10 Outdoor Workouts to Add Fun to Your Fitness Routine

Discover ten exhilarating outdoor workouts to spice up your fitness routine! From trail running to beach volleyball, find fun ways to stay active outdoors.

A man performing a one-hand push-up outdoors.
by
Sarah Zimmer, PT, DPT
— Signos
PT, DPT
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Updated by

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Science-based and reviewed

Published:
May 20, 2024
April 9, 2024
— Updated:
April 9, 2024

Table of Contents

Are you waking up in the morning dreading yet another session of listening to the monotonous hum of the treadmill or staring at the sterile walls of the gym while doing the same six dumbbell exercises? Sometimes, the consistency of a daily exercise routine feels like a Groundhog’s Day of boredom and dwindling motivation. Doing the same workouts or going to the same gym every day can lead to a feeling of lackluster towards exercise, taking the pure enjoyment out of healthy movement. 

Research studies find some of the biggest reasons adults quit exercising are a lack of enjoyment, no motivation, and no social support.1 If you are less than thrilled about getting your workout in for the day, consider taking your workout session outdoors. Imagine running on the trails of the forest, playing volleyball on the sandy beach, or doing yoga on the lawn of your neighborhood park. Exercising outside provides a refreshing change of scenery while invigorating the mind, boosting physical fitness, and infusing a sense of adventure into your fitness routine. 

In this article, we'll explore how outdoor workouts can inject fun and excitement into your exercise routine while still providing fitness gains even outside of the gym. Check out the amazing benefits of moving your body outdoors and the list of outdoor activities that will challenge your body and ignite your passion for fitness.

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The Benefits of Outdoor Exercise

Venturing into the great outdoors for exercise offers a plethora of benefits that extend beyond just physical fitness. From the crisp air filling your lungs to the sun's warm embrace on your skin, outdoor workouts provide a refreshing escape from the confines of indoor gyms. Research shows exercising outside has a profound effect on various aspects of our mental health as well.1, 3, 6 In this section, we'll discuss the physical and mental advantages of outdoor exercise, leaving you incredibly eager to step outside and reap the rewards of mother nature’s playground. 

Physical Health Benefits of Exercise Outdoors

Outdoor workouts offer a unique array of physical benefits that can surpass those of exercise inside, away from the sun and nature. Choosing movement outside exposes individuals to natural elements like sunlight and fresh air, contributing to improved vitamin D and dopamine levels and overall respiratory health. In fact, research studies find that exposure to natural sunlight within the first hour of waking can help improve sleep quality, balance of melatonin and serotonin levels, and reduce cortisol levels.

Exercising outdoors also provides more dynamic environmental terrains such as rocky trails, sand, and grass, which helps engage a wider range of muscles, especially our stabilizing muscles (i.e., calves, glutes, core, etc.). Targeting these muscles in a different way enhances our overall strength, agility, and balance.2, 4 If you can't access a wide range of outdoor environments, find a park nearby with exercise equipment such as parallel bars, a pull-up bar, or a leg press machine. A recent study completed earlier this year (2024) found exercise on outdoor equipment to lead to “improvements in body composition, physical fitness, and physical health of middle-aged and older adults".5 

Mental Health Benefits of Exercise Outdoors

Beyond the physical advantages, outdoor exercise has profound mental health benefits. Being surrounded by nature has been shown to reduce stress levels and boost mood, thanks to the calming effect of green spaces and the release of endorphins during physical activity.6 The sense of freedom and exploration that comes with outdoor workouts fosters a deeper connection with the environment and promotes mindfulness, leading to improved focus and mental clarity.3 

Lastly, outdoor workouts offer a break from the routine and monotony of indoor environments, stimulating creativity and mental rejuvenation. The sense of accomplishment and exhilaration experienced after conquering outdoor challenges further boosts self-esteem and confidence, contributing to overall well-being.

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Learn More: </strong><a href="full-body-workout">Full Body Workout: 10 Minutes to Lower a Glucose Spike</a>.</p>

10 Outdoor Workouts to Spice up Your Routine

Two women preparing for outdoor yoga.

