How Outdoor Exercise Benefits the Entire Family and How to Actually Do It

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Learning to create an active lifestyle for yourself and your family is key to leading a healthy and happy life. Eating a clean diet is very important to your families’ health, but just as important is learning to embrace physical activity. Outdoor exercise with the family holds even more benefits than indoor exercising.

How Outdoor Exercise Benefits The Whole Family

outdoor exercise with baby doing pushups on the ground

Technology makes our lives easier and safer in countless ways, but one thing our technological obsession isn’t helping us out with very much is fitness. CNN reports that kids under the age of nine spend over two hours per day on screens, with 42% of children eight and younger owning their own tablet device.

Spending so much time indoors is intricately linked to being overweight. Obesity is an issue affecting one in three American children and teens.

If you want to boost their fitness and your own, why not do so in the arms of Mother Nature?

There are four huge reasons why exercising outside is even more beneficial than indoor exercise.

1. Nature has a calming effect

outdoor exercise woman doing yoga in the grass

Being outside has significant mental health effects since it lowers levels of cortisol – a stress hormone.  When cortisone is present at high levels, it can cause everything from anxiety attacks to depression. Raised cortisol levels is also linked to physical ailments such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. As noted by academics at the University of Minnesota, “Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. It may even reduce mortality.” You don’t even have to be in constant movement to benefit from nature. Taking time walking through nature, or taking a ‘forest bath’ (which involves simply walking through a forest in a mindful state, opening all your senses to the beauty around you) can instantly calm nerves and boost vitality.

RELATED: Camping with Kids Hacks that are Borderline Genius


2. Running outside burns more calories

stroller exercise mom doing lunges on stroller laughing with baby

You probably burn about 3 to 7% more calories running outside than on a treadmill,” says Dr. John Porcari of the University of Wisconsin, LaCrosse. The reasons are twofold:

  1. When you run or brisk walk outdoors, the terrain is unpredictable. This forces you to use different muscles when you exercise outdoors.
  2. Secondly, wind resistance forces you to make a greater effort. Treadmills, on the other hand, propel one forward because of the moving belt. Therefore, the effort made to keep moving is significantly larger when you exercise outside.

RELATED: The Best Full Body Active Stroller Workouts for Moms


3. It’s more fun outside

mom and kid playing in the grass and laughing

In a number of recent studies, participants have been asked to go for walks of the same time or distance: once indoors (in a track or on a treadmill) and the other outdoors. The results showed that those who exercised outside reported a higher enjoyment factor.

The participants who walked outside also showed higher levels of vitality, enthusiasm, happiness, and self-esteem. Moreover, they felt less stressed, depressed, and tired, than those who exercised indoors.

For most kids and toddlers a grumpy mood or lack of energy due to boredom can easily be remedied by simply stepping outdoors. A quick walk or an active game together outside can work wonders. It is really easy and fun to work them into an exercise routine outside, play together at the park, or go for a nature walk.

RELATED: How to do a Full Body Workout While Walking with a Toddler


4. The outdoors promote greater activity

mom doing a stroller exercise routine while babywearing and doing lunges

One fascinating study on older adults found that participants who were physically active outdoors exercised more than those who did so indoors. Perhaps it is the mood-boosting effects of nature that inspire greater activity.

The spiritual connection between nature and human beings is also key.

Psychologists such as Jung believed that human beings needed to head into majestic natural settings, for it was only here that they could find symbols of what he called ‘the collective unconscious’:

the need to feel connected to something larger than oneself, as well as to the rest of humanity.

For Jung and many other scientists, a divorce from nature affected our health, happiness, and well-being in countless ways. Being outdoors provides us with a more challenging yet enjoyable workout, but it also soothes the mind and instills a better mood. If you are concerned about the number of hours you and your family are spending indoors, glued to gadgets, put on your running shoes and take it outdoors, even if it is for just a few precious minutes every day.

RELATED: How to do a Full Body Park Bench Workout


If you are ready to get active outside with the baby, kids, and family but have no idea where to start, Exercise with Kids 101: Your full guide to mastering fitness with the littles, will give you countless ideas!

For more mommy and kid fitness ideas from Vigor it Out you’ll love:


**This was a wonderfully crafted guest post for Vigor it Out by the talented Jennifer James. Thank you Jennifer!**


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