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  • Writer's pictureStudent Wellbeing Service

The Benefits of Being Outdoors

Updated: Aug 14, 2020


During this time of lock-down, we have all been able to exercise outdoors once a day, and now that has been extended in recognition of the importance of regular exercise and connecting with the natural environment.

For the most recent Government guidance click here

Most of you will be familiar with the benefits of exercise but combined with being outside the overall positive impact to wellbeing is multiplied. A daily half-hour walk can have numerous benefits and will also boost Vitamin D levels which helps support our immune system.

Here are a few reasons to really make the most of your outdoor exercise which is so much more enjoyable with the current pleasant weather.

Supports mental health

The most common mental health benefit of physical activity is a decrease in depressed and anxious moods (Dixon, 2003).

Helps with the practice of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the practice of paying more attention to the present moment of your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you. Bringing your attention to the natural world around you can help shift focus away from unwanted and upsetting thoughts. Mindfulness is recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as a way to prevent depression in people who have had three or more bouts of depression in the past.

Incorporates physical activity

The benefits of physical activity on both physical and mental health have been widely documented with physical inactivity being cited as the fourth leading risk factor in global mortality.

Walking has been shown to provide the same physical and mental health benefits as more moderate levels of physical activity (Norman, 2004).

Recent evidence from research shows that the interaction with outdoors and nature has a longer-lasting effect than just the time spent outdoors suggesting that the positive impact of a walk can last for up to seven hours (Bakollis, 2016).

Strengthens connection with nature

MIND’s (2018) detailed report “Nature and Mental Health” found that people’s mental health significantly improves after activities in nature. Previous studies also found that the positive psychological effects of exposure to nature can include increased confidence, feelings of tranquillity, and self-discovery as well as decreased negative states of aggression, depression, and anxiety. In addition, exposure to nature can improve cognitive functioning, specifically cognitive capacity (Mayer, 2009).

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” Lao Tzu

Further information and reading on this topic can be found below:

Bakollis, I., Hammoud, R., Smythe, M., Gibbons, J., Davidson, S., Mechelli, A. (2019) Urban Mind: Using Smartphone Technologies to Investigate the Impact of Nature on Mental Well-Being in Real Time click here

Dixon, W., Mauzey, E. and Hall, C. (2003) in McKinney, B. L. (2011) Therapist's Perceptions of Walk and Talk Therapy: A Grounded Study

Mayer, F., Frantz, C., Senecal, C. (2008) Why is nature Beneficial? The Role of Connectedness to Nature Journal of Environment and Behavior, 41(5), 607–643

MIND (2018) Nature and Mental Health

Norman, G and Mills, P. (2004) Keeping it Simple: Encouraging walking as a means to active living. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 28, 149–151 click here

Vivien Farrand

Student Wellbeing Adviser - Faculty of Science

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