The benefits of outdoor fitness

By Helaine Krasner, MS, RDN, CSOWM, CDN

It’s a great time to think about increasing our exposure to sunshine now that the days are feeling shorter due to less hours of daylight. Exposure to daylight helps regulate our circadian rhythm, the natural process that controls our sleep-wake cycle. Sunlight also helps boost serotonin in your brain which can help you feel more energetic, calm, and focused.

Another important health benefit of being outdoors is our exposure to the UV rays from the sun that enables our skin to produce vitamin D that is then absorbed by the body. Concerns about the dangers of overexposure to these harmful rays may limit our desire to be outside for any length of time, so consider wearing sunscreen to reduce risks rather than avoid the outdoors altogether.

An abundance of research shows that exposure to green space improves our physical and mental health and boosts our wellbeing. A recent meta-analysis showed that increased greenspace exposure was associated with decreases in cortisol (the stress hormone), heart rate, and diastolic blood pressure (1). The benefits of participating in outdoor activities seems to extend beyond the physical realm. Recent research indicates that exercising outdoors appears to be more beneficial to mental health compared with indoor activities (2). There seems to be a synergistic effect that occurs when physical activity occurs in nature, also referred to as “green exercise”. Studies also suggest that exercising outdoors reduces perceived exertion and reduces our awareness of physiological sensations and negative emotions.

To reap these benefits, perform at least some of your fitness routine outside or consider adding a new outdoor activity. You may be surprised to find that you enjoy the activity more and feel better afterwards.

Ideas for Outdoor Activities


Wash the car


Walk the dog

Take a hike

Ride a bike

Play pickle ball

Walk at a local beach

Try an outdoor yoga class

Go for a run

Take a nature walk


Use Your Senses to Connect

Smell the air

Listen to the sounds of nature

Feel the sunshine…or the breeze

Notice the colors and textures all around you


Be Smart / Be Safe

Be aware of your surroundings

Dress appropriately for the weather conditions

Wear sunscreen according to recommendations

Take safety precautions by considering potential risks


Set a Specific Goal to Make it Happen

Example: Starting today I will go for a brisk 20-minute walk after dinner paying special attention to the changing foliage and landscape I see along the way.



  1. Twohig-Bennett, C., & Jones, A. (2018). The health benefits of the great outdoors: A systematic review and meta-analysis of greenspace exposure and health outcomes. Environmental research166, 628–637.
  2. Gladwell, V.F., Brown, D.K., Wood, C. et al.(2013). The great outdoors: how a green exercise environment can benefit all. Extrem Physiol Med 2

Helaine Krasner, MS, RDN, CSOWM, CDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist who takes great pride in helping our Bariatric and Medical Weight Management patients achieve their health and weight loss goals.