural and enjoy the natural beauty and fresh air.
3. A caffeine-free coffee hit
Nature is fuel for the soul. Often when we feel depleted we reach for a cup of coffee but research suggests a better way to get energised is to connect with nature. In recent years, "numerous experimental psychology studies have linked exposure to nature with increased energy and heightened sense of well-being. For example, research has shown that people on wilderness excursions report feeling more alive and that just recalling outdoor experiences increases feelings of happiness and health. Other studies suggest that the very presence of nature helps to ward off feelings of exhaustion and that 90 percent of people report increased energy when placed in outdoor activities"(3).
4. Nature is a natural antidote
Put the painkillers down! The outdoors fills people with vitality, and "people with a greater sense of vitality don't just have more energy for the things they want to do, they are also more resilient to physical illnesses"(3).
5. Nature fuels creativity
Being outside clears our mind and helps us focus. A study on college students found their recall (combining attention and memory) drastically improved after a walk in nature. Problem solving was also shown to increase by 50%(4).
So use your lunch break to get outside. Don't eat at your desk or sit in the work canteen. Use it as a chance to draw in some fresh air and reenergise your mind and body.