Not to knock gyms, studio classes and at-home workouts, but there's nothing quite like the freeing feeling of an outdoor workout. Sunshine, fresh air, varied terrain — you won't find all those perks even in the fanciest of boutique gyms.
Outdoor workouts offer the same physical health benefits you look for in any indoor exercise, but research suggests there's a mental edge to taking your fitness outside: We tend to work out harder — without even realizing it — when we break a sweat in Mother Nature. We also have more fun.
Compared with indoor sweat sessions, exercising outside comes with a great mood boost, according to a March 2016 Mental Health and Physical Activity study. It also has the edge when it comes to reducing anxiety, per a June 2017 Frontiers in Psychology study.
"Not only does time seem to go by faster when you train outdoors, it can be more fun and the fresh air boosts energy levels," certified personal trainer Ramona Braganza, CPT, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
We couldn't agree more. So break into the sunshine with one (or all!) of these best outdoor workouts.
1. The Best Outdoor Workout for Class-Lovers: Bootcamps
Bootcamp workouts promise strength gains, improved cardio fitness and the potential to shed a few extra pounds (if that's a goal of yours), but an outdoor bootcamp workout in the invigorating fresh air and sunshine might also perk up your state of mind, according to a 2015 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
You can find outdoor workout bootcamps in local parks and other outdoor spaces, offering socially distanced classes. Or, you can build your own.
"If you're making your own outdoor bootcamp class, include a variety of compound exercises to get a total-body workout," New York-based certified personal trainer Carolina Araujo, CPT, says. "With moves like push-ups and squat variations, you'll burn more calories and you don't need a bunch of equipment."
Here's exactly what to look for in an outdoor bootcamp workout.
2. The Best Outdoor Workout for Vacation: Body-Weight Beach Sessions
While some people may think a perfect day at the beach is spent relaxing with a good book, we think you'll enjoy your seaside me-time even more after completing a good sweat session.
"Training on the beach is a fun experience but you'll want to avoid sand and sunburn in unwanted places, especially if you're doing mountain climbers," Araujo says. "Bring a larger towel or beach blanket and don't forget to wear sweat-proof sunscreen."
Break a sweat on the sand with this full-body beach workout.
3. Best Outdoor Workout for Parents: Playground Workouts
Next time you're at the playground, unleash your inner child. Playground workouts require some creativity, but you'll soon see swing sets as suspension trainers and picnic tables as weight benches loaded with the best outdoor exercise potential. And don't forget monkey bars.
With our tips for making the most of all that playground equipment and more, you'll engage all your muscles and flex your mind in a whole new way. Get started with a dynamic warm-up, especially if it's been a while since you last ran from the swings to the slide and back again.
"Just because your workout isn't taking place in the gym, doesn't mean you can skip your warm-up," Araujo says. "Considering playground workouts have you moving in a new way than most gym equipment, [warming up is] especially important."
Make for the monkey bars with this surprisingly fun playground workout.
4. Best Outdoor Workout for a Serious Sweat: HIIT Routines
You can do high-intensity interval training (aka HIIT) just about anywhere, anytime and without equipment — so why not try it outdoors?
Tread instructor for Peloton, Selena Samuela loves the creativity that comes with using the landscape around you in an outdoor HIIT session.
"When designing a HIIT workout of your own outside, take into consideration your surroundings," she says. "Body-weight [moves are] definitely the easiest and most user-friendly way to work out outside, but I love using nature as props."
Find out how to use a tree — yes, a tree! — in these four outdoor HIIT workouts.
5. Best Outdoor Workout for Homebodies: Backyard Gym Workouts
Working out at home is convenient, but staring at the same-old living room walls, basement clutter or garage cobwebs day after day isn't the most inspiring of workout views.
Setting up a backyard gym for your outdoor workouts could be the solution — and it's easier and more affordable than you might think. You'll want to consider weatherproofing your space, stocking up on versatile gym equipment and giving yourself enough room to really move.
Trainer Massy Arias demos the perfect backyard gym workout.
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: "Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation"
- League of American Bicyclists: "Where We Ride"
- Mental Health and Physical Activity: "Acute effects of outdoor physical activity on affect and psychological well-being in depressed patients – A preliminary study"
- Frontiers in Psychology: "The Relationship between the Physical Activity Environment, Nature Relatedness, Anxiety, and the Psychological Well-being Benefits of Regular Exercisers"