1. Just five minutes of running outside can make you feel better about life.
All it takes is five minutes of outdoor exercise to see improvements in self-esteem and mood, according to a U.K. study. The people who saw the biggest impact were the young and those suffering from mental illness. The study also found that the effect was greatest in environments where water was present.
2. Those five minutes may also help you live longer.
Even 5 to 10 minutes of slow running (less than 6 miles per hour) can reduce your risk of death from all causes, including cardiovascular disease, concluded a study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, published in August 2014.
3. Exercise also makes you happy. And the more you do it, the happier it makes you.
Sure it’s easy to reach for the ice cream when you’re feeling down, but reaching for your sneakers will make you feel better, and not just in the short term. In one 12-week study, participants who exercised saw an improvement in their physical and mental health both immediately and at the one-year follow-up. A later study found that “regular exercisers have approximately twice the [mood improvement] effect as nonexercisers.” So if you don’t feel the mood boost the first time, try, try again.
4. You might even improve your memory and attention — just from being outside.
Most of us agree that there’s something just kinda nice about being in the great outdoors, but it turns out it’s even nicer than we think. Just an hour spent interacting with nature can improve memory performance and attention spans by 20%, according to a December 2008 study at the University of Michigan. If you’re really abandoned in the middle of a concrete jungle, at least put on the nature channel when you’re on the treadmill. The study found similar improvements in memory and attention among participants just from looking at pictures of nature scenes.
5. You’ll also get the vitamin D you need for strong bones.
Sunlight is important to our bodies — we need it to create and activate vitamin D, which is important for our bone health. And it may even help fight conditions including osteoporosis, cancer, depression, and heart attacks, according to Harvard Health Publications.
6. And thanks to wind resistance, you’ll get a better workout.
7. And if you listen to music, you’re doing yourself an extra health service.
Music can have huge impacts on our physical and mental health, wrote Dr. Oliver Sacks, a Clinical Professor of Neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. And listening to music during exercise might also improve performance, the New York Times reported in 2010. But keep in mind: The biggest impacts were seen in lower intensity workouts because the harder you’re exercising, the less distracted you will be by the tunes. “The noise of the body drowns all other considerations.”
8. Running outside is also A LOT quicker than going to the gym.
9. (And a heckuva lot cheaper.)
Nature is for everyone! Nature is free!
10. Exercising outdoors makes you more likely to want to keep exercising.
11. Maybe that’s because exercising outdoors just ~feels~ better.
Though researchers said studies on the topic were sparse, a 2011 review of available data found that, exercising in natural environments was connected to “greater feelings of revitalization and positive engagement, decreases in tension, confusion, anger, and depression, and increased energy.” In 2012, the Telegraph reported that, according to a University of Glasgow study, the mental health boost from outdoor exercise was TWICE that of indoor exercise.
12. A good run in the morning may help burn off the steak you have for dinner that night.
The effects of exercise can last all day. Once you’ve gotten comfortable with the short jogs, make them longer for a bigger payoff: Vigorous exercise for 45 minutes can boost your metabolism for the next 14 hours, according to a 2011 study.
13. And listen, it’s not winter…YET.
Soon enough, the temperatures will drop, the snow will arrive, and you’ll need 17 layers of clothing just to go outside. Enjoy the warm weather while it lasts.