Even the most dedicated gym-goer can get a little bit bored of their routine. The same equipment, the same exercises and the same environment can leave you feeling unmotivated and uninspired. And one day, while huffing and puffing on the treadmill, you take a look out of the window and wonder why you’re not outside in the real world getting fit and healthy? Well, there’s no time like the present. If you want to mix up your workout routine and get in shape at the same time, there’s no better place to do it than your local park. Soft grass, clear pavements, fresh air and plenty of space to move – what more could you ask for? Not only that, but exercising outside has some pretty impressive scientific benefits, which we’ll detail below. What are you waiting for? Let’s get started!
Why A Park Workout Is A Brilliant Idea
Is leaving the confines of your gym really worth it? Absolutely. Scientific studies have shown that spending time outdoors can be great for both mental and physical well-being (6). The benefits below prove that you stand to gain much more by doing your workouts in the park:
You’ll Get More Vitamin D
Vitamin D can be hard to come by when you’re stuck in a routine that has you inside for most of the day. But when you move your workout outdoors, you’ll soak in all the natural goodness of the sun’s UV rays – meaning you’ll get your Vitamin D fix without the need for supplements.
Vitamin D has been linked to many health benefits, such as better bone health and a stronger immune system (8). And, with the amount of Vitamin D you soak up from just thirty minutes in the sun, you’ll be getting more than enough for your day.
You’ll Feel Better
Spending time outdoors is scientifically proven to make you feel better – and that’s not just because of the Vitamin D (although that’s crucial for serotonin production for a mood boost).
Studies have suggested that being outside can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as improve concentration (6). All of this adds up to improved overall mental well-being – just one more reason to get outdoors and enjoy a park workout.
You’ll Sleep Better
Spending time outdoors can also help give your body the rest it needs. Exercise in a natural environment has been shown to reduce stress levels (7), while exposure to natural light can help to regulate your body’s circadian rhythms and make falling asleep easier (1).
And if you want to take things a step further, combine your outdoor workout with a bit of nighttime stargazing. Not only will the fresh air help you to relax and drift off quicker, but you’ll also be able to admire the beauty of nature – a great way to finish off your day.
You’ll Lower Your Risk Of Disease
When you move your workouts outdoors, you’ll also be reducing your risk of certain diseases. Sure, exercise in general can have this effect. But outdoor exercise gives you a unique opportunity to take in more vitamin D, which is linked to lower inflammation (8). Inflammation is linked to conditions like diabetes and heart disease – that means you’ll be doing your health a big favor.
You’ll Challenge Your Body In New Ways
When you’re stuck in a gym environment, your body can become accustomed to the same type of exercises. And when you take your workout to the park, you’ll be able to challenge your muscles in new ways with natural movements and terrains. This can help you to build strength, mobility and agility – all of which are great for overall health.
Read More: Two Is Better Than One: Why And How To Design Effective Workout Plans For Couples
You Can Ditch Your Gym Subscription
If you want to save money and still get in shape, outdoor exercise is the way to go. Not only will you be able to get fit without any costly equipment, but you’ll also have access to natural surfaces and terrains which will challenge your body in different ways.
Think of it like a free gym membership – with all the added benefits that come from exercising outdoors.
You Can Make A Friend, Or Two
Outdoor exercise is largely a social activity. When you take your workout to the park, you can make a few friends in the process. Not only will this give you someone to help motivate you, but it could also lead to some great friendships and community building.
You know those Saturdays when family and friends come over and play out in the park? You can be a part of that – and still get an awesome workout.
It’s Good For The Environment
Outdoor exercise isn’t called green exercise for nothing. It’s actually good for the environment in a few ways. Firstly, it eliminates the energy consumption associated with indoor gyms (think air conditioners, hot water tanks etc).
Secondly, it can help to keep air pollution in check (which is especially important if you live in an urban area). Finally, it can help to reduce noise pollution in the environment – giving nature a chance to thrive.
15 Unique Park Workout Ideas
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of 15 awesome ideas for park workouts.
1. Interval Training
Break up your run into bursts of intensity, followed by rest periods. This is a great way to increase aerobic capacity and build fitness. Furthermore, it’s an effective way to burn fat and calories.
Here’s a basic interval training workout:
- Warm-up for 5 minutes (jog at an easy pace)
- Sprint for 30 seconds
- Take a 1 minute rest.
- Repeat this cycle 8 times
- Hill sprints are a form of interval training that can help you to build strength and speed. Simply sprint up a hill (for 10 – 20 seconds), and walk back down. Repeat this cycle 8-10 times.
2. Trail Running
Explore your local park’s trails and get some quality cardio in the process. Just make sure you have a good pair of shoes so you can stay safe, as the terrain can be uneven. You’ll also be able to take in more of your surroundings – a great way to increase the mental and emotional benefits of running.
To get the most out of your trail run, vary the intensity of your run. Alternate between regular running and jogging – or even sprinting on flat ground. That way, you’ll be able to keep your heart rate up and challenge yourself in different ways.
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3. Calisthenics Aka Bodyweight Exercises
Calisthenics refers to exercises that use only your bodyweight as resistance. This is a great way to build strength and lose weight – without having to lift heavy weights in the gym. In the park, you can set up a calisthenics circuit with exercises like pushups, pull-ups, dips and lunges.
You can also use benches, bars or trees as makeshift pieces of equipment for exercises like incline push-ups and tricep dips.
