The days are longer, the sun is brighter and the temperatures are warmer. That makes summer the perfect time to take your fitness routine outdoors. Exercising in nature has been shown to increase mood, improve focus and keep you motivated.

If you’re looking for a natural boost that’s as good for your mind and spirit as it is for your body, think about greening up your exercise routine. According to research in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, it only takes five minutes of “green exercise” to improve the state of your mental health. Studies analyzed over 1,200 people who engaged in activities ranging from walking and cycling to gardening, fishing and boating while in green spaces. The results showed that all types of natural environments improved mental and physical health, from parks in urban settings to secluded nature trails.

The largest positive effect on self-esteem resulted from doing light-intensity exercise outside for just five minutes. The biggest changes in mood occurred after five minutes of light or vigorous-intensity activity. Not only is being outside in green space a mood-booster, but the same studies show that you can get an added boost from being in spaces that also include water.

Other studies have cited additional benefits of exercising outdoors. One study published in Psychological Science showed that interacting with nature can improve your focus. Another study showed that people who work out outdoors exercise longer and more often than those who exercise indoors. They also tend to move faster when walking while reporting a lower rate of perceived exertion.

With so many benefits waiting right outside your door, why not skip your next trip to the gym and replace it with a workout where you’ll reap a few added benefits?

Here are a few ways to green up your fitness routine:

  • Walk or run through the park. Grab your sneakers and visit your local park. The change of scenery may help relieve stress and enhance your overall outlook while you sweat.
  • Head to the water. Since water has been shown to provide an added boost above and beyond green space, think about visiting a local lake or river to swim, kayak, fish or sail.
  • Work on your garden. Gardening not only improves the look of your yard but can improve your mood as well.
  • Take a hike. Live near a nature trail? Skip the pavement and instead check out the varied sights and terrain of local trails.
  • Try a new outdoor activity. There are loads of activities that can get you out in nature. Consider a round of golf, a bike ride through a new part of town or a stroll through a flower garden. Check with your local chamber of commerce about upcoming outdoor events in your area.
  • Volunteer to clean local spaces. Non-profit organizations, as well as local, state and national parks, are often in need of volunteers to help with clean-up and maintenance. You can burn calories, build muscle and strengthen your heart while enhancing happiness levels and doing a good deed.

Sources:

http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es903183r

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100502080414.htm

http://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/wellbeing/natural-mood-elevator

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/21/the-benefits-of-exercising-outdoors/?_r=2

http://news.health.com/2014/09/29/health-benefits-of-nature/

http://www-personal.umich.edu/~jjonides/pdf/2008_2.pdf

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3710158/