When it comes to getting in a great workout, it’s hard to beat the great outdoors. Whether you’ve got the Brooklyn Bridge, a Wyoming trailhead, a community park, or your own backyard—trading the gym (or home gym) for an outdoor workout comes with plenty of benefits for the mind and body alike. Especially when it comes to work-from-home life, breathing in fresh air does us more good than we often realize.
Before we dive into my top five favorite outdoor exercises, here’s are some benefits that convince me to get my blood pumping outside as often as possible:
- It’s easier to stay motivated—From hiking along paths to HIIT in the park, outdoor workout options are limitless!
- Outdoor exercises are healthy—They’re shown to have a strong positive effect on our mental wellbeing, including decreased anger, increased enthusiasm, more energy, boosted vitality, and, of course, a rise in vitamin D! [1, 2, 3]
- Change (of scenery) is good—Outdoor workouts add variety to your fitness routine and can help you stay focused, motivated, and excited to burn calories and build lean muscle. It’s also a great way to get to know your parks, neighborhood, and surrounding natural environment a little better.
1. Power Walking
Skeptical that walking can lead to weight loss? Well, just consider that a brisk half-hour walk will burn off 200 calories. It’s also been shown to strengthen your muscles, support your joints, and help improve your sleep quality—all of which are important for hitting your weight-loss goals.  But stretching your legs to shrink your waistline isn’t always a walk in the park. Check out our awesome beginner’s guide to walking off weight, including a 21-day walking plan designed to burn fat fast.
2. Tabata Cardio
Tabata is in the family of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), wherein you alternate between two high-intensity or anaerobic exercises in 20-second spurts with 10 seconds of rest in between each spurt, for 8 rounds (or a total of four minutes.) It gets your heart pumping fast and body burning cals. Tabata is a great outdoor workout you can do at the park, the beach, or your own backyard. Here’s a motivating breakdown of tabata cardio “for people who hate cardio.”
3. Full-Body AMRAP
As many reps as possible in 20 minutes (or however long you’d like). That’s what this exercise is asking of you. Up to the challenge? Burning as many calories as you can involves targeting as many muscles as you can. To do that, you’ll aim to fire specific muscle groups throughout your whole body, from head to toe, tummy to tush. Full-body AMRAP workouts are great outdoor exercises because you can burn A TON of calories in the span of your lunch break—with time to shower and re-glam. Here’s my favorite AMRAP workout to burn over 600 calories in under 20 minutes.
Jogging is one of the most beneficial outdoor exercises you can do for your body and mind alike. It not only improves cardiovascular, bone, and joint health, but it also improves mood and reduces stress. And yes, as you’d imagine, it certainly works to fend off weight. You can also change up your running to keep your jogs motivating and fun. For instance, trail running on the weekends, track running to build explosive muscle strength, or road jogging before work. Want to incorporate running into your routine for sure-fire results? We’ve paved the way (see what I did there 😏) with this 21-day running program for beginners that helps you work your way up to your first 5K run!
5. Micro-HIIT Workouts
When you want to burn big calories in a small amount of time, a solid micro High Intensity Interval Training routine is exactly what you need. Micro HIIT workouts are ideal for people with crazy-busy schedules, and you can easily accomplish a full, heart-pumping workout in just six minutes. Well, not “easily,” per se; your heart will be pounding! Take this specially designed 6-minute workout for busy women to a park or lawn for a fast and fun outdoor workout that will have you burning calories before your friends have finished brewing coffee.
How To Prepare For Outdoor Workouts
There are key differences between going to the gym and exercising outdoors, be it in the park, a backyard, or out in nature. The big one being that it’s more complicated to just stop and call it a sesh if you feel pooped. Factor in a host of other elements, from weather to careless drivers, and preparation is 100% necessary. Follow these quick tips for a safe, fun, and fat-burning outdoor workout.
Always have the appropriate gear
- Wear the correct shoes for your workout
- Bring safety equipment if needed (bicycle helmet or reflective clothing, for instance)
Know your environment
- Drink plenty of water especially if you drink pre-workout powders! Pre-workout drinks, like SkinnyFit Jump Start, are designed to give your body the boost of energy it needs to get through your workout, without the crash. Your body will be working harder so it’s important to replenish with a good amount of H20
- Wear sunscreen if need be
- Dress for the weather (layers, gloves, dry gear for colder days, for example)
- Be on the lookout for obstacles; gaze 10-15 feet ahead, not straight down
- Let someone know where you’re planning to workout
- Carry protective equipment, such as pepper spray, especially when working out in less-crowded areas
- Bring your phone
- Know your route, opt for jogs that have sidewalks or designated running paths when possible
- Face traffic when jogging
Take in nature!
- Converse with the environment (aloud or in your head), not about work, stress, etc.
- Forget the earbuds—let nature speak to you! (Also good for safety)
- Put your phone on silent (it’s a safety device until you’re finished!)
- Try identifying sounds, smells, etc. as you workout. It’s also a great distraction from exhaustion
- Find a beach, lake, forest, wilderness habitat to exercise and reconnect with Mother Earth 🌎
There’s nothing like an outdoor workout. The outdoor exercises above are made to get your heart pumping, calories burning, and mental space cleared. But they’re also just a starting point. Familiarize yourself with the detailed breakdowns linked in each one, but don’t be afraid to safely explore other other outdoor exercises, such as hiking, rock climbing, rowing… or any other activity that incorporates your surroundings—even if they’re urban ones! You may find that you’re not only more fit but more appreciative of the environment around you.