Outdoor fitness is the very best for your health. So if you have a patio, yard or nearby park, take advantage of it and exercise in the fresh air and healing environment of the great outdoors.
Even though I co-created the My Gym Trainer manuals of gym workouts for beginners, intermediate and advanced, my favorite place to workout is outdoors.
I grew up in Hawaii in the sun and surf all day most every day in the summers, and every weekend during the school year. That was long before we knew the sun was bad for the skin. So I’ve got all the “sun-kissed” spots and wrinkles but still love being surrounded by nature and the active outdoor lifestyle whenever I can.
Just remember your all natural sunscreen! We use Alba.
Fresh Air and Sunshine Improve Mood and Mind
We’ve all noticed that sunshine and fresh air have a positive effect on most of us. Just consider the throngs of happy people making their way outside to grassy knolls and park strolls as they enjoy sunshine in the spring.
There’s lots of research to tell us that absence of sun can lead to depressions and impair cognitive functioning. What you probably know through observation of yourself and others, fresh air and sunshine boost mood and improve brain power.1)http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2005.01602.x
What may be a little less obvious bit of information is the fact that people who engage in outdoor fitness tend to exercise more. Walkers walk faster, with more of a lilt in their steps and because of the enjoyment of the scenery and greenery, they and tend to walk longer with greater enjoyment. 2)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28375192
Studies show that fresh air and sunshine boost mood and mind. But… you probably didn’t need a study to tell you that, did you?
Outdoor workouts are not only even more uplifting and energizing than indoor workouts, they’re actually also better for your health. In fact, indoor workouts in crowded spaces can actually have some harmful side effects.3)https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/article/biohacking-articles/gym-outdoor-air-pollution/
The research on “green exercise” (exercise and activity in the great outdoors), is fascinating. The concept of outdoor exercise is so powerful, that people on indoor cardio machines experienced elevated moods just from viewing images of lovely nature scenes while on indoor treadmills or cycles. Further, people who exercised outdoors or while viewing natural images of the outdoors, exercised longer and harder than those who were just exercising.4)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/164167505)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3710158/#B5
Outdoor Exercise Benefits
Outdoor fitness provides the usual health benefits associated with exercise, as well as:
- 88% improved health amongst those with several mental health problems6)https://www1.essex.ac.uk/news/event.aspx?e_id=2959
- Reduces cortisol, blood pressure, reduced pulse and improved nervous system functioning7)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19568835
- People naturally exercise longer and more vigorously, when exercising outside or exposed to nature.8)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3710158/#B5
- Reduced negative rumination and depressive tendencies.9)http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2015/06/23/1510459112
Research reveals that outdoor fitness is better for your health. Take your exercise outside whenever you can!
Exercise First, No Matter Where
If you don’t have access to outdoor exercise places and spaces, don’t worry. What’s most important is that you’re exercising. If you don’t live in an area conducive to clean air outdoor fitness, there are other things you can do to help you benefit from the connection with nature, which we’ll discuss further down in this article.
Exercise, combined with a healthy diet, is vital for an optimal life, no matter where and what kind of exercise you do. But if you can incorporate outdoor fitness for a portion of your workout regimen, then do it! If you’re concerned about city pollution, we’re linking best and worst polluted cities at the end.
What’s more important than the equipment you use or the workouts you choose is to get started, and make it a habit.
No Outdoor Fitness Equipment Needed
First off, you don’t need outdoor exercise equipment. You can get started with just body weight exercises and cardio. What’s more important than the equipment you use or the workouts you choose is to get started.
Just Start – Exercises Without Fitness Equipment
- Walk – Brisk walks with deep breaths in fresh air and sunshine for vitamins D & K
- Stairs! Look for steps and stairs and take as many as you can, preferably two at a time
- Abs – Alternate walking and/or jogging with knee-ups (alternating knees to your chest); this elevates your cardio while working your abdominal muscles as well as your thighs and glutes.
For outdoor workout plans, you may enjoy the My Trainer Fitness Outdoor Workouts.
Don’t delay your health and fitness. Just start. Establish the habit of regular fitness breaks and you can add the equipment, clothing and accessories over time.
Outdoor Fitness for Fresh Air Fun
Contributed by Carrie Tidwell
Outdoor fitness in the fresh air is beneficial, with opportunities year round for seasonal fun.
In spring and summer is people everywhere want to get outside and away from their hibernation in the gym. Being active throughout the day has been found to be more important than exercising once a day, so take full advantage of the season.
Think outside the gym and hit the trails or rapids. Here are some of our favorites…what are yours? We’d love to hear what you’ve done or are planning to do!
NOTE: Most of these can be done at a beginner level or even advanced, so choose the outdoor exercise and adventure that’s the right thing at the right time of year for you.
The Outdoor Fitness a Lifestyle
We’re listing these alphabetically, so you can scroll to search if you need to.
