Take Your Workout Outside

You don’t have to go to the gym to be more active—try these fun outdoor activities instead and have a blast!

Exercising in the great outdoors does more than just provide better scenery. Nature, fresh air, and sunshine also seem to improve energy, reduce anger, and release tension, according to a research review in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. Test the theory with these alfresco activities and keep it going as summer morphs into fall. Your body and mind will thank you.


Here’s an activity you can do literally anywhere, from bona fide hiking trails to the perimeter of your local park to urban streets. At its most basic, hiking is walking with more oomph and determination. Make it tougher with rocky or uneven terrain and hills and you’ve got a lower body and cardio workout that’s hard to beat. Even better, it’s a great way to share time with friends, family, and even pets (or just your own thoughts if solo hiking suits). Best of all: It’s usually free.

Stand-up Paddleboarding

The “it” sport of the last few years, stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) is everywhere now. “It started on the coasts, but now you can find it on lakes, rivers, and reservoirs,” says Peter Panagiotis, a surf and SUP instructor in Narragansett, Rhode Island. “People love it because the learning curve is short, only about 20 minutes. You just have to learn how to stand and paddle on a big surfboard on the water.” Your core muscles in your torso will get an excellent workout. Lessons range from $60 to $120, including board and paddle rental. 

Cardio Tennis 

For tennis fans, summer starts with Wimbledon and closes out with the U.S. Open. Both events draw huge audiences. Tennis is also a simple and enjoyable way to get some outdoor exercise if it’s not so steamy out, when courts are usually easier to find (check local schools and parks). Technical skill is absolutely optional. Want to try something new with that racquet? Try Cardio Tennis, which is essentially tennis on steroids, with little concern whether shots are in or out. “Classes range from 4 to 10 people, and you have a coach putting you through a series of activities, games, and drills, so you’re hitting balls pretty much the entire hour,” says Mike Woody, the executive director of the Midland Community Tennis Center in Midland, Michigan. Fees average $12 to $15 an hour; check at your local tennis center to find sessions near you.

Speed Golf 

Don’t have time to spend four to five hours playing a round of golf? Try speed golf. “It’s a combination of running and golfing,” says Gretchen Johnson, who placed eighth in the 2012 Speedgolf World Championship—and she’d only been doing it a month. “You carry five to seven clubs and run between shots, so it only takes about an hour to complete a game.” Your course time is part of your score, and a few other differences set this sport apart from normal golf—but otherwise the rules and fees are similar. And even if you can’t see yourself trying speed golf, at least choose to walk rather than ride the cart when you go golfing.