Greenspaces for fitness

We all know the importance of keeping healthy – especially with various health and fitness fads being constantly shown in social media. Clean eating, HIIT workouts, Hot yoga, and many others are strewn over our news feeds every day. With this bombardment, it is easy to jump from fad to fad – forgetting what your main aim is: keeping fit and healthy. While more money in total is spent on gym memberships (due to gym memberships getting cheaper so more are bought), the number of people using their gym memberships has fallen (1).

The benefits of outdoor exercise

Exercising outdoors is shown to have benefits over and above exercising in a gym. Sports and exercise psychologists claim that exercising outdoors has a greater stress reducing effect than exercising indoors, and leads to higher feelings of rejuvenation(2). This leads to individuals being more likely to stick to their regime – exactly what we like to hear!

“I regularly teach fitness classes both inside the gym and outside in the fresh air, but there is something more refreshing and calming about exercising outside! I also think you can’t beat a good walk around the park for clearing your head.”

Jasmine Bate-St. Cliere, gym and fitness instructor, and ambassador for ‘This Girl Can’.​

Using greenspaces to exercise

So where can you go to exercise that’s nearby? Whether you’re looking for somewhere to walk, jog, birdwatch or perform some outdoor yoga, greenspaces can help you. Showing you safe and accessible greenspaces, you can easily find somewhere to take a stroll or do something more strenuous. You can also discover outdoor gyms if you want to tone up in the great outdoors.

Whatever fitness activities you enjoy, greenspaces can help you find them – or find new ones! If you fancy trying some outdoor activities, you can easily find safe and accessible places in a location that suits you. You can then use the app to plot your route and direct you there – so that you don’t get lost! The Greenspaces layer on OS Maps also shows you access points to the greenspaces – so you’re not wandering round aimlessly. (Although that may get you closer to your 10,000 steps a day!)

Benefits of nature

Just in case you aren’t convinced, and are planning on getting back on the treadmill, we thought we’d let you know all of the benefits of outdoor exercise. We’ve even included the references below so you can check out the studies we used (for all the scientists out there).

These show that simply looking at images of nature can lower blood pressure, stress and mental fatigue(3). Even better – images or scenes that involve water have even more restorative effects(4). So why not find yourself a greenspace next to a river or beach to exercise in? If you want even more science-y stuff – looking at nature lowers cortisol(5) (the stress hormone), which means exercising in the great outdoors will be amazing at rejuvenating you after a stressful work day. Exercise is both good for our physical AND mental health. You’re only 3 steps away from a fitter, healthier and less stressed out you:

  • open your OS maps app and go onto the greenspaces layer
  • plot your route or pick where you want to go
  • put on your trainers - and go!

Windsor Great Park

Even more science

If you’re even more interested in the benefits of nature on your health, then read on. We’ve dug out some benefits of being around nature for you. (As if you needed any more convincing!).

  • Being in nature can increase levels of natural anti-cancer fighting cells.(6)
  • Walking in nature leads to more revitalisation than indoor activities.(7)
  • Walking in nature boosts self-esteem, energy and pleasure, more than walking indoors.(8)
  • Walking in nature can decrease frustration, worry, confusion, depression, tension and tiredness - more than light activity indoors does.(9)
  • Nature based activities can decrease anxiety, stress and depression.(10)
  • Nature can improve your attention and concentration.(11)

"As important as nature has been shown for our health and happiness, our interactions with the natural world are just as important for protecting nature and the environment.”

Jeremy Coles, BBC Earth​

Get started now

OS Maps web


References

  1. The Guardian: The budget gym boom: how low-cost clubs are driving up membership: theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/shortcuts/2017/may/08/the-budget-gym-boom...
    The Guardian: UK gym membership spending up by 44%: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/aug/18/uk-gym-membership...
  2. Association for Applied Sport Psychology: Psychological Benefits of Exercise: appliedsportpsych.org/resources/health-fitness-resources/psychological-benefits-of-exercise/
  3. Huffington Post: Outdoor Exercise: Health Benefits Of Working Out Outside: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/23/outdoor-exercise-health-benefits_n_1616467.html
    Science Alert: Just Looking at Photos of Nature Could Be Enough to Lower Your Work Stress Levels: https://www.sciencealert.com/just-looking-at-photo...
    Journal of Environmental Psychology: Exposure to restorative environments helps restore attentional capacity sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii... (paid)
  4. UK Business Insider: 11 scientific reasons you should be spending more time outside: uk.businessinsider.com/scientific-benefits-of-nature-outdoors
  5. UK Business Insider: 11 scientific reasons you should be spending more time outside: uk.businessinsider.com/scientific-benefits-of-nature-outdoors
  6. US National Library of Medicine: Forest bathing enhances human natural killer activity and expression of anti-cancer proteins: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17903349
  7. The Atlantic: How Walking in Nature Prevents Depression: theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/06/how-walking-in-nature-prevents-depression
    US National Library of Medicine: Does participating in physical activity in outdoor natural environments have a greater effect on physical and mental wellbeing than physical activity indoors?: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21291246
  8. The Globe & Mail: Sorry, gym rats: Why exercising outside may be better for your health: theglobeandmail.com/the-surprising-health-benefits-of-working-out-outside
  9. US National Library of Medicine: The physiological effects of Shinrin-yoku (forest bathing): evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19568835
  10. The Woodland Trust: Exercise and stress: how exercising in nature can reduce stress:woodlandtrust.org.uk/blogs/how-exercising-in-nature-can-reduce-stress/
  11. Business Insider: This Might Be The Easiest Way To Boost Concentration And Memory: businessinsider.com/boost-concentration-and-memory-by-going-outside

More useful reading

View all #GetOutside Guides