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Cyclist looks over fence at landscape

With lighter nights and warmer days, ditch the gym and start exercising outside. It could have surprising benefits…

  1. Why work-Out?

From wind resistance to challenging terrain (and even rain), an outdoor exercise session can be much tougher than an indoor workout. And this extra intensity equals extra calorie burn!

Keeping fit in green spaces can also be a great mood booster, with University of Exeter scientists suggesting they’re a natural tonic for decreasing tension and depression.

“You just can’t get a Vitamin D hit if you stay inside!” affirms Marianne Clark, personal trainer from Fitso Fitness in Sussex. “And, apart from ice, there’s virtually no weather that stops you from getting outside. In fact, the worse the weather, the better you’ll feel once you’re finished!”

2. What work-Out?

If you have 30 minutes…

  • Walking: With National Walking Month upon us, there’s never been a better time to put your best foot forward – and you don’t necessarily need a green space. “Skip a stop on the bus, or park a street away from work,” says Tanya Braun from Living Streets, the urban walking charity behind May’s National Walking Month. “Just one mile of walking can burn 100 calories, reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and heart disease. Try a ‘walking meeting’ to get away from your desk or take some ‘welfies’ – walking selfies – to make it more fun!” TV diet and fitness expert Laura Williams agrees and says bus stops make a great city interval training session. “Speed walk for two bus stops then walk at a moderate pace for one,” she suggests.
  • Toning: If that doesn’t get your heart racing, then flex your muscles with a few ‘park pushes’ – standing push-ups using a tree or lamppost. “Park benches also make for fabulous gyms,” adds Williams. “Try tricep dips or lunges.” Or, seek out your local council trim trail (balance beams and parallel bars etc) or an ‘outdoor gym’ for resistance training (see

Breath of fresh air? Hire an ‘outdoor personal trainer’ who will give you trails and trials in the open air. “We have the distinct advantage of space, so we can incorporate sprinting, evasion games and street furniture into our workouts to make it more fun,” says fitness coach Jason Doggett, director at Muddy Plimsolls, which offers mobile outdoor personal trainers across the South East. Or, how about splashing out at a wild swimming spot (see

If you have an hour…

  • Running: While the thought of donning running shoes might be a step too far for some, you can have a great workout in less time than it takes to drive to the gym and back, says Clark, a GB age group triathlete and running coach. “It’s hugely effective for improving cardiovascular function, muscle toning, weight loss and bone density – and, of course, for avoiding unpleasant chores around the house!” she says. “And as a runner, you also earn the right to refer to your cake consumption as ‘re-fuelling’.” Go it alone on local routes at, or find a group at
  • Bootcamp: If drills and discipline is your thing then you can’t go wrong with British Military Fitness (, but there’s lots of other great alfresco activities to choose from. Try for open-air classes across Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Kent, or in Norfolk and Suffolk. The Outdoor Fitness Collective ( also hold ‘Silent Discos’ in Battersea and Richmond, with wireless headphones that stream music and instruction!

Breath of fresh air? Hire an ElliptiGO ( – a two-wheeler bike that you can run on (yes, really!) – or make the planet fitter too by working up a sweat digging, planting and path clearing at one of The Conservation Volunteers’ 95 ‘Green Gyms’ (

If you have longer…

  • Cycling: If you’re a fan of spinning classes (or even if you’re not!), it might surprise you to know that outdoor biking is thought to burn more calories than stationary cycling due to the fact you use lots of muscles to stay balanced on different terrain. Find local routes via or opt for organized women-only ‘Breeze’ rides via

Breath of fresh air? “Why not go in for a small triathlon – it’s not as crazy as it sounds!” says celebrity personal trainer Matt Roberts. “You don’t have to go for super serious competition, but have a look for small ‘fun’ events. A duathlon, for example, is generally just cycling and running, and doesn’t require you to go fast to take part.”

3. DIY park circuits

Skip a beat“Grab a skipping rope; find a step and a park bench and intersperse skipping and stepping intervals with walking lunges, wide (plie) squats, push-ups and planks,” says Williams.

Jack of all trades“Try 10 squats, 20 jumping jacks, five bent knee press ups and complete as many rounds as you can in three minutes,” says Roberts. “Rest for one minute and then repeat five times.”

4. Work-Outs with kids

Exercising with prams and kids in tow is getting much easier these days, so swap four walls and square-eyes for a mums’ bootcamp such as or, which have classes across the country. Or, find a local class such as ‘Bring the Kids’ at Zone Fitness, in Cambridge, run by specialist pre/post natal trainer Lisa Charnley, where babies and toddlers can watch from their prams, play on a big picnic rug, and even join in.

For a cheap and cheerful option, turn a walk into a treasure hunt with geocaching (see or – where you search for a hidden container of goodies via GPS co-ordinates – or go for a no-cost favourite. “Games such as Tag and Piggy in the Middle are really easy ways to get yourself outside and burn a few calories, without even needing to get changed!” says Roberts.


First published in Essentials

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