4 Ways to Bring Your Workout Outdoors
Sunday, July 3, 2016
LifeTime WeightLoss in Exercise, Paul Kriegler, outdoor workouts

Summer brings many opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy the weather (especially up north). If you’re like me, the nicer weather also decreases time spent inside the gym working on a structured exercise program. At the same time, it opens a slew of additional workout benefits that have you returning to the club rejuvenated and in even better shape.

Some research on outdoor physical activity suggests that it can more positively affect attitude, workout consistency and compliance, boost energy, and instill greater feelings of revitalization or calmness compared to exercising indoors[i],[ii]. Even if those benefits are anecdotal, it’s worth trying at least a few creative ways to get moving outside.

Take a hike.

Plenty of “gym rats” despise traditional indoor cardio (but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done!). Hiking can be relaxing or taxing, depending on the trail you choose. But either way, it’s a great for exploring your environment, appreciating nature and bonding with your fellow trailblazers. If your program lacks low-intensity training, pick an easy trail and go on a nature walk. If you’re looking to add some stair-master-like challenge to your routine, scan the horizon for the highest peaks and set out for the summit.

Hiking away from most modern distractions will certainly give you time to reflect, see new sights and get plenty of fresh air — and it often won’t cost you a thing. If you’re lucky enough to live near some hilly, expansive terrain with miles of trails, toss some healthy snacks and water into your day-pack and take a hike!

Play at the park.

Maybe you’re not someone who wants to skip your total-body workout at the club just because it’s nice out. Well, consider making the nearest playground into your own pseudo-gym and plan your resistance or interval workouts there instead.

A park bench easily doubles as a step-up platform, triceps-dip station or modified push-up station. Monkey bars are a convenient substitute for a pull-up bar. The sand or soft playground surface is a perfect setting for low-impact plyometrics. And that path around the whole park? Yeah, that’s a built-in interval loop. It’s like Mother Nature wanted you to work out or something!

If you can’t separate yourself from traditional gym equipment for an entire workout, consider bringing a jump rope, resistance band and a kettlebell (or other transportable equipment) to make the park feel more like your “gym away from the gym.” Either way, you can certainly engineer a gym-worthy session at any old park.

Explore new roads (or paths).

This is one of my favorites, whether I’m travelling or staying in town. I love opening Google Maps and searching for a new route to experience either on foot or bike. You’ll be surprised how many interesting neighborhoods, parkways and bike trails there are for you to explore. Of course, living in the Minneapolis area may show a little bias on this matter (consistently voted in the top 3 most “bike-friendly” cities), but I’ve never had trouble finding places to explore when I travel.

Take to the roads, trails or pathways for anything from a 20-minute after-dinner walk to a half-day bike excursion around your town. When you realize how refreshing it is to break away from your standard routes, you’ll make this outdoor option into a regular occurrence in your wellness routine.

Hit the water.

Did you know humans who live near large bodies of water tend to be happier, more positive, have more peace-of-mind and more appreciation for magnitude or awe[iii]? Seriously, observational studies and surveys of coastal communities reveal that something about their environment (proximity to water, most notably) is transformative in some way — more so than any other social stimuli.

As this post is hitting your email inbox, I’ll be at one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes soaking up as much water activity as I can (10,000 is “Minnesota nice” for 11,842, but who’s counting?). Before my first cup of coffee each morning, I’ll have paddle-boarded around the entire lake, jumped off the dock for a peppermint soap bath and watched the bald eagles scrounge up some breakfast. As the temps heat up and the rest of the world wakes, I may challenge my grip strength with a few white-knuckle rides on a tube behind the speedboat before a relaxing kayak excursion.

Getting on or in the water (stand-up paddle boarding, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, waterskiing, etc.) is a great way to stay active away from the gym, but if you’re not one to get soaked, then even being near water is sure to bring peace and relaxation to your routine. Walk, jog or bike along the beach, around the lake or on a riverside trail and soak up all the benefits (and beauty) of the water in your area.

Enough reading for now. Pick one of the several ideas above and go enjoy some playtime in the great outdoors!

In health, Paul Kriegler, Registered Dietitian and Life Time - Nutrition Program Development Manager.

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.


[i] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21291246

[ii] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/aphw.12031/full

[iii] http://www.omicsonline.com/open-access/effects-of-the-coastal-environment-on-wellbeing-jczm-1000421.php?aid=70237

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