Add some fun to your workouts by trying some or all of these exhilarating outdoor activities guaranteed to inject excitement and variety into your routine. From high-energy activities like trail running and beach volleyball to more relaxed options such as outdoor yoga and kayaking, there's something for everyone to enjoy while breaking a sweat and improving your overall health in the great outdoors.

  1. Trail Running: Hit the trails for a dynamic cardio workout that engages various muscle groups while enjoying scenic views and challenging terrain. 
  2. Outdoor Yoga: Connect with nature and enhance flexibility, strength, and mindfulness through yoga poses practiced in outdoor settings, such as parks or beaches. 
  3. Beach Volleyball: Gather friends for a fun-filled game that improves agility, coordination, and cardiovascular endurance while soaking up the sun on sandy beach fronts.
  4. Rock Climbing: Challenge yourself mentally and physically as you scale natural rock formations, building strength, balance, and problem-solving skills. This may require some experience with practicing indoors first or asking friends to join you who know how to rock climb safely.
  5. Cycling: Explore scenic routes on two wheels, whether it's mountain biking through rugged trails or road cycling along picturesque countryside roads. Cycling offers a full-body cardio workout that is low-impact and easy for those with joint pain.
  6. Kayaking/Canoeing: Navigate tranquil waters while engaging the upper body and core muscles. Paddling a kayak or canoe provides a low-impact yet effective workout with opportunities for relaxation and adventurous exploration.
  7. Stand-up Paddleboarding (SUP): Test your balance and core strength as you paddle across calm waters standing on a board, enjoying a full-body workout with the added benefit of being surrounded by nature. Many recreation stores offer cheap rental fees to try stand-up paddle boarding for the day. 
  8. Outdoor Circuit Training or Boot Camps: Utilize park benches, stairs, and natural obstacles to create a customizable circuit workout, incorporating bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, push-ups, and jump roping for a total-body burn. Or, join a group fitness class held in parks or open spaces to participate in high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts combining cardio, strength, and flexibility exercises for a full-body burn.
  9. Hiking: Explore scenic trails at various difficulty levels, from strolls to challenging treks, to improve cardiovascular health, endurance, and lower body strength while connecting with nature. Hiking is an activity that can be done year-round with the right equipment and traction to avoid slipping on snow and ice. 
  10. Swimming: Find an outdoor pool or brave the natural waters of a nearby lake for a low-impact, full-body workout. Swimming provides an excellent cardiovascular workout while strengthening muscles and improving endurance. The soothing properties of water offer a therapeutic escape from the stresses of everyday life, making swimming a rejuvenating outdoor exercise option as well.

Incorporating these diverse outdoor workouts into your fitness routine allows you to transform exercise from a mundane task into an exhilarating adventure. Whether you prefer the tranquility of yoga in nature or the adrenaline rush of rock climbing, there's something for everyone to enjoy while reaping the physical and mental benefits of outdoor exercise. So, step outside, explore new horizons, and let the great outdoors inspire your fitness journey. 

Considerations Before Starting Outdoor Workouts

A man stretching on outdoor stairs.

Before venturing into the invigorating realm of outdoor workouts, it's essential to pause and consider several key factors to ensure safety and enjoyment. From understanding the environmental conditions to preparing adequately for the physical demands, these considerations can significantly impact the success and satisfaction of your outdoor fitness endeavors. 

Take time to assess factors such as weather, terrain, and personal fitness levels so you can confidently embark on your outdoor workout journey, knowing that you've equipped yourself with the necessary knowledge and precautions for a rewarding experience.

