9 fun-filled ways to get outside and work up a sweat

by Kaiser Permanente |
A woman and her children playing with hula hoops and a ball in their backyard

What do you think of when you hear the word "workout"? Do you picture treadmills, dumbbells, and aerobic classes? Do you see it as another chore on a growing to-do list? Many of us do, which is why exercising can be such a challenge. But why not picture a fun activity outside in the sunshine instead?

In fact, you can reap the same health benefits — and more — when you’re enjoying a physical activity outside. Exercising in the great outdoors can help you get your daily dose of vitamin D, breathe in cleaner air (depending on the location — be sure to check the local air quality index for an up-to-date report), and have a greater sense of vitality.*

So, now’s the time to shake up your fitness routines by taking them outside and having some good ol’ fashion fun. Here are a few activities you’ll want to try:

Play a game

Grab friends or family members and get a game going. Traditional sports like volleyball, basketball, soccer, or football are popular options. But don’t be afraid to channel your inner child for alternatives like hopscotch, hide-and-seek, or capture the flag. You could even get creative and make up your own game and rules.

Depending on where you live, you might also be able to join an adult kickball, dodgeball, or beach volleyball league.

Go on a scavenger hunt

Whether it’s your local neighborhood or a foreign city, going on a scavenger hunt is a great way to explore your surroundings. There are several scavenger hunt apps that you can download on your smartphone to take with you on the go. You could even create your own scavenger hunt for your family to do right in your neighborhood.

Sign up for a fun run

Themed races and 5K running events are very popular these days. There are races that feature inflatable obstacles, bubbles, getting covered in colored powders, and more. Some even feature live music and food trucks or bring you through your favorite amusement park. Find one that gets you excited and start training for the big day.

Explore a new destination

There’s a reason why people often say they need a vacation from their vacation. Exploring a new destination can be a lot of work. You might spend hours walking through museums, historic sites, or crowded markets. But rather than wait for your next big vacation, try exploring something closer to home. Plan to walk through a different neighborhood or go for a run in a park you always drive past. You might be surprised at what you discover.

Make a splash

Swimming, in general, is a great low-impact aerobic workout. But if you’re looking for more of a challenge, then surfing, kayaking, and paddleboarding are all great options that will help you build muscle strength.

Safety tip: Whenever possible, make sure there’s a lifeguard on duty or go with a buddy. You’ll also want to wear the appropriate safety gear — like a life jacket or rash guard.

Take a walk or hike with friends

Time passes quickly when you’re walking or hiking with friends. You’ll be so preoccupied talking, laughing, or checking out the scenery that you won’t even notice you climbed that mountain or looped the block 10 times.

Spend time in the garden

Gardening is an all-around healthy activity. Depending on the level of effort you put in, you can work up a nice sweat while pulling weeds or tilling soil. Plus, if you decide to grow fruits, vegetables, or herbs, you’ll get the added benefit of readily available fresh produce.

Practice tai chi or yoga

Tai chi and yoga are low-impact workouts that are perfect for the outdoors. You may even find local groups that practice together in the park or at the beach. As you go through each movement, you’ll work on improving your balance, strength, and coordination. These activities also encourage us to focus on being in the present moment and enjoy our current surroundings.

Take a spin

Grab your bike, dust off your old skates, or hop on a scooter and get rolling. Whether you’re cruising on a trail through the woods or a bike path by the beach, it’s so rewarding to feel the rush of a warm breeze as you glide.

Safety tip: Remember to always wear a helmet. When riding at night, wear reflective gear and a light.

Need more workout ideas?

We’ve got you covered. Check out our Health Encyclopedia for more ideas on how to find the right activity for your life.

Safety tip: Before moving your fitness routine outside, be sure to wear the appropriate sun protection.

* Richard M. Ryan, Netta Weinstein, et al., "Vitalizing effects of being outdoors and in nature," Journal of Environmental Psychology, November 2009, selfdeterminationtheory.org/SDT/documents/2010_RyanWeinstenEtAl_JEVP.pdf.