How Exercising in Nature Helps Prevent Occupational Burnout

View all blog posts under Articles | View all blog posts under Online Master of Science In Nursing

Occupational burnout is a growing concern in the global workforce. Each year, over $300 billion in profits is lost due to employees feeling overworked, drained of energy, and unable to put their best foot forward in the workplace each day. Studies covering Asia, America, and the Middle East have confirmed that 60 percent of public sector and 40 percent of private sector employees reported experiencing high levels of burnout.

Woman doing yoga in front of the beach

Researchers have begun to explore interventions that will help employees in any industry avoid the physical, emotional, and behavioral toll that burnout inflicts on employees. For many, outdoor activity and exercise was a key component to increasing positive well-being, perceived stress, and emotional exhaustion in the workplace.

What is Occupational Burnout?

Burnout is a state of emotional, mental, and physical distress that occurs when employees become overwhelmed, emotionally drained, or dispassionate about the tasks they are assigned on a day-to-day basis at work. As that stress continues to build, many employees leave work questioning their interest in the work they do, sapped of energy, and wondering if they will able to continue with the work they do.

Burnout doesn’t only affect one’s work life, however. The negative effects of burnout can transcend to impact your social, and home life, and the physical effects of this stress can make you more susceptible to falling ill.

The signs and symptoms of occupational burnout vary from person-to-person. The beginning stages are often subtle, but grow incrementally over time. As such it’s important to pay attention to the symptoms, which can manifest physically, emotionally, and behaviorally.

Physical Symptoms of Occupational Burnout

• Feeling overly tired and drained after a day’s of work
• Compromised immune system
• Tension headaches or muscle pain
• Trouble sleeping

Emotional Symptoms

• Self-doubt
• Feeling defeated or alone in the world
• Lack of motivation or sense of accomplishment
• Negative and cynical thoughts

Behavioral Symptoms

• Withdrawing from responsibilities and passions
• Isolating yourself
• Procrastinating and avoiding responsibilities
• Using substances to cope with stress
• Avoiding coming to work

It is important to know, however, that stress and burnout are not the same. Research has shown that a certain amount of stress is healthy, and can be used as a motivator to meet goals. Stress can lead to burnout when an individual puts forth a disproportionate amount of effort without taking in what is necessary to regain balance from that stress.

The Effects of Exercise in Nature

While occupational burnout is a normal occurrence in any number of industries, there are a number of studies that suggest that exercising can make a significant difference in combating burnout, especially if that activity takes place outdoors.

The physical benefits of exercise have been widely documented, helping individuals maintain their mental health, reducing fatigue, and improving overall cognitive function. By simply taking your activity outdoors, the benefits are even more substantial.

According to a recent study, individuals who exercised outdoors experienced greater feelings of revitalization, had increased energy, and reduced tension, confusion, anger and depression.

“The hypothesis that there are added beneficial effects to be gained from exercising in the natural environment is very appealing and has generating considerable interest,” notes research fellow Dr. Jo Thompson-Coon. “By using the data currently available to us we have added strength to the link between mental and physical well-being and outdoor exercise, but further research and longer, tailor-made and focused trials are needed to better understand this link.”

Additional studies have confirmed the positive correlation between exercise and a reduction of psychological stress. Outdoor exercise was strongly associated with increased energy and revitalization, as well as decreased confusion, anger, depression, and tension, when compared to exercising indoors. Additionally, outdoor fitness has been proven to be an easier regimen to commit to long term.

Occupational burnout is a costly and very real part of the modern workforce, costing employers millions of dollars each year. For employees, burnout can come in many forms, affecting your physical, mental, and behavioral health. New research has found that by exercising outdoors, employees will feel more revitalized, less tense, and more ready to tackle tasks the next day.

With burnout being such a profound issue in our society, it is of vital importance that nurses learn to recognize the signs of burnout, and how to help their patients cope with and eliminate stressors that contribute to occupational burnout. Those who earn their Master of Science in Nursing from Ohio University will be well on their way to empower patients with information and practical advice allowing them to be less stressed and thrive in the workplace.

National Institutes of Health: Reducing Workplace Burnout
Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Physical Activity Reduces Stress
Science Daily: Benefits of Outdoor Exercise Confirmed
Fox News: 5 Unexpected Benefits of Exercising Outdoors