Does exercising in an outdoor or indoor environment – or both – affect tension, stress, emotional outlook, or perception of health? A study led by Dr. Robin Puett, associate professor in the Maryland Institute for Applied Environmental Health, examined how the physical activity environment related to physical and mental wellbeing.
Published in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health, this was one of the largest U.S. studies conducted on the relationship between exercise environment and wellbeing. The study concluded that people who exercised partially or entirely outdoors exercised more and that:
“Our study suggests that exercising outdoors, whether alone or combined with indoor physical activity, may be linked to better self-perception of health and emotional outlook, as well as reduced tension, for women and more active adults,” Dr. Puett said.
Dr. Puett added that more research was needed to understand why the results differed between genders and activity levels, as well as whether these findings would be similar in more diverse populations and over longer time periods.
For this study, Dr. Puett and co-researchers used existing cross-sectional data on routine, self-selected physical activity from the large-scale Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study. Data from 11,649 participants—of whom 54 percent exercised outdoors, 18 percent exercised indoors, and 28 percent exercised in both environments—included questionnaires and clinical evaluations. Participants included men and women more than 20 years of age, with the vast majority Caucasian and college graduates.
Relative to inactivity, exercise indoors, outdoors, or in both environments was linked to increased wellbeing for participants.
November 10, 2014