July 09, 2021

Five Reasons Colleges Make Outdoor Fitness Part of Campus Recreation

Most colleges and universities have guidelines for the amount of square footage per student they should provide for indoor recreation or health training. As enrollment increases and indoor space becomes less abundant, campus recreation departments utilize outdoor areas to provide health education and fitness training. 



Let’s take a look at how augmenting your indoor training space with outdoor fitness areas can increase your capacity and further enhance student quality of life. 

1. Vitamin D - The Sun’s Gift to Your Health

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average full-time college student is indoors ⅔ of the day. That much time spent indoors can lead to a Vitamin D deficiency. 

When students are deficient in Vitamin D, they experience weakened immune systems, higher levels of inflammation, depressed mood, and poor bone health. The good news is spending as little as 10-30 minutes outdoors two to three days a week can help your body maintain healthy levels of Vitamin D. 

2. Outdoor Exercise Challenges the Body and Mind in New Ways

When you train outdoors, changes in the environment and terrain force you to adapt to your surroundings. You work in new and different ways to sustain your movements and to focus on the exercise. 

For example, running on a treadmill is a somewhat repetitive exercise with little change or variation. Running outdoors, by comparison, introduces variability to the terrain, elevation, and required effort. This kind of variation to your workout can make it more beneficial and reduce the likelihood of adaptation by various muscle groups. 

For more variety, many colleges install outdoor fitness equipment like THRIVE. THRIVE functional fitness trainers offer multiple exercise stations in one compact design. As many as 20 people can participate in a group training session in as little as 250 square feet. 

3. Outdoor Fitness is a Social Experience

Colleges that implement outdoor training and workouts report an increase in participation among peers. Students enjoy meeting one another for a workout or a jog around campus. It encourages social interaction that is essential to improving quality of life. 

Moreover, there is an added degree of accountability that comes with exercising outdoors. If you have a standing appointment to join your friends at a boot camp class or on a group run, you’re more likely to attend. 

4. It Makes Exercise More Fun and Enjoyable

College can be tough on students, both physically and emotionally. Being outdoors in nature is linked to a positive mood and reduced anxiety–so is exercise. When you combine the two, you increase the enjoyment of working out by orders of magnitude. 

At the College of William & Mary, students encourage other students to spend time outdoors during exam time. They hand out nature maps, tips for anxiety relief, and different ways to deal with the stresses of college life. At UC Davis, students are encouraged to spend time outdoors engaged in fun, physical activity as part of a NatureRx class

These efforts to encourage students to be active outdoors generate positive results, such as:

  • Improvements to cognitive ability to concentrate and increase attention span
  • Elevated mood and improved sense of overall happiness
  • Reduced physical and psychological stress
  • Increased social connections and improved quality of social relationships
  • Improvements to overall physical health and mental well-being

5. Outdoor Exercise Generates Results Quickly

One of the most extraordinary things about exercising outdoors is how quickly students see results, both physically and emotionally. In as little as 120 minutes per week, the cognitive and emotional benefits begin to accrue. Students see improvements to their physical health in a similar time frame. 

And it can be easy for students to add exercise time to their schedule. A 30-minute outdoor fitness training each weekday will do the trick, or a few jogs through the week with a long hike on the weekend will work. The important thing is to make spending active time outdoors a habit and a priority. 

Make Outdoor Fitness Part of Your Campus

Outdoor exercise offers many unique benefits for college students. Students who spend time exercising outdoors experience improved mood, better focus and concentration, and reduced stress. By providing outdoor training spaces, your campus recreation department can free up indoor space and help students realize the benefits of exercising outdoors. 

If you're interested in planning an outdoor fitness area or adding outdoor fitness equipment to your campus, contact the GameTime representative near you.