Biking is one of our all time favorite exercises. In fact we try to bike daily in all but the hottest and coldest weather. Usually, we bike in our neighborhood which has two hefty hills, so it’s a great cardio, leg and glutes workout with some upper body benefit as we pull on the handlebars as we power up the hills.
For longer treks, there’s a seven mile lake trail 20 minutes away, and a number of great biking trails within a couple hours drive that make for a great full day of outdoor exercise in nature.
You can get all kinds of bike racks to suit your needs. As a family of four needing to haul four bikes, we’ve enjoyed our Saris 4-bike hitch rack for years. The more recent Saris 4-bike rack is even light, leaner and better than our original that we’ve had for around eight years.
Hiking is a great way to get into the heart of nature. Be sure to pack light and don’t forget the camera! This is your time to unwind and stop to smell the flowers, so enjoy the journey.
A good way to find trails near you is to check out the All Trails App and/or website: www.alltrails.com.
Remember the hiker motto: Take only pictures, leave only footprints.
Exploring a cave can be a great way to avoid the heat of summer. Be sure to look for guided cave tours if you are new to the caving-scene.
Most caves stay at a cool 55° during the entire year, so dress for the occasion. Did you know that the world’s longest known cave system, with more than 390 miles explored is right here in the United States? Yep! Mammoth Cave located (underneath) Cave City, Kentucky.
GEOCACHING and POKEMONGO
If you enjoy suspense and treasure hunt mystery games, you might check out Geocaching and Pokemongo. Most popular at their height in 2016, if you enjoy games and puzzles, you may enjoy these active adventure games. These are especially good for city areas where you can exercise by walking or jogging from place to place.
Participants navigate to a specific set of GPS coordinates and then attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. This can also be a fun thing to do for a day trip somewhere. Make the geocache your end point, but allow several stops on the way to see some local color. You can learn more by visiting the Geocaching hub at www.geocaching.com, set up your free account and start your search!
Some retail sports stores actually have rock climbing right in the store, and encourage people to give it a try. Give it your all and climb as far as you can! The view from the top is always worth it. If you feel this is a bit too easy for you and want to give the real thing a try – look for beginner’s courses with guides to help you along.
Look for outdoor climbing walls for practice, and then you’ll be ready to sign up for a for a real rock climbing outing with pros.
We linked a list of indoor climbing gyms in our reference list, or you can just Google, ‘climbing walls near me’.10)http://www.indoorclimbing.com/worldgyms.html
Climbing Walls are Great for Family Outdoor Fitness Fun
To some, whitewater sports could seem extreme, but there are some rivers that are a bit tamer and not so forceful. Look for rafting companies that offer optional guided tours. This should let you know that with or without a guide the river should be doable for most people. RaftingAmerica.com has a great guide as well as a section for ‘First Time Rafters’.11)https://www.raftingamerica.com/
The level for zip lining typically depends on the height of the cable and the terrain and trees of the area. Ziplines can be suspended as high as the treetops, or even traversing large valleys. You can even find some zip lines in playgrounds!
Whichever level you choose, you are safely strapped into a harness, attached to a very strong cable and you simply hold on and enjoy the ride. Don’t just focus on the cable, or where you’re headed, look around—see what there is to see—you may never come this way again.
To find a great Zipline near you, check out the Top Ten Zip Lines in the US:
Gyms are often Germy and Polluted
Gyms are not the healthiest places. Sure… exercising anywhere will help you become healthier. However, studies have shown high levels of indoor air pollutants associated with breath, detox and chemicals in interior materials. In addition, bacterial and fungal exposure is definitely something to guard against.12)https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S036013231400285613)https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/article/biohacking-articles/gym-outdoor-air-pollution/
The most important message of this entire article is to prioritize exercise. The second is to enjoy the great outdoors, breathing in fresh air, sunshine and vitality whenever you can.. Remember natural sunscreen, as needed, and always drink plenty of water to keep hydrated too.
Nature is nurture, and getting close to nature brings you closer to you!
~LeAura Alderson, MyTrainerFitness.com
For fun outdoor workouts for kids, check out the My Trainer Fitness for Kids workout cards.
Contributing author, Carrie Tidwell is a writer, fitness instructor, marathoner, and wellness coach living and enjoying nature in the mountains of Georgia.
Hello! I’m LeAura, a former homeschooling mom, fitness professional, entrepreneur, author, ideator, web publisher, and podcaster, passionate about helping others achieve their best possible life! I’m the owner of this site and a few others that I run along with my entrepreneurial family in areas that interest us, because we love to create and we love to share! If you really want to know more about me, you can check our ‘About’ page. (And while you’re there, please tell me about you)!
We haven’t created our family publishing company site yet, but as soon as we do we’ll link that here. Meanwhile, if you’re into gardening, you can see our gardening site, And, if you’re into creating anything, please visit our creators site, iCreateDaily.com.
Thanks for reading… take care and be fit!
LeAura Alderson, owner, MyTrainerFitness.com
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