Exercising in nature: How to make the great outdoors your gym

Nov 30, 2022 — Carl Smith
Exercising in nature: How to make the great outdoors your gym

Even if the weather is getting chillier, it’s still great for your health to take your workout outside. So, how can you make the most of exercising outside? Here, Carl Smith, Head Buyer from Start Fitness tells you how.

It can be tempting to stay inside and avoid the chillier weather during the winter months, but being active is important all year round as it brings us a whole host of benefits. Added to this, some sports studies have found that exercising in colder weather can actually help boost your immune system, and assist with alleviating Seasonal Affective Disorder (Better).

We all know that exercise brings a wealth of benefits for our physical and mental health, but taking our workout outside can allow us to reap the positive aspects of spending time outdoors too. Spending time in nature is excellent for both our mental and physical health, as it can boost your mood, reduce signs of stress, and improve your self-esteem (Mind). You might also find that getting outside helps encourage you to focus more on yourself, away from everyday distractions. Try adding some mindfulness techniques to your workouts, such as meditation or breathing exercises. These can help to lower stress, and help you focus on the rest of your fitness session.

It's well worth figuring out how to take your usual exercise regimen outside, whatever the season or weather. There are lots of ways to do this, and below we'll take you through some ideas to help get you started.

Take some equipment

When working out in nature, you won’t be able to access the gym equipment that you usually use for your training. So, there are a number of options you can choose. The first is sticking to bodyweight exercises, which you can perform without bringing anything with you — this includes press ups, sit ups, crunches, and other exercises that can be invigorating without requiring you to pack anything extra.

However, if you want to have a full workout outdoors, you'll need to take some things with you. You might choose to keep it simple and only take a yoga mat, as this can allow you to do some relaxing yoga and Pilates routines outside in the sun. Or, you might choose to take some adjustable weights, a jump rope, or suspension trainers to really get the most out of your session.

Remember that you'll also need comfortable clothes appropriate for the weather, so make sure to add anything that will be useful in addition to your usual gym attire, such as a fold-up raincoat just in case of a downpour. You might also need more durable shoes for running or exercising outside as opposed to indoors.

Find new locations

Whatever you'll be doing in your exercise sessions, exploring new locations can make things much more interesting. Try finding new areas of your local park, new walking and hiking trails, or whole new ornamental gardens to do yoga and Pilates in. This can be especially pleasant if you are someone who enjoys running — try out different routes for your weekly jogs, and look up places in advance to see if you can construct a run that takes you through some beautiful nature spots. It's fun to use your workouts to explore new places, and your local park will probably look dramatic in the coming months, with winter planting and evergreen foliage. So, incorporate some exploring into your exercise.

Go on a hike

While you can of course take your usual exercises and some equipment into the great outdoors, you can also swap your usual training regime for a long hike. This brings the benefits of exercising lots of muscles throughout your body, namely your calves, quads, hamstrings, and glutes, and it will add some variety into your exercise time throughout the summer months.

Hiking is also a good addition to your exercise routine for its mindfulness benefits: walking in the great outdoors allows us to really connect with nature and take some time away from work. You might choose to go alone or with a friend, but either way, try to concentrate on the beautiful landscape around you to combine your workout with some meditative time outside.

Try outdoor swimming

If you haven't experienced swimming outside, this can be a wonderful exercise to try during the summer when the weather and water are both warmer. Wild swimming can be done in lakes, rivers, and any other outside body of water — however, it's important to only swim in areas that are clean enough, so make sure to check with local wild swimming groups about where they prefer to swim. This is a fun way to add some variety to your workouts at the same time as exercising your entire body. Swimming also has the benefit of being extremely relaxing, and you might find that the cold of the water will make you feel refreshed afterwards, as the temperature change releases endorphins. So, not only can this be a great way of getting active, but it can bring wellbeing benefits too.

Take safety measures

When venturing outside to do your exercise, it's important to remember that you'll need to stay safe, however well you know the area. So, make sure that you always have your phone with you and easily within reach, and take your phone and keys in a bum bag, arm band, or small bag that you can continue to wear while you exercise. This will ensure that you don't lose your valuables, and will avoid you worrying about where they are as you work out too.

It's also good practice to inform someone (such as a housemate, friend, or family member) where you are going and what time you intend to return home. This way, they’ll be looking out for you and will know when to expect you back.

Use these tips to take your workout into the great outdoors, and experience exercising at the same time as reaping the mindfulness benefits of being surrounded by nature. These ideas should get you started, so that you can have varied and enjoyable workouts throughout the seasons.