How Outdoor Activities Can Improve Your Health

Most people like spending time outside, even if it’s for limited periods. Outside, you’ll get to breathe fresh air, explore your surroundings, and exercise in a way you can’t when you’re physically limited indoors. 

It shouldn’t be a surprise to learn that most outdoor activities have the power to improve your physical and mental health. But how exactly does this happen? And what are some of the best activities to try? 

Outdoor Activity Ideas

Almost anything you do outside can come with health benefits, but these are some examples of especially beneficial activities: 

  • Walking/running/cycling. One of the easiest things you can do is walk, run, or ride a bicycle. You don’t need much in the way of equipment and you can do these activities literally anywhere. 
  • Boating. If you’re willing to buy a boat, you can head out on the water and engage in a number of different activities, such as fishing, wakeboarding, or sailing, all of which provide benefits. 
  • Gardening. If you like to stay close to home, you might try gardening, whether you’re raising edible crops of beautiful flowers. 
  • Foraging. You can also forage for berries, mushrooms, and other edibles in your local woods. 
  • Camping. Consider going camping—and try a variety of different activities while you’re there. 

The Health Benefits of Outdoor Activities

How can these activities improve your health? 

  • Physical exercise. First, spending time outside is usually associated with some kind of physical exercise, whether you’re getting a cardiovascular workout or are just exerting yourself on something like gardening. No matter how much you get or what kind you get, exercise is highly beneficial. Exercise has the power to reduce your stress, burn extra calories, improve your bone health, strengthen your muscles, reduce your susceptibility to heart disease and related illnesses, and keep you at a healthy weight—all at the same time. And if you exercise consistently, these benefits become even greater.  
  • Vitamin D. A surprising number of people in the United States have a vitamin D deficiency. We can’t produce vitamin D on our own. We can absorb it as a nutrient in food or in a supplement, but the easiest way to get vitamin D is by absorbing sunlight. Spending more time outside increases vitamin D in the body, assuming you’re getting enough sun. 
  • Happiness and wellbeing. Even people who don’t consider themselves “outdoorsy” can feel a boost in happiness and wellbeing when they go outside. They’re getting a breath of fresh air, a new environment, and exposure to an interesting activity. This experience can make all the problems in your life seem smaller and give you time to cultivate happier thoughts. If you go outside on a regular basis, you may feel happier and more satisfied with your life overall. 
  • Self-esteem. Most outdoor activities require you to focus and improve a set of skills. For example, you’ll need to be stronger and more balanced to bicycle effectively, and it takes a long time to better understand gardening fundamentals. Over time, as you improve in these areas, you’ll develop a much better self-esteem. That higher self-esteem can help you in many areas of your life, making you more confident at work and in daily interactions. 
  • Memory and recall. Some studies show that spending more time outside can improve your memory and recall. For reasons that are unclear, enjoying the outdoors can help you form new memories, consolidate memories you already have, and improve how you think about your memories. Again, this can help you in many areas of your life.  
  • Lower stress and anxiety. The physical exercise and connection to the outdoors can reduce your stress and anxiety. You’ll feel a sense of relief when immersing yourself in a hobby, and when you come home, you’ll feel calmer for the rest of the day. 
  • Better sleep. A combination of different effects from being outside can help you sleep better. The exertion from physical exercise, the lower stress and anxiety, and the feeling of wellbeing just from being outside can all make it easier to get to sleep and stay asleep. And of course, getting more sleep on a regular basis can improve your health in a number of ways as well. 
  • Higher immune function. The immune system works through exposure; when the body encounters various pathogens, it creates defensive measures to defeat them. Spending more time outdoors can gently expose you to a number of pathogens, ultimately strengthening your immune system. 

If you don’t spend much time outdoors already, consider changing your habits. There are many viable outdoor activities to choose from, appealing to a wide range of demographics, and nearly all of them can provide you with all of these health benefits. Engage in these hobbies consistently to see the greatest returns.