  • Ensure Proper Hydration: Bring an adequate amount of water, especially during hot weather or intense activities. 
  • Protect Yourself From Sun Exposure: It is important to layer your exposed skin with sunscreen of at least 30 SPF to reduce the chance of sunburn and the risk of skin cancers. Other ways to shield yourself from the sun are wearing a hat and sunglasses and dressing appropriately with moisture-wicking, breathable material. 
  • Select Appropriate Workout Locations: Consider environmental factors such as uneven terrain, elevation, weather conditions, and potential hazards like wildlife or traffic to mitigate risks and optimize your outdoor workout environment.
  • Stay Motivated: Vary your locations to keep things fresh and exciting, whether exploring different trails or discovering new parks. Additionally, consider inviting friends or joining outdoor fitness groups to foster accountability, social interaction, and a sense of camaraderie, making your workouts more enjoyable and sustainable in the long run. 
  • Incorporate Warm-up Exercises: Before starting any outdoor workout, make sure to incorporate a 5 to 10-minute warm-up to prevent injuries. Stretching major muscle groups (quads, calves, shoulders, chest, hamstrings, and hips) and elevating your heart rate by walking or jumping jacks are great ways to warm up before any outdoor activity. This is especially important when doing outdoor activities in the winter months!
  • Listen To Your Body: Modify your workout intensity or duration to avoid overexertion and ensure a safe and effective fitness experience. Take rest breaks as needed, and remember to carry water and snacks with you to avoid dehydration and hypoglycemia

Incorporating outdoor workouts into your fitness routine offers a multitude of benefits for both body and mind. By embracing the natural environment and exploring diverse activities, you can revitalize your exercise regimen, enhance physical fitness, and foster a deeper connection with nature and movement. Remember to prioritize safety by considering environmental factors, staying hydrated, and listening to your body's signals. Now it's time to step outside, breathe in the fresh air, and let the great outdoors inspire your journey to a healthier, happier you.

Learn More About How to Improve Blood Sugar Health With Signos’ Expert Advice

If you have more questions on improving your health, fitness, and nutrition, seek the expert advice of the Signos continuous glucose monitor and Signos team. A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) can give you the insights to make smarter nutrition and exercise choices. The Signos app provides a unique, personalized program to help you lose weight and reach your health goals. Take this quiz to see if Signos is a good fit for you and reach your goals faster than ever before.

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Also Read: </strong><a href="what-is-a-hiit-workout">What Is a HIIT Workout? The Top 8 Benefits</a>.</p>

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References

  1. Anderson CB. When more is better: number of motives and reasons for quitting as correlates of physical activity in women. Health Educ Res. 2003 Oct;18(5):525-37. doi: 10.1093/her/cyf041. PMID: 14572014.
  2. Twohig-Bennett, C., & Jones, A. (2018). The health benefits of the great outdoors: A systematic review and meta-analysis of greenspace exposure and health outcomes. Environmental research, 166, 628-637.
  3. Thompson Coon, J., Boddy, K., Stein, K., Whear, R., Barton, J., & Depledge, M. H. (2011). Does participating in physical activity in outdoor natural environments have a greater effect on physical and mental wellbeing than physical activity indoors? A systematic review. Environmental science & technology, 45(5), 1761-1772.
  4. Leadbetter, B., Sénéchal, M., Seaman, K., & Bouchard, D. R. (2024). Resistance Training on an Outdoor Exercise Structure Improves Lower-Body Relative Strength in Older Adults. Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine, 10, 23337214241232552.
  5. Marcos-Pardo, P. J., Espeso-García, A., Vaquero-Cristóbal, R., Abelleira-Lamela, T., & González-Gálvez, N. (2024, March). The Effect of Resistance Training with Outdoor Fitness Equipment on the Body Composition, Physical Fitness, and Physical Health of Middle-Aged and Older Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial. In Healthcare (Vol. 12, No. 7, p. 726). MDPI.
  6. Klaperski, S., Koch, E., Hewel, D., Schempp, A., & Müller, J. (2019). Optimizing mental health benefits of exercise: The influence of the exercise environment on acute stress levels and wellbeing. Mental Health & Prevention, 15, 200173.
  7. Mead M. N. (2008). Benefits of sunlight: a bright spot for human health. Environmental health perspectives, 116(4), A160–A167. https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.116-a160

About the author

Sarah is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, graduating from the University of Wisconsin Madison in 2017.

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Please note: The Signos team is committed to sharing insightful and actionable health articles that are backed by scientific research, supported by expert reviews, and vetted by experienced health editors. The Signos blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Read more about our editorial process and content philosophy here.

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