Is It Better to Work Out Inside or Outside?

Should you be hitting the gym or heading to the trails?

This story first appeared on

Nicole Meighan—With summer in full swing, it’s the perfect time to mix up your routine by taking your workout outside. After all, exercising outdoors may improve energy levels and decrease stress to a greater extent than working out inside. But if your habitat is more concrete jungle than bucolic park, don’t sweat it—there are plenty of benefits to exercising inside as well.

Getting Outdoors

According to one review that included more than 800 subjects, exercising outdoors came with a slew of benefits. Participants reported feelings of revitalization, decreased anger, and increased energy. Another study found that the outdoors have an overall positive effect on vitality, or your sense of enthusiasm, aliveness, and energy. Finally, simply spending more time outside has been shown to prevent increases in obesity among children.

And there are other perks. Vitamin D—one of the fat-soluble vitamins essential to strong bones and a healthy immune system—can be attained via sun exposure. While much debate exists around the guidelines, some researchers suggest that five to 30 minutes of sun exposure between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. at least twice a week is sufficient for vitamin D synthesis. Of course, this recommendation also comes with a caveat you already know: Always wear sunscreen and cover up when possible.

Likewise, if you’re outside, you need to pay attention to the weather. Both extreme heat and cold can pose a variety of issues. If you’re sweating during the summer, it’s important to know the symptoms ofdehydration and heat exhaustion. In the winter, experts advise you dress in multiple layers to stay warm and get familiar with the early signs of frostbite and hypothermia.

Taking It Inside

If you live in an area prone to air pollution (looking at you, L.A.), you may be better off working out indoors. Pollution and other environmental factors can also trigger respiratory problems like allergies and asthma.

Heading to the gym may also be a better option for those who need extra motivation to make their workout happen. One study found that people who work out with a partner are generally more motivated than solo exercisers.

In addition to the social environment offered at gyms, experts say that group workouts led by a certified instructor also ensure participants get a safe and effective workout, learn proper cues, and stay accountable—there's no skipping those hellish burpees you usually "forget" to do. Plus, you can continually try new, innovative workouts that you may not be able to do on your own.

And let’s face it, gyms have advantages no study needs to prove. Those hot, steamy showers, saunas, pools, and even spas can make any exercise experience feel a lot more luxe.

The Best of Both Worlds

In the end, you don’t have to choose just one. Some workout groups exist entirely outdoors, while lots of gyms offer seasonal classes outside.

As the line between indoor and outdoor exercise continues to blur, what’s becoming clear is that mixing up indoor and outdoor sessions is a great way to keep exercise exciting and, most importantly, fun.

Research Shows How to Boost Strength and Mobility
How Long Does It Actually Take to Get Out of Shape?
18 Ways to Change Up Your Running Routine

Let's Be Friends. Follow The Active Times on Facebook!

Most Recent

secrets to tell your doctor
Omitting these details could actually be dangerous
How to Save on a Disney Cruise & Other Secrets
Disney cruises are full of as many magical secrets as their parks
25 Haunted Houses You Can Actually Stay In
You’re in for a scare! Visit at your own risk.