Some people swear by the treadmill. Others can’t wait for the warm weather and the opportunities for outdoor exercise that come with it. But while you might think it comes down to personal preference, there’s a small body of research that suggests outdoor exercise might have even more health benefits than a trip to the gym.
The most recent study polled nearly 2,000 active participants in the 2008 Scottish Health Survey and found that outdoor physical activity had a 50 percent greater positive effect on mental health than going to the gym. The researchers, from Glasgow University, found that walking, running, biking and other outdoor activities through pocket parks and parks & recreation departments lowered stress, The Telegraph reported.
It’s not the first study to suggest outdoor exercise boosts mental health, but lead researcher Richard Mitchell, Ph.D., told The Telegraph that while the results themselves aren’t surprising, the extent to which outdoor exercise beats out indoor activity is. “I wasn’t surprised by the findings that exercise in natural environments is good for your mental health, but I was surprised by just how much better it is for your mental health to exercise in a green place like a forest, than in other places like the gym,” he said. “The message to doctors, planners and policy makers is that these places need protecting and promoting.”