Exercise Outdoors to Increase Exercise Adherence

A recent article in the New York Times cited a new study out of Austria that examined the effect of exercise on your mood when exercising in different settings. Generally speaking, many people who do workout consistently do not necessarily “enjoy” exercise, but see it rather as a chore or do it as motivation to stay healthy. Lengthy workout durations and high intensities of exercise are a few of the common reasons why some may not view exercise as enjoyable.

In recent years, high intensity interval training (HIIT) has been identified as one of the most popular and most effective ways on improving physical fitness in relatively short periods of time (10-30 mins. per workout). For those who use “lack of time” as their main excuse not to exercise, workouts that utilize HIIT protocols have shown to be a convenient and time efficient way of keeping in shape. However, for those who don’t enjoy the high intensity aspect of exercise, HIIT does not really offer a viable solution with regards to improving exercise adherence.

The researchers took a group of healthy men and women, and had them take a lengthy (~3 hours) mountainous hike during one session. They recorded heart rates and took questionnaires on their moods. On a separate day, the same group took a lengthy (~3 hours) walk indoors on a treadmill, with the incline cranked up to try and simulate their mountainous hike from the previous session. Heart rates and mood data was recorded. For the control session, they took the same group and had them sit in a room with couches and computers, chatting with each other, and recorded data on their moods. The results found that nearly the entire group reported more positive mood scores during the mountainous hike, despite the fact that the recorded heart rate data showed that the hike was more intense than the treadmill walk. The subjects actually reported that walking indoors felt harder than the outdoor hike. Almost all the subjects reported more positive moods after partaking in either exercise bout, as opposed to after the control session.

These findings show that exercising outdoors can improve your mood and outlook towards exercise, regardless of the intensity of the exercise. And when trying to increase exercise adherence, enjoying it goes a long way!