Outdoor activity given the green light in optimising mental health benefits

Mental Health is a very relevant topic and one which is high on the agenda with regard to reducing both the prevalence and the negative impacts of living with poor mental health and wellbeing. The positive effects of exercise and physical activity on mental health are already well documented, however a recent study has shed more light on the role the environment can play in further enhancing these benefits.

A growing pool of evidence suggests that being active outdoors is an effective way to optimise the mental health benefits of physical activity. A recent study published in the journal Mental Health and Prevention examined the relationship between keeping active outdoors compared to indoors and has provided some interesting insights. The study involved a total of 140 participants who reported on their mood, stress and anxiety before and after carrying out physical activity in each environment. They completed a wide range of activities with those outdoors including running, mountain biking or football and those indoors including aqua aerobics, aerobics, swimming, basketball, fencing or volleyball.

The findings from the study showed that all participants experienced improved mental health benefits as a result of partaking in activity, which supports the findings from previous research. However, what’s really interesting is that the greatest improvements were made by individuals who participated in outdoor activities. Mountain Biking reduced stress by 18% which was actually the most out of all activities. However, running outdoors was seen to be the most beneficial all-round activity, as it resulted in improvements in all three states assessed. Mood improved by 27%, stress reduced by 14% and anxiety reduced by 16%. One possible reason behind this is that outdoor environments were perceived as more calming, meaning that outdoor activity which has been dubbed ‘green activity’ can be associated with optimising mental health benefits.

You can reap the benefits of physical activity whether you choose to do it indoors or outdoors, but you may get a bigger boost to your mental health by getting active outside. Ultimately, the greatest benefit will come from the activities you do regularly, so it’s important to choose things you enjoy and make you happy. Whatever activities it may be that you like doing outside, we’re here to tell you that its great for your health! This echoes the core values which we promote at KiActiv®, as by incorporating more personalised physical activity into your daily routine, it will translate into important all-round health benefits.