Open Air Exercise

Nature gets us moving

Being active and spending time in nature is part of Finnish culture, lifestyle and recreation. Finns prefer getting their exercise in a pristine or developed natural environment. When exercising in a natural environment, you are paying attention to far more than just the exercise itself. This is why many people feel that exercising in nature is less work than when exercising indoors.  Varied terrain also gets you to step a bit more lively then when walking around a city. 

Two snowshoers in Riisitunturi National Park. Photo: Metsähallitus/ Sini Salmirinne

At Metsähallitus, the concept of nature exercise is defined rather broadly. Nature exercise can be compared to, for example, outdoor activities or nature recreation, and include everything from birdwatching and trail running to geocaching and mountain biking.  Nature exercise can also be said to offer the positive impacts of exercise combined with the health and well-being impacts of the natural environment.  
Many people simply experience a sense of health and well-being after getting exercise in nature. The more exercise you get in nature, the greater the impact nature will have on well-being. Indeed, it has been found that people who exercise outdoors are more likely to keep it up than those who exercise indoors. 

Nature is the Best Playground for Children

Winding trails, rocks and tree stumps feed children's imaginations and naturally motivate them to get active: climbing, jumping and running as well as imaginative free play. All of these have a significant impact on a child's development. Motor skills help the child to learn, come up with ideas and develop their problem-solving skills. Nature also has a calming influence on restlessness and disruptive behaviour in children. Forming a strong bond with nature in childhood will serve the child well for the rest of their life. 

Child on a nature path in Leivonmäki National Park. Photo: Metsähallitus/ Maija Mikkola

According to an ODL Sports Clinic and University of Oulu study (2018), a strong bond with nature should also be cultivated in adolescents.  According to the study, young men that have a strong relationship with nature exercise more and feel healthier. They also exercised together with their parents in childhood and in the present as opposed to youths that have a weak relationship with nature. 

Independent and Guided Exercise in Nature

Nature is a diverse and, in most cases, free place to exercise independently. Activity service providers often operate at nature destinations, whose services make it easy for you get out into nature and try new forms of nature exercise. It is also a good idea to check what local organisations offer to see if they have anything that meets your nature exercise needs.  

Photo: Petri Jauhiainen

Health Benefits from Exercising in Nature

Studies show that you will achieve significant health benefits by walking briskly five or more days every week for a total of 2.5 hours or, if running or jogging, a total of 1 hour 15 minutes a week. The benefits include better weight management and regulation of blood pressure, blood sugar balance and cholesterol levels.

Regular exercise and avoiding sitting for extended periods of time prevent chronic illnesses, such as cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and musculoskeletal problems.  Regular exercise is just as important to your overall health as not smoking! 

Paddling in Repovesi National Park. Photo: Metsähallitus/ Saara Lavi

Additional Information on the Health Impacts of Being in Nature