College and Outdoor Fitness is a Natural Fit


Outdoor fitness is good for everyone—especially college students.  Here’s why.

College students spend most of their time indoors, under artificial lighting, breathing reconditioned air, surrounded with electronic white noise.  Exercising in a gym or health club provides the same exact environment.  

We need a better place to decompress and recharge and it’s outside.  Humans need nature, sunlight, and fresh air.  Just being in a natural environment has been shown to decrease tension, blood pressure, anxiety, and depression.  Then there’s natural sunlight, which elevates mood, happiness, positivity, and mental health. 

And fresh air raises serotonin levels, which helps regulate natural sleep cycles, and it’s an anti-depressant.  There’s a common theme here.  A good one.

College students are under a lot pressures, beyond just the coursework: social anxieties, leaving the comfort of home, finances, peer pressure, parental expectations, personal responsibilities, and career aspirations to name just a few.  

So, we see the benefits of being outdoors, but why exercise?  Why move?  For the cerebellum, of course.  This part of the brain that processes movement is the same part of the brain responsible for learning. 

So many studies have shown that aerobic exercise improves many aspects of cognitive function, such as memory, decision-making, problem solving, and attention. 

But what about strength exercises?  Resistance training has been shown to improve “executive function,” such as the ability to selectively pay attention to your professor, instead of your iPhone. For that benefit alone, do we need to say more?  Other executive functions are the ability to think before you act (inhibitory control), cognitive flexibility, and the capacity to hold information in your mind and manipulate it.  Good for all of us, but especially for college students.

To summarize, outdoor exercise helps us to decompress, relax, improve sleep, fight depression and anxiety, while elevating mood, positivity, and overall mental health.  It improves brain function, neuroplasticity, memory, problem solving, attention, and cognitive flexibility.  

If I were a professor, I’d want all my students to get some outdoor fitness.