Want a good reason to get active outdoors? It could be that you’ll have more fun in addition to getting fit. “Studies have shown working out in the outdoors may make you a happier person,” says Errick McAdams, a certified personal trainer in Washington, DC. Use this seasonal guide to make the most of your outdoor workout.
1. Know that you don’t need a gym
Take advantage of the season, McAdams says. “Even if you have gym access, I would encourage everyone to get outside a few times a week and exercise, just to lift your spirits if nothing else.” Plus, the varied inclines and wind resistance can add an extra challenge to your routine.
2. Protect yourself from the sun
Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Sport versions that are sweat- and water-resistant work best for exercise. Apply before going outdoors, and reapply as it wears off. “It is extremely important to wear sunblock. People with dark skin can wear a lower SPF, but no one gets a free pass,” McAdams says. “People with allergies and skin conditions may benefit from using a sunscreen designed for children.” Wear a hat for extra UV protection.
3. Dress in loose, light-colored clothing
Exercise clothes made from fabrics that wick away moisture can keep you from feeling weighed down by sweat. Stay away from dark-colored fabrics, which attract sunlight and can make you hotter.
4. Drink water every 5 to 10 minutes
Never start a workout without water in hand. “Working out in the heat of summer can be dangerous. It’s very important to stay hydrated,” McAdams says. Aim to drink water before, during, and after exercise.
5. Hit the stairs
“Two of my favorite outdoor workouts involve the same activity: running stairs,” McAdams says. Jog up and down bleachers at the local high school to blast calories. Or look for stairs around town for a combo cardio-and-toning workout. Alternate running stairs with strengthening exercises, such as squats and push-ups.
6. Play in the water or relax on the grass
If you are an experienced swimmer, find a community pool and swim some laps, McAdams suggests. You’ll cool off and get your heart pumping. Or look for free or low-cost fitness classes in the park. Yoga and tai chi are gentle, low-impact options.
7. Replace lost electrolytes after exercise
When you sweat, you lose important minerals. After exercise, replenish these lost minerals with foods or drinks that contain calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium. Try these naturally hydrating sources: cucumbers, watermelons, low-fat yogurt, coconut water, or unsalted pumpkin seeds. Or make a “date-orade” by blending dates with equal parts water.
8. Don’t force it
To stay safe, listen to your body. “When it feels too hot to work out outside, don’t,” McAdams says. Instead, wait to exercise in the evening when temperatures cool down or early next morning before temperatures heat up.
Talk to your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.