By Ken Reed

At this point, it’s pretty widely understood that physical exercise has positive effects on the body and mind.

What isn’t as well known is that exercise done outside, in nature, is more beneficial mentally than exercise done in a health club, or even outside but in an urban environment.

According to a study published earlier this year, the positive effects of physical activity in nature include better working memory and concentration.

“You may experience greater mental health benefits if you are able to be active outside in a natural environment,” according to Claire Wicks, a senior research assistant at the University of Essex in England.

Fifteen minutes of exercise in natural environments “appeared to be the most beneficial” for mental health.

A meta analysis done in 2022 supports the findings from this more recent study. That study found that exercise in nature (e.g., in a park or the mountains) was more beneficial for a variety of psychological outcomes (anxiety, fatigue, depression, anger, etc.) than exercise performed outside but in an urban environment.

Researchers found the natural world tends to calm people and quiet the often distracting chatter produced by the mind.

So, bottom line, if it’s feasible, in order to benefit the most mentally from physical exercise, get outside, preferably on a dirt trail through trees, or alongside a river, instead of jogging on a sidewalk in an urban concrete jungle.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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