Researchers at Yale and Oxford have made a groundbreaking discovery: a recently published study of 1.2 million adults found that those who exercised for just 30-60 minutes, 3-5 times a week, had 40% better mental health than those who didn’t exercise. 

Most importantly, their definition of exercise was incredibly broad; including “snow shovelling” and “hunting large game”.  What does this mean for today’s men? It’s simple: if the gym isn’t for you, don’t go. Exercise has many positive effects on mental health, but where you choose to do it is up to you.  In fact, just getting into the great outdoors for half an hour each day can be hugely effective and rewarding.

Stress busting

Several studies have found that exercising reduces levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, in the body.  Scientists have also found numerous physical health benefits to being outside, including lowering blood pressure and fighting depression. 

Whether you go for a run on your lunch break, walk the dog with your family in the evening, or play a round of golf with friends, physical activity plus time spent outdoors should soon add up to less stress

If you still find yourself feeling depressed or angry, consider checking in with your doctor; some personality types are more prone to anger, for example, and you may need a little extra support to help you feel your best.

A dose of sunshine

Another advantage of exercising outside is the opportunity to soak up a little sunshine, which your body needs in order to make vitamin D.  An estimated 1 billion people worldwide are deficient in vitamin D, and it has a real impact on mental health; low levels of this vitamin can result in depression, fatigue and a weakened immune system

It can also cause hair loss and various physical pains which can make you feel incredibly low. While you can try to boost your vitamin D through supplements or eating fatty fish or fortified dairy products, that half hour stroll in the park is the most effective option.

Free and easy

Perhaps the best part about exercising outdoors is that it’s free!  It’ll cost you nothing to fly a kite with the kids for half an hour, or lace up your old sneakers, dig out your racket and invite a friend or colleague for a game of tennis. 

It’s also an easy way to open up discussions and chat freely, hearing about someone else’s day and telling them about yours. When it comes to mental health, men are often reluctant to talk about their problems, but opening up is one of the best ways to make a difference.

The link between exercise and improved mental health is increasingly well documented, but for a further boost to your wellbeing, try taking that exercise outdoors. 

Remember, it can be anything physical that you enjoy; pumping iron is not mandatory. For reducing stress, boosting your vitamin supplies and giving you an opportunity to talk and to listen, you can’t beat the beauty of the great outdoors.