On The Table

A collection of knowledge-based articles to inspire overall wellness.

Going to the Gym vs. Outdoor Exercise

Exercising anywhere is beneficial for health but different workout spots can offer added benefits and, thus, results. Explore the gym vs outdoor exercise and which one to choose.

Going to the Gym vs. Outdoor Exercise

Exercising anywhere is beneficial for optimal health. However, different workout areas and places can offer added benefits and, thus, results.

While the style of movement and actual exercises are certainly important, other aspects matter and can truly uplevel results depending on personal goals. Gyms with fancy equipment can be very helpful, but the benefits of outdoor exercise may exceed them related to the numerous benefits of nature and outdoor essence.

Still, choosing the gym versus outdoor exercise depends solely on one's individual goals. Time to explore the gym vs outdoor exercise and weigh the potential pros and cons!

Benefits of Exercising Outside

The benefits of exercising outside have little to do with the actual kind or type of exercise and instead, revolve around the atmosphere of the workout. Here are how a few different aspects of the outdoor atmosphere can lead you to the best results.

Fresh Air

Often taken for granted, fresh air provides a slew of physical and mental health benefits. One being, it amps up the effectiveness of a workout.

Why? One systematic review and meta-analysis determined the outdoors are associated with wide-ranging health benefits like decreased cortisol, heart rate, and blood pressure. Outdoor exercise may also increase the good cholesterol known as HDL.

In addition, it showed significant reductions in incidences of type II diabetes, all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, and better pregnancy outcomes (Twohig-Bennett).


Research shows that immersion in nature can reduce the risk of illnesses involving chronic stress and promote increased well-being. While those are fairly generalized outcomes, nature and natural features help reduce stress, which is a secret culprit of many chronic diseases and every day sicknesses.

Interesting and promising, experiments have determined that "green exercise" (working out in nature) is more psychologically beneficial than the same exact exercise in a setting with a relatively minimal nature. Meaning, walking outdoors is more beneficial towards overall health than walking on a treadmill inside.


The monumental benefits of sunshine are frequently overlooked. But getting some natural light every single day leads to many benefits such as:

• Helping to regulate the circadian rhythm
• Providing a bioavailable form of Vitamin D
• Enhancing energy generation in the muscles, meaning one might be able to a near maximum capacity of working out

Plus, natural light and sun exposure can also boost mood! Really, sunshine can make one feel good and reap undoubted mental and physical health benefits.


Lastly, exercising outdoors can be nearly free. Beyond any equipment needed for a specific workout, the outdoors does not require a membership or fee.

An inexpensive option is great for the person who is pretty motivated and enjoys the ease of being able to work out whenever they want at little to no cost.


Choosing the great outdoors also allows you to exercise with your pet! There are so many ways to enjoy an outdoor workout with your furry friend, including taking a trip to the dog park and hitting the trails.

Your pet can be the inspiration or motivation you need to get moving. Besides, they will appreciate and enjoy the outdoor exercise just as much - if not more!

What the Gym Has to Offer

The gym may not offer the same well-being benefits outside, but it still offers ample advantages for certain groups of people.

More Advanced Equipment

If the ultimate goal is very specific and physique related, then certain advanced equipment is usually necessary. For example, bodybuilders follow a very specific workout split requiring a wide array of equipment to adequately challenge and build their muscles.

Although outdoor gyms do exist, more and more so in Europe, they rarely include the depth of equipment available at a gym.


Gyms, studios, and other indoor exercise spaces usually offer group workout classes. Such options are highly beneficial for those who need companionship to enjoy exercising.

While many people may be exercising outdoors at the same time, there is less sense of comradery and togetherness that flourishes in a more contained setting like a gym. Many people enjoy seeing friendly faces, getting ideas for new exercises, and the collectiveness of everyone doing something similar for the betterment of their health.

Overall, others can be motivating, and this is wonderful!

Certified Personal Trainers

While studios primarily only include group or personal trainers, many regular gyms do as well. Trainers at gyms are usually required to be certified by a governing body, which is helpful for validity and safety.

Any health or wellness guru can offer workout plans, but certified personal trainers truly know the evidence-based science and efficacy behind their programming. Personal trainers are also invaluable for helping with motivation, consistency, and individualized progression.


Inexpensiveness is a major benefit of exercising outdoors. Ironically, though, paying for a gym or studio membership is a benefit of the gym.

Paying or investing in yourself is an easy way to help keep accountability. When one assigns a monetary value to something, sticking with it becomes more likely.

Bottom Line: Which Is Best for You?

Based on individual goals, preferred atmosphere, and where you intuitively feel best- all judgment aside.

But, if intuition is a little lacking, utilize the following points to help guide a choice:

Being active outdoors is probably better for someone who:

• Has overall health goals more than physique-related
• Enjoys and appreciates fresh air and other natural elements
• Does not need a group workout to remain motivated
• Prefers little commute to a facility to workout
• Does not desire much equipment in their workout

The gym is probably better for someone who:

• Has very specific physique goals
• Enjoys lifting weights more than any other workout style
• Likes a group atmosphere and feel
• Does not mind commuting and potentially other regulations like the time the gym is open
• Thinks trying new machines or apparatuses is fun

But maybe you feel inclined to include both, and that is an option too! No matter which is chosen, reap the benefits of regular exercise and physical activity!


10 reasons why outdoor training is better than a gym workout. Lappset. http://www.lappset.com/News-and-updates/Blogs-and-articles/10-reasons-why-outdoor-training-is-better-than-a-gym-workout.

Hartig T, Mitchell R, Vries SD, Frumkin H. Nature and Health. Annual Review of Public Health. 2014;35(1):207-228. doi:10.1146/annurev-publhealth-032013-182443

Twohig-Bennett C, Jones A. The health benefits of the great outdoors: A systematic review and meta-analysis of greenspace exposure and health outcomes. Environmental Research. 2018;166:628-637. doi:10.1016/j.envres.2018.06.030