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

Want to save money and get even more benefit from your exercise? Gavin McKew from Start Fitness explains why you should make the great outdoors your own personal gym. 

By now, we’re all very familiar with the overwhelming benefits of exercise. Not only can regular physical activity reduce the risk of major illnesses like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer, but it can also help us to better manage stress and mental health conditions like anxiety and depression.

It’s therefore vital that we stay active during our day-to-day lives, whether we incorporate group fitness classes into our weekly routine, enrol at a local gym, or simply commute to work on foot rather than driving. 

On top of this, after facing limited time outdoors over the last two years, many of us have realised just how important nature can be to our health and wellbeing. As our use of technology both for work and leisure is on the rise, we can easily spend less and less time outdoors.

However, studies have found that ‘green exercise’ can be the most well-rounded way to stay active, as it combines psychological effects like stress relief and improved self-esteem with physical benefits like getting enough vitamin D and improving our quality of sleep.

Here’s how you can start benefitting more from the great outdoors (and save money at the same time!). 

Use your surroundings

Some sports studies have found that while we tend to exercise for longer outside, we often don’t perceive the workout to be any more strenuous: outdoor spaces therefore seem to be a welcome distraction from our tired muscles or raised heart rate.

So, ensure you make the most of any outdoor spaces you have in your area, be that a park, hiking trail, woodland, or even a beach. Working out with a beautiful backdrop can be much more invigorating than using an indoor treadmill! 

Look out for any features in the landscape that could aid your workout. For instance, a set of steps leading down to the beach are perfect for timed stair sprints, which can do wonders for your cardio levels. If you’re feeling brave enough, you could even take a dip in the sea to cool down afterwards!

Alternatively, why not end a jog in the park by doing a bench workout? You can use a humble park bench for a whole host of great exercises, including box jumps, push ups, triceps dips, and split lunges to give you a full body burn with only one piece of equipment.

If you get really good at finding great places outdoors to work out, you might even consider doing it for a living. Indeed, personal trainers (PTs) often take their clients outside, for the reasons above, and because it helps create variety and interest.

It’s pretty simple to train to become a PT too. All you need to do is complete something like one of these pt courses and then start to find clients to work with. Although to get the best clients you’ll need to show that you are physically fit and create workouts tailored to their specific needs. 

Enjoy the savings!

The average gym membership in the UK costs around £40 a month. By simply lacing up your trainers, heading out on your bike, or doing bodyweight workouts in the park, you could save a considerable amount of money every year while still staying fit.

Working out in your local area can also reduce your fuel consumption, adding to these savings, as you don’t have to drive to the gym or a fitness class multiple times every week. 

Find the right gear

When it’s just you and the great outdoors, it’s important to have the right workout gear. The good news is that you can use the money saved on gym memberships to invest in top quality sportswear and equipment.

This way your gear not only lasts much longer, but it helps to enhance your performance: finding the right running shoes can mean the difference between injury from poor form and hitting a personal best. 

As we’re all familiar with the temperamental British weather, a key part of your sports gear should be versatile clothing that helps you adapt to rain, sun, and everything in between.

Additionally, one thing you may miss from indoor gyms is the machines tracking your calories, heart rate, or pace: investing in a smart watch is a great way to still get these stats and monitor your progress when exercising freely outside. 

Remember safety and security 

Even though we have more daylight hours in the spring than the winter months, still try to keep an eye on the sunset times when exercising outdoors. It’s easy to get caught out and find yourself running or walking home in the dark. 

However, your work or social commitments might mean that running, walking, or an outdoor HIIT workout is most achievable in the evenings. If this is the case, try to get out there as early as possible to catch the last of the sunlight, and use well-lit routes or parks that you feel safe in.

Even if it’s still light when you leave the house, it’s important to pack gear like a head torch and wear clothing or footwear with reflective strips on. This way you can be seen by passing cars or other runners and are less likely to lose your footing or trip on uneven ground. 

Be sure to tell a friend or someone you live with that you are heading out to exercise and what time you expect to be back, or better yet, take them with you! Exercising with a friend or a group of gym buddies can not only make you feel safer, but having company can also make an evening workout fly by. 

Exercising in the great outdoors is one of the most well-rounded and fulfilling ways of staying active. Armed with the right gear and the tips outlined in this article, you can step outside, get fit, and improve your mood, all while saving money on gym memberships.