Below is a sample calisthenics circuit that you can try:
Warm Up: Jog for 5 minutes
- 10 Push ups
- 8 Burpees
- 10 Squats
- 8 Jumping Jacks
Repeat Circuit 1 for 3 rounds
- 5 Pull-ups
- 10 Tricep Dips
- 10 Lunges (each leg)
- 8 Mountain Climbers
Repeat Circuit 2 for 3 rounds
Cool Down: Stretch for 5 minutes
4. TRX (Total BodyResistance Exercise)
TRX is a type of training system that uses your bodyweight and gravity to provide resistance (3). It’s a great way to build strength, stability and mobility – while also burning fat and calories. To perform TRX exercises, you’ll need a TRX suspension trainer. This is a portable piece of equipment that you can easily set up in the park.
Here are a few sample TRX exercises that you can try:
- TRX Atomic Push-ups – Securely attach the TRX straps to a tree or pole. Hold the handles, and get into a push-up position. Lower your body towards the ground, and then push back up.
- TRX Squat to Rear Fly – Stand facing away from the anchor point, with your feet placed in the middle of the straps. Squat down, and then drive your arms upwards as you stand up – like you’re doing a rear fly.
- TRX Hamstring Curl – Securely attach the TRX straps to a tree or pole. Lie on your back, and place your heels in the middle of the straps. Push your hips up, and then pull your feet towards you – like you’re doing a hamstring curl.
5. Plyometric Training
Plyometrics are a type of high-impact exercise used to improve power and speed (4). It’s a great way to build strength, agility and explosiveness – while also burning fat and calories. Originally, plyometrics were used by Olympic athletes to enhance their performance – but now it’s becoming popular among everyday exercisers.
In the park, you can use benches, bars and other objects to perform plyometric exercises. Here are a few sample exercises that you can try:
- Box Jumps – Place a box or bench in front of you. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, and then jump up onto the box. Then, jump back down to the ground and repeat.
- Jump Squats – Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and then lower your body into a squat. Then, jump up as high as you can and land back in the squat position.
- Tuck Jumps – Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, and then lower into a quarter squat. Jump up as high as you can, and tuck your knees up towards your chest. Land with your feet just wider than shoulder-width apart, and then repeat.
Read More: Don’t Have The Energy To Workout? Here’s What To Do Next
6. Park Yoga
The ancient practice of yoga is a great way to improve flexibility, reduce stress and build strength (2). Park yoga is an enjoyable way to stay fit – without having to go to a studio or gym. You can bring along just a yoga mat and do some basic postures – while taking in the sights and sounds of nature.
Here are a few sample yoga poses that you can try in the park:
- Upward-Facing Dog – Lie on your stomach and place your hands beneath your shoulders. Push up into an arch, lifting your chest and thighs off the ground. Hold for 10 breaths.
- Warrior 2 – Stand with your feet hip-width apart, and then step one foot back about 4 feet. Turn your back foot in and your front foot out. Bend your front knee, while keeping your back leg straight. Reach both arms out to the sides. Hold for 10 breaths.
- Tree Pose – Stand with your feet together, and then bring one foot up to rest on the inside of your opposite thigh. Bring your hands together in front of your chest and hold for 10 breaths.
- Cat Cow – Get on all fours and place your hands directly beneath your shoulders. Exhale and round your spine, tucking your chin towards your chest. Inhale and arch your spine, lifting your gaze upwards. Repeat several times.
Pilates is a low-impact form of exercise that helps to improve core strength, stabilize your spine and build muscle (5). It’s typically done in a studio because of the equipment required – but you can also do some basic Pilates moves in a park.
Here are a few sample Pilates exercises that you can try:
- Bridges – Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Press your feet into the ground, and lift your hips up towards the sky. Hold for several breaths before releasing back down to the ground.
- Plank – Get on all fours and place your hands directly beneath your shoulders. Step your feet back one at a time so that you’re in an extended plank. Hold your core tight and keep your back straight. Hold for several breaths before releasing.
- Roll-Ups – Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the ground. Reach your arms up over your head. On an inhale, reach your arms up towards the sky and raise your head, chest and legs off the ground. Exhale as you roll back down to the mat.
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How To Get The Most Out Of Your Park Workout
To make sure that you get the most out of your park workout, here are a few tips:
- Warm up before you get started. This will help to prevent injury and allow your muscles to loosen up, making it easier to perform exercises.
- Take breaks when you need to. If you start to feel tired or find it difficult to continue exercising, take a break. This will help to keep you motivated and energized.
- Drink plenty of water. Make sure to stay hydrated throughout your workout.
- Protect yourself from the elements. If it’s sunny, wear sunscreen. If it’s cold, dress appropriately to keep your body warm.
- Prioritize your safety. Be aware of your surroundings, and make sure to stay close to home. Choose a workout spot that is well-lit, and be sure to let someone know where you are.
The Bottom Line
Park workouts are a great way to stay in shape, while enjoying the beautiful outdoors. There are many unique ideas that you can try – from yoga and Pilates to hitting the playground for a cardio blast. With these tips, you can revamp your routine and get the most out of your park workouts. So get outdoors and have fun!
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Effects of Light on Circadian Rhythms (2020, cdc.gov)
- Exploring the therapeutic effects of yoga and its ability to increase quality of life (2011, nih.gov)
- Investigating the Acute and Chronic Health Benefits of TRX® Suspension Training® (2016, acefitness.org)
- CURRENT CONCEPTS OF PLYOMETRIC EXERCISE (2015, nih.gov)
- Pilates – health benefits (2022, betterhealth.vic.gov.au)
- The health benefits of the great outdoors: A systematic review and meta-analysis of greenspace exposure and health outcomes (2018, nih.gov)
- The Relationship between the Physical Activity Environment, Nature Relatedness, Anxiety, and the Psychological Well-being Benefits of Regular Exercisers (2017, nih.gov)
- Vitamin D and Human Health (2019, nih.gov)