It's easier to exercise and train outdoors than indoors

A new study at GIH summarizes two American and two Swedish studies and finds exercising and training outdoors easier than indoors.

A picture of a trail next to a lake

Foto: Peter Schantz

– In the various studies, the outdoor environments are different, and the physical activity is performed with between 23 and 66 percent higher physical load than if the same people perform the activity with the same perceived effort indoors, says Professor Peter Schantz.

The Borg Scale for Tests and Training

We experience a certain amount of effort with every form of physical activity. To estimate it, the Swedish psychologist Gunnar Borg developed a scale. It was based on laboratory work physiology tests, with variations in heart rate from rest to maximum work, combined with verbal expressions of effort at scale steps from 6 to 20. For a long time, the so-called Borg scale has been widely used in everything from tests and training for exercise and rehabilitation.

In 1991, a study was published with unexpected results. It showed that running speed at three different levels of effort was, on average, 66 percent higher when running in a green recreational environment by a lake than indoors on a treadmill. An American study in 2014 showed a 30 percent higher effect when people cycled along a cycle path that ran along a stream in green and built-up environments.

Green environments have a positive impact

The research group for movement, health, and environment at GIH asked whether the same phenomenon applies when cycling to work along travel routes in suburban and inner-city environments in Greater Stockholm. The same principal results were noted. About 23 percent higher work rates were noted outdoors at the same perceived exertion as indoors.

– Although the characteristics of outdoor environments varied a lot, all studies point in the same direction: it is easier to train and exercise outdoors than indoors. We assess that this is likely due to the experience of external stimuli outdoors competing with the internal stimuli from the effort of physical activity and reducing their share of stimuli reaching the consciousness, says Professor Peter Schantz, who was responsible for the study.

– The results suggest that greener outdoor environments can be particularly beneficial in leading to more physical work at a particular effort, but this needs to be studied more thoroughly to ensure such an effect, says Peter Schantz.

The study is published in PLOS ON External link, opens in new window.

The study is also published in GIH´s publication database External link, opens in new window..

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Last modified:4 Jun 2024