Warm weather can bring a breath of fresh air and some extra motivation to exercise outdoors. If you're looking for a reason to get outside, we've got some enjoyable outdoor cardio workouts you can do to get your recommended amount of daily exercise, while enjoying the nice weather at the same time. Working out and getting in your recommended daily dose of exercise doesn't always need to be boring or follow the same routine you normally do. Spice it up with more challenging terrain and unique scenery. Exercising outdoors has many benefits including the fact that it's free, gives you a chance to soak up some much-needed Vitamin D, and can be done almost anywhere. Additionally, some studies suggest that exercising outdoors may improve mental wellbeing compared with indoor exercise.
As you're getting ready to head out the door, here are some of the most enjoyable cardio workouts for you to consider. Before beginning any type of exercise or stretching routine, you should consult with a qualified healthcare professional or licensed physical therapist.
One of the biggest advantages of exercising outside is the challenging terrain that it often presents. Instead of running on a flat treadmill or indoor track like you normally do, consider taking your run outdoors and adding a little bit of extra challenge with uphill sprints. Uphill sprints are a great way for you to work on your acceleration and add some additional challenges which will help you take your strength to new levels. When figuring out which hill you'd like to sprint up, you should consider the types of variables you can modify throughout the course of your training. Variables you can modify over time include the length and slope of the hill.
If you're looking to develop the ability to sprint and accelerate for shorter periods of time more frequently, you'll want to focus your uphill sprints on smaller hills. Studies have shown that Sprint Interval Training can give improvements in endurance and muscular oxygen capacity. Hoping to sprint for longer? You'll want to run up larger hills where you can work on your ability to sustain your sprint and power output for longer periods of time. As you begin adding uphill sprints into your outdoor cardio routine, make sure that you start slow and work your way up to tougher difficulties and elevation. Take frequent breaks in between each set, allowing your heart rate to reduce and your muscles to recover, which will work to build your strength and ability over time.
Going on a vacation doesn't mean that you need to put your routine jog on pause. Consider jogging on the beach or boardwalk if you're visiting a travel destination. Jogging in the sand on a beach is a great way to add a little bit of extra resistance with each step, just make sure you wear some reliable running shoes so you can avoid twisting an ankle. Jogging on the beach can either be done on wet or dry sand. Wet or compacted sand creates significantly more peak forces on the body, but can also reduce contact time with the ground. Most people find it less challenging to start with compacted sand, as it is closer to the demands of flat ground running. The surface under your feet will shift with each step, so your body will work overtime to make sure that you continue your momentum and propel your body forward safely. When you're just getting started with a fresh jog on the beach, make sure you take it slow and gradually increase your pace so you can become accustomed to the type of sand you're running on and the extra strain it puts on your body as it has a lower impact but higher energy cost.
Resisted sprints are a great outdoor cardio workout for runners who are looking to increase their speed, enhance their endurance, build muscle, and improve their acceleration all at the same time. Resisted sprints can be done in a variety of ways but two of the most common are with a running parachute or sled. Runners can add weights to a sled and push or pull it for different resistance levels. With a push sled, runners will face immediate resistance as they work to get the sled moving at the same pace they are. With a pull sled, runners will be able to work up a little bit of speed, albeit briefly, until they meet resistance from the weight they're pulling. Running parachutes also provide a small amount of time for each runner to work up some speed until the wind and air catch the parachute and begin to create drag that begins to provide resistance. When sprinting, the parachute or sled will provide resistance which will slow your speed and stride length. If you choose to add additional resistance to your training regime, take precautionary steps to make sure that you don't add too much resistance which could impact your natural, unresisted sprinting form. If you're a runner looking for a new way to challenge yourself with a difficult outdoor cardio workout, this is certainly one to try!
You're probably familiar with bleacher runs as you've likely seen them in a training montage like the Rocky films. Running up and down stairs or doing bleacher runs at a local sports stadium is a great way to get both a jog and some stair climbing in at the same time. To do this exercise properly, simply run up the stairs, walk back down, and repeat. Alternatively, you can jog down the stairs and walk back up, which will work your muscles in a different way. Don't be afraid to try both or alternate throughout. Take great care when doing this outdoor cardio workout, as you want to be careful when ascending and descending so many stairs at one time to avoid tripping. Stair training can be an alternative to traditional flat-ground running to effectively improve your endurance. Running stairs is a great way to get two exercises in one and ascend to new heights in your personal exercise routine.
Jumping rope is one of the most overlooked cardio workouts. If you're looking for an outdoor exercise that will help you get the blood pumping and force you to keep a steady rhythm the entire time, this is the exercise for you. Jumping rope will not only help you improve your coordination, but it will test your limits to see how long you can go. Jump rope can help you improve your motor skills, as well as agility, speed, and power. Make it a fun activity by putting on some music that you can keep a steady pace to and see how many times you can jump or how long you can jump.
Swimming is a great way to get a good workout in while also taking advantage of the sunny days with a dip in the pool, which could help you get some much-needed relief during those warm days. Swimming also gives you plenty of options to choose from as you can select different types of strokes to perform. Swimming can significantly improve cardiovascular health with reduced time when compared to moderate to high-intensity training. For individuals who are looking for a low-impact workout, swimming can be a great alternative to consider.
Hiking through the mountains or hillsides is a great way for you to explore and get a good workout in. Whether you're going for a quick walk or making it an event with camping equipment, hiking can give you varying levels of resistance with each step you take. Hiking is a great exercise to work up a sweat and activate your calves and quads at the same time.
You can work up a sweat and get that blood pumping with a brisk walk outdoors. When you think of some enjoyable outdoor cardio workouts, a brisk walk can be as challenging as some of the other contenders on our list of workouts! Performing a brisk walk outdoors can help you maintain your weight, strengthen muscles, improve your mood, and help you work to improve your balance and coordination.
Cycling can be an enjoyable activity either by yourself or with a group. Depending on the path, road, or trails you choose to ride, you can increase the level of difficulty during this outdoor cardio workout.
You can even mix and match workouts and exercises when you're trying to come up with your next outdoor workout routine. Feel free to mix and match different exercises or do each in intervals to add extra levels of difficulty to your outdoor workout. By mixing and matching different exercises in your routine, you can target different muscle groups while keeping things fresh and exciting.
Joining a sport or recreation league can be a great way to meet new friends, get outdoors, and exercise at the same time. There are plenty of sports that offer recreation leagues, and you can either join them solo or form a team with people you know to get an enjoyable outdoor cardio workout several times a week. Some of the most common recreation leagues or outdoor sports you can participate in during the warmer months include beach volleyball, baseball, cycling, lacrosse, tennis, basketball, flag football, and distance running. Participating in a recreational sport, even later in life, is a recommended alternative to structured cardiovascular training. Committing and sticking to an exercise routine is easier with friends who will hold you accountable, so consider joining a recreation league to meet new friends who will do just that.
As you begin to exercise outdoors with some of the enjoyable outdoor cardio workouts we've highlighted above, make sure that you're optimizing your training and recovery with Physical Therapy. Visit one of our hundreds of clinics across the country in-person or virtually to connect with one of our licensed Physical Therapists who can work with you to help you prevent future injuries, alleviate the pain you're experiencing, and recover effectively. Book an Appointment Today to optimize your training and recovery with physical therapy!