The Benefits of Exercising Outside

Thank you, nature, for a truly spectacular day and for reminding me of my good fortune. Despite a looming deadline, I recently decided to take a time-out. Off to the nearby walking trail I went, in hopes of shaking off a late-afternoon slump. Three laps was my goal. That should wake me up without sucking too much time out of my day.

The sky was a peaceful shade of blue, adorned with puffy white clouds. The grass and trees greener than green, thanks to an abundance of rain this year. Birds chirping, dogs yapping, and a sprinkling fountain sang the sweet song of summer.

My energy level rose and three laps turned into four and “hello,” fellow walker. I surprised myself and broke out in a run. OK, not a run. It was more of a jog, but no matter. Lap five, and “hello,” lady in the cute hat, and your little dog, too. And I began to marvel at the experience. Lap six, and “isn’t it an incredible day?”

There was a time when I couldn’t consider the notion of leaving my house without a cane, due to multiple sclerosis. And what was I doing just two summers ago? I was rounding out ten months of treatment for triple-negative breast cancer. Of all the people I passed in our little park, not one could have guessed at those things. This body, for all its scars and history, feels like a million bucks. Oh, it’s not that I don’t have any aches or pains or signs of aging. Of course, I do, but I’m happy to have them.

When I returned home, I took out my little pink appointment calendar from 2011 and there it was. August 19. The date was marked simply, “yay!” signaling my final radiation treatment and what I hoped to be the end of cancer treatment. So far, so good. No, I take that back. So far, it’s spectacular! If 2011 Me could see 2013 Me, she’d be shocked.

I’ve written before about the value of green exercise and there are lots of studies on the subject. When it comes right down to it, I don’t need any studies to tell me what I experience each time I step out into the greenness and take a walk. I experience a heightened awareness of my surroundings and of self. I do my most creative thinking on those walks, as my spirit frees itself from the constraints of my self-imposed “to do” list.

There are many harsh realities in this world and getting caught up in them can pile on the stress. During my green walks, I can unplug and tap into the positive side. Green walks provide me with a heightened sense of appreciation for the stuff of life, and it lasts well beyond the walk. Green exercise makes me a happier, more productive person.

Got a few minutes? Take a stroll in a park or down a treelined street. Walk, jog, run. Use a cane, roll in a wheelchair. Bicycle, scooter, skateboard. Go alone, take a friend, take your spouse, take the kids. Take a deep breath. Notice. Daydream. Savor.

Related Reading
Improve Mood and Self-Esteem With Green Exercise
Walking Your Way to a Healthier Mind, Body & Soul

Post photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

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Fi T.
Fi T.10 months ago

Sweet time for oneself and his family

Loretta Pienaar
Loretta Pienaarabout a year ago

Nothing like walking, cycling or jogging in a natural setting!!

Volker Baum
Volker B.1 years ago

Thanks Ann!

Sai Krishna G.
Sai Krishna G.1 years ago


Kay M.
Kay M.1 years ago


Nicole H.
Nicole L.1 years ago


Nils Anders Lunde


aludra n.
susan m.1 years ago

Fortunately I live near a large park/preserve. Every time I visit I receive the gifts of peace and joy from the trees, wildlife, lakes and vegetation.. I am so grateful to be close to a woods, and all the wonders therein..... take a walk, it can change your attitude, quickly.

Sheri J.
Sheri J.2 years ago

Green stars for all the comments! If you would like a green star from me, send me a message! I think the medical community should encourage patients to spend more time in nature. They should actually write a prescription "Spend time in nature X times per week as often as need. - (name of doctor)". Spending time in nature can have positive effects that can lasts for days. Sometimes even more powerful than the drugs that one takes.

Sheri J.
Sheri J.2 years ago

The park I frequent has ducks as well as a walking trail. I love it. And you can feed the ducks.