Want to switch up your exercise routine? Take it outside. Outdoor workouts are an excellent way to connect with nature, but there are other benefits as well.
Research has found that working out outdoors is associated with increased energy, greater enjoyment, and less tension.
An outdoor workout can even push you to work harder.
A review of studies found that exercising outside can make it feel easier to push harder and might even kick up your motivation a couple of notches.
Before you slather on the SPF and lace up your shoes, there are some tips to keep in mind to make your outdoor workout as safe and effective as possible.
1. Start hydrated and stay hydrated
Staying hydrated is always important during exercise, but it’s especially important for outdoor workouts.
“Hydrate before, during, and after your workout to prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke,” says Jerry Yoo, PT, DPT, SFMA, CSCS.
Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink, since that can be a sign of mild dehydration.
Not sure how much you need to drink? Find out how much water you really need.
2. Shield your skin from the sun
Even if it’s cloudy, you can get a sunburn. Be sure to wear sweat-resistant sunscreen and wear a hat and clothing made out of sun-protective fabric to protect your skin from excess sun exposure.
Yoo also suggests exercising in the shade whenever possible.
3. Time it just right
Instead of exercising in the middle of the day, opt for morning workouts or later in the evening when the sun isn’t as strong.
When it’s too hot or humid, swap high-intensity workouts for something less strenuous, suggests Yoo.
Follow these tips if you like running in the heat.
4. Consider your terrain
Running and walking outdoors are different on the body than running on a treadmill.
“Hard pavement can be hard on the body, so try and ‘land softly’ with each step,” Yoo says. Run and walk on trails or a track whenever possible. Your joints will thank you!
5. Pick the right shoes
Be sure to choose shoes that were made with your outdoor workout in mind.
“Proper footwear is important to minimize shock and pounding on the joints,” Yoo says.
6. Wear bright colors
Neon workout gear isn’t about being trendy. It’s about being safe! Always wear something bright, like a reflective running vest, when exercising outside so drivers can easily spot you.
If you head out before dawn or after dusk, add a blinking light so you stay extra safe.
7. Don’t go it alone
Whenever possible, ride, run, or hike with other people instead of alone. This makes any outdoor workout safer, and it’s also a good way to spend time with friends.
Outdoor workouts are one of the best ways to stay socially distanced and connect with family and friends at the same time.
8. Skip the headphones for safety
Music can be motivating, but it can also distract you. Yoo recommends skipping headphones so that you can remain as vigilant as possible.
If you absolutely need your music, use one earbud instead of two.
9. Change positions on the bike
If you’re heading out for a long bike ride, avoid sitting in the same spot the entire time. Try standing up in the saddle or shifting your hands on the handlebars, says Allen Conrad, B.S., D.C., C.S.C.S.
“This occasional change will help keep the circulation going, and hand movements will help prevent any tingling and numbness in the hands as well,” he says.
10. Plan your route
If you’re heading into the great outdoors, always have a specific hiking plan in mind — and keep a map with you in case you get lost. Don’t rely on only your phone; you may end up in an area with limited cell coverage.
Conrad suggests choosing a hiking area you’re familiar with and going with a friend.
If you do go hiking alone, let a friend or family member know where you’re going. Make sure to bring a light backpack or fanny pack filled with water, sunscreen, snacks, and a form of I.D. with emergency contact information.
11. Dress in layers
When it comes to outdoor workouts, there’s no bad weather, only bad clothes. Dress in layers that are quick-drying and moisture-wicking, like wool or polyester rather than cotton.
Add layers that are easy to remove, like a puffy vest, a lightweight fleece pullover, a hat, or gloves.
12. Get creative with your workouts
You already know about outdoor workouts like running, cycling, hiking, and walking, but there’s no real limit to what you can do outside.
An easy way to enjoy a home workout outside? Grab your laptop, a yoga mat, some weights, and resistance bands into the yard or driveway and stream your favorite workout!