Turning the Great Outdoors into Your Gym

If you’re looking for a new workout routine, it may be right outside your front door. With no membership fees, complicated equipment or crowded classes, the great outdoors can be an ideal place to exercise.

An outside workout can also pack a one-two punch of benefits. Studies have pointed to improvements in mental health and physical health when exercising in natural environments. Outdoor exercise was associated with greater feelings of revitalization and enjoyment; decreased stress, anger and depression; and increased energy. Studies show it may also feel less strenuous than an indoor workout, leading individuals to exercise more often.

Nolan Klinke, senior exercise specialist at Plus One Health Management Inc., confirms those benefits and adds another. “A lot of people these days struggle with getting to a gym. It’s fairly simple to just walk outside and use whatever space is available there. So psychologically there is a very good impact.”

Klinke also says it can be easy to get creative outdoors and push yourself by taking advantage of what you have around you.

“Use a park bench for step-ups, push-ups or lunges,” he says. “Even if you don’t have equipment with you, using your body weight can help you step up the intensity of a workout. You can find a hill to do hill sprints or a nearby tree limb for pullups.”

It’s important to consult your doctor before starting any new workout regimen, Klinke says. He advises outdoor exercisers to take proper precautions relating to the weather, including staying hydrated and applying sunscreen. “For the most part, having some sort of game plan and water will get you pretty far,” he adds. “Grab a buddy to help you stay accountable and be mindful of your limits.”

Ready to get started? Warm up by doing 30 seconds each of jogging in place, jumping jacks, high-knees, arm circles and deep lunges. Then check out this video for some outdoor workout inspiration.