The next time you have a choice between walking on a treadmill or around an outdoor track, choose the track. Or, better yet, take a nature trail. Here’s why outdoor exercise trumps indoor exercise every time:

  • First: You’ll burn more calories and build more muscle. A study in the Journal of Sports Science shows that using a nature trail uses more energy and works out a wider variety of muscles than a treadmill. That’s because wind resistance, slope changes, uneven footing, and navigating twists-and-turns are more physically challenging than a walking on a steady, flat machine. 

  • Another reason to exercise outside: You’re more likely to stick with it. A recent public health study had volunteers do identical exercises indoors and out. It didn’t take long before the volunteers started dreading their time on the exercise machines. But they continued to look forward to doing the same routine outdoors. In fact, even though both workouts took the same amount of time, everyone said the outdoor workout felt shorter. That’s because walking on a trail instead of a treadmill gave them something other than a calorie counter to look at and think about.

  • The final reason it’s smart to exercise outside: It improves your mood. Researchers asked people with heart disease, cancer, and dementia to go on a nature walk. The result: All of them reported feeling happier, more focused, and less anxious than those who walked indoors.