5 Fun Outdoor Activities That Will Get You in Shape

Most guys are just as particular about their fitness routines as they are the foods they eat. For some, going to the gym just leaves a bad taste in their mouth. Even those who don’t mind hitting the treadmill and lifting some dumbbells can find themselves getting bored with the same tired routine after a while. When you’re sick or waiting for equipment and dealing with gross locker rooms, heading into the great outdoors could be exactly what your workout needs.

In addition to freeing yourself from the boredom of staring at a wall or a mindless television program, going outside can also give you a better workout. One British study found indoor runners actually need to increase a treadmill’s incline in order to get the same workout as a person who heads outside. A 2007 study on cyclists found indoor peddling was similarly lacking. When you’re on a stationary piece of equipment, you don’t face the same wind resistance as when you’re moving outside. And keep in mind, going for a hilly route will increase your effort even more.

There’s also mental health to consider. A review of 10 studies from 2009 found people who exercised outside experienced increased self-esteem as well as overall mood regardless of the specific environment. This means folks living in the city can benefit just as much as those who live out in the woods. A healthier mind and body are a winning combination, so reap the rewards by heading out the door for one of these five workouts. Your gym days might just become a thing of the past.

1. Mountain biking

mountain bike, trail

Source: iStock

Cycling is a great way to enjoy some scenery while you work up a sweat. Though you can bike just about anywhere, not every location is ideal. Guys who live in urban areas might find themselves frustrated by hitting stoplights and dodging drivers with road rage. Biking in a more rural area avoids those issues, but you also run into problems when you find yourself on an ill-kept road covered with sand. Next time, try taking your ride to a wooded trail.

Though the terrain is rougher than roads, the wider, sturdier wheels of a mountain bike are more than capable of handling some bumps. You’ll also encounter a lot more hills than if you were to stick to the streets, which will send your heart rate soaring. Though the exact number of calories you burn depends on the difficulty of your path, you can expect a pretty exhaustive effort. According to the Houston Chronicle, a 155-pound person expends about 844 calories in two hours at a moderate pace, while the same individual can shed up to 1,196 calories mountain biking. The faster you go and the hillier your route, the better your workout will be. 

2. Rock climbing

rock climbing

Source: iStock

This sport has become somewhat of a trend in recent years, which explains why the U.S. reached a total of 353 commercial indoor climbing facilities back in December. While it’s pretty cool to be able to practice at a gym just down the street, it’s hard to beat the scenery you’ll encounter on a real cliff. Instead of exercising and then figuring out what to do with the rest of your Saturday, you can turn your workout into a complete experience.

Scaling walls is a great choice for guys who don’t enjoy traditional cardio workouts, because it’s far from boring and also a surprisingly good way to get your heart pumping. According to a small study from The University of Wisconsin, subjects who rock climbed as a form of exercise met the American College of Sports Medicine’s guidelines for physical activity. To keep your heart rate elevated the whole time, try to keep your rest periods short. As for the burn, SparkPeople’s calorie calculator indicated a 175-pound person can shed 833 calories for one hour of effort.

If you’ve never given outdoor climbing a shot, it’s not as difficult as you might think. Sign up for an afternoon with a nearby climbing school or individual guide. They’ll teach you everything you need to know about safety and basic techniques.

3. Swimming

open water swimming, traithlon

Source: iStock

Traditionally, swimmers have relied on lap pools to enjoy their favorite form of exercise. But that’s beginning to change, at least on the other side of the Atlantic. The Daily Telegraph reported the once small group of open-water swimmers in the U.K. has ballooned into tens of thousands. For many of these water-loving athletes, it’s an activity they enjoy no matter what time of year it is.

Even if jumping into frigid waters isn’t your thing, you’d be wise to take a dip outside when you can. Everyday Health calorie calculator estimates a 175-pound person burns 476 calories from one hour of moderately swimming laps in a pool, but going outside offers an advantage. Former triathlete James Lock told the Daily Express many people get a better workout when they go outside because they end up going far longer than if they were restricted to a boring pool.

If you decide to take the plunge, you should keep a couple of things in mind. For starters, a wet suit is mandatory equipment to keep you warm as well as buoyant. You’ll want to protect your peepers with a solid pair of goggles. Also, stick to the buddy system. Even strong swimmers can find themselves in dangerous situations on occasion.

4. Kayaking


Source: iStock

Every kid had a favorite outdoor sport at summer camp. For some it was capture the flag, while others went crazy for canoeing. If you were in the latter group, kayaking could become your new favorite workout. Though it won’t slim your waist quite as impressively as some other types of exercise, Harvard Medical School reported a 185-pound person can still expect to burn 222 calories for a 30-minute effort. If you take the time to head out and get all the gear, it’s likely you’ll go for much longer.

Men’s Journal particularly likes kayaking as a workout since it’s so good at strengthening your arms. And like any other type of cardio, you can easily turn a kayaking session into an interval session. It’s also an excellent choice for guys who are prone to leg injuries from running or other forms of high-impact cardio, because your legs won’t suffer the same pounding.

5. Trail running

trail running

Source: iStock

Even the most dedicated runners can get bored with their choice of exercise, and a lot of it has to do with the monotony of the treadmill or heading for the same few routes every time. Hitting a trail is a great way to get a change of scenery while boosting your effort. According to Mayo Clinic, a 160-pound person burns about 606 calories after running 5 miles in an hour. Taking the same workout to a path will actually lead to an even better result thanks to the frequent hills. According to Active.com, your calorie burn increases 10% for each degree increase in incline. Running hills is also one of the best ways to target your glutes, so hitting the trails could help you get a better butt.

Though many people worry about hurting themselves on uneven ground, trails are actually a better choice for those prone to injuries. Runner’s World explained the softer terrain is gentler on problem areas like your IT bands and shins. You may occasionally run into some ruts or rocks, though, so you definitely need to stay aware of your surroundings.

More from Health & Fitness Cheat Sheet: