The Best Outdoor Workouts to Mix Up Your Routine

Soak up the sun (just don't forget the SPF) with these exercises that make outdoor workouts seem like playtime.

Cheerful women doing push-ups on retaining wall at park
Photo: The Good Brigade/Getty

Throughout your fitness journey, you've probably made plenty of excuses not to exercise outdoors. It's either too hot, too cold, too muggy, or too crowded to take a run or try a HIIT workout in the local park. But it's time you put those cop-outs to rest, as powering through strength training or cardio outside comes with a plethora of perks, including a greater calorie burn and a major mood boost.

The primary reason for the first benefit: Outdoor workouts challenge your muscles with inclines, declines, and obstacles, explains Tina Vindum, founder of The Outdoor Fitness Institute. You'll also improve your mood and boost self-esteem by performing outdoor exercises, according to research from the University of Essex in England.

Rev up your usual routine by doing this 30-minute outdoor workout circuit, developed by Vindum. Try it in your backyard or at a local park — you'll burn about 250 calories with these outdoor exercises while building muscle. If you're short on time, try the quick cardio meltdown outdoor workout, which will get your heart rate up and sweat flowing, instead.

Of course, an outdoor workout doesn't have to feel like a workout. So if you're in the mood for something fun, fresh, and gets you moving, keep reading for 10 more unique outdoor workout activities that are perfect to do solo or with a group.

Total-Body Outdoor Workout Circuit

How it works: Before you get started, warm up with at least five minutes of power walking or light jogging. Then, perform each move for the prescribed time or number of reps.

What you'll need: Open space and a park bench.

Total-Body Outdoor Workout Circuit Infographic

Side Leap

Targets inner thighs, quads, calves, glutes

A. Stand on a flat surface with feet together.

B. Bend knees and jump laterally to the right, landing on the ball of right foot.

C. Without returning left foot to the ground, bend right knee, and jump laterally to the left.

Do 20 hops per side.

Park-Bench Dip

Targets triceps, shoulders, core

A. Sit on a bench and place hands on either side of hips. Slide butt forward off the bench, using hands as support. Straighten legs and plant heels firmly on the ground.

B. Engage triceps, bend elbows, and lower down until upper arms are parallel to the ground.

C. Push through palms of hands and return to starting position. Keep lower back close to the bench throughout the movement.

Do 15 reps.

Park-Bench Incline Push-Up

Targets chest, biceps, triceps, shoulders, core

A. Stand facing a park bench and place hands on the seat. Walk feet out behind you until legs are fully extended.

B. Bend arms and lower chest toward bench and do a push-up.

Do 12 reps; work up to 20 reps.

Park Bench Decline Push-Up

Targets chest, biceps, triceps, shoulders, core

A. Stand facing away from a park bench. Place hands on the ground and feet on the bench.

B. Walk hands forward until they're aligned under shoulders and legs are fully extended.

C. Lower chest to the ground and do a push-up.

Do 8 reps; work up to 20 reps.

Tightrope Walk

Targets calves, quads, core

A. Find a curb or fallen tree with a smooth surface that is at least six feet long.

B. Raise arms out to sides and walk across the "tightrope" for at least six feet or until the end.

C. Turn on the balls of feet; walk in the opposite direction.

Repeat for 3 minutes.

Side Shuffle

Targets glutes, inner and outer thighs, quads

A. Stand with feet hip-width apart, elbows bent, and fists near ribs.

B. Quickly take 3 giant steps to the right by sliding left foot to meet the right in between each step.

C. Bend knees and jump up, turning to face the opposite direction.

D. Repeat, shuffling to the left.

Alternate sides for 1 minute.

Side Step with Crunch

Targets core, obliques, glutes, upper back, shoulders

A. Stand next to a step, log, or flat rock, right side facing in.

B. Hold arms out to sides at shoulder height and bend elbows 90 degrees. Plams should face forward.

C. Step up to the chosen surface with right foot.

D. Brace core and draw left knee to right elbow to do a standing crunch. Emphasize drawing knee up rather than elbow down. Return to starting position.

Do 12 reps per side.

Step-Up Kick Cycle

Targets quads, hamstrings, glutes

A. Stand facing toward a step, fallen log, or flat rock. Step up with left foot and lift right leg directly behind you. Step down, switch sides, and repeat for 1 rep.

B. Step up on left foot and raise right leg diagonally behind you. Step down, switch sides, and repeat for 1 rep.

C. Step up on left foot and kick right foot out to the side. Step down, switch sides, and repeat for 1 rep.

Do the kick cycle (back, diagonal, side) 26 times.

Hanging Crunch

Targets abs

A. Hang from a sturdy and low tree branch, monkey bars, or any other elevated handhold, palms facing forward.

B. Keeping arms fully extended, exhale, bend knees and bring them towards abs.

C. Inhale and return to starting position in one slow and controlled movement.

Do 12 reps (or as many as possible without losing form).

Slalom Jump

Targets glutes, hamstrings, quads

A. Place four to six small rocks in a zigzag pattern, about 1 1/2 feet between each rock.

B. Keep feet together and hop to the outside of each rock.

C. Turn around when you reach the end and repeat.

Officially drenched in sweat from that outdoor workout? The next time you head outside, try this quick and effective reps-based workout created by Lindsay Ferrer, a personal trainer in New York City.

10-15-20 Cardio Meltdown Outdoor Workout

How it works: Perform each of the following movements back-to-back for the allotted number of reps with no breaks in between. For a bonus challenge, time yourself performing the full meltdown, and try to beat your best time with your next outdoor workout, says Ferrer.

What you'll need: A mat or towel and a timer.

Outdoor Cardio Meltdown Infographic
Caitlin-Marie Miner Ong

Long Jumps

A. Stand at the short edge of your mat or towel. Bend knees, brace core, and jump as far as you can, landing softly.

B. Back peddle back to starting position and repeat.

Do 10 reps.


A. Start in a high plank position with hands directly under shoulders.

B. Keeping back straight, bend elbows and slowly lower chest toward the ground.

C. Push through palms, extend elbows, and return to a high plank position. To modify, drop down to knees.

Do 10 reps.

Sumo Squats

A. Stand with feet wider than hip-width apart, toes slightly pointed out.

B. Bend at the knees and lower into a squat until thighs are parallel to the ground.

C. Push through heels, engage quads and glutes, and return to starting position.

Do 15 reps.


A. Stand at the end of your mat. Bend knees, brace core, and jump to the opposite side of your mat.

B. Bend down and place palms on the mat and jump legs back into a plank position.

C. Jump feet back towards hands and return to a standing position.

Do 15 reps.

Bicycle Crunches

A. Lie on back with hands clasped behind head. Knees should be bent at a 90-degree angle in a tabletop position.

B. Lift chest so that shoulder blades are almost off the ground. Extend right leg and simultaneously draw right elbow to left knee.

C. Keeping chest elevated, bring knees back to a tabletop position. Repeat on the other side with no pause in between.

Do 20 reps; 10 reps per side.

Mountain Climbers

A. Start in a high plank position with arms directly below shoulders and legs extending behind you. Body should form a straight line from shoulders to ankles.

B. Maintain a flat back, brace core, and draw right knee towards chest.

C. Return to plank position and repeat with opposite leg, quickly alternating as if running.

Do 20 reps.

Bonus Outdoor Workout Ideas

Yes, you can skip the gym and get an effective total-body workout. Here, top fitness pros share some of their favorite outdoor exercises — besides typical activities such as cycling and rollerblading were not accepted. Start planning your nice weather fitness bucket list here.

Stand-Up Paddleboard

Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) is an amazing outdoor exercise that builds full-body strength without feeling like you're exercising (because it's fun, but it's not so easy). Standing on an oversized longboard, you use a paddle to navigate across flat, calm waters. But don't be fooled by how serene this outdoor workout looks. SUP requires the use of your entire body, with a major emphasis on core stability and control. Former pro surfer Jodi Nelson describes this outdoor workout as "hiking on water," making it a great choice for anyone who wants to add some water to their workout routine without having to swim in it.

HIIT the Court

Have a basketball or volleyball court nearby? Make it your personal gym with this super-effective high-intensity interval training (HIIT) outdoor workout plan from celebrity fitness trainer Andrea Metcalf.

"This workout burns major calories and is what I did when I was training to climb Mount Kilimanjaro because it increases [maximal aerobic capacity]," says Metcalf.

How it works: Use the outline of a basketball court (or a similarly sized court) to perform the three metabolism-boosting drills below.

  • Sprints (5): Sprint from one end of the court to the other, running forward and then jogging back backward. Repeat 5 times total.
  • Lateral hops (30): Jump over and then back along the full court line, facing forward the whole time. Do 30 hops total (1 to 2 lengths of the court),
  • Side shuffles (6): Do side shuffles the full distance of the court and back. Repeat 6 times total.

The entire outdoor workout should take about 15 minutes.

Fitness Scavenger Hunt

"Going for a fitness scavenger hunt is a great way to get outside and mix up your fitness routine," says Tanner Martty, a certified personal trainer and founder of 34° North, a fitness studio in Marina Del Ray, California.

How it works: First, map out your route (it could be a path you typically use for jogging or walking), and then list five to 10 bodyweight exercises (push-ups, burpees, squat jumps, etc). Next to each move, write down a landmark you'll see along your path (park bench, red light, dog on a leash, or even a black convertible).

To start your scavenger hunt, head out on your route and every time you see one of your outdoor workout landmarks, do 10 reps of the corresponding move. For example, if you listed "park bench" next to push-ups, hit the bench for a set of 10 incline or decline push-ups every time you see one. It's a fun way to mix up your outdoor workout routine and add an element of play (and still keep plenty of sweat) to your typical route. (You'll need both for all those push-ups, but what's the real difference between muscular strength and endurance?)

"In addition to being a great outdoor workout, this will also keep your mind in the present moment, which is something that a stressful schedule can prevent us from doing," says Martty. "If you're actively looking for your scavenger hunt items, you can't be worried about the presentation you have to give the next day at the office."

Play Ball

Who needs a gym full of equipment when you can get a total-body strength and cardio workout just by using a variety of balls during an outdoor workout? Gather up a variety — basketballs, soccer balls, Swiss balls, whatever you've got — and design drills using them as weights, cones, and/or to create instability, says Laura Williams, a certified personal trainer in the U.K.

How it works: Set two balls next to each other on the ground, and then place a third ball about 10 feet away. Starting on the side with two balls, pick one up and run, slide, or even dribble it between your feet to the other side. Once you get there, switch balls, leaving the one you had and picking up the one that was already there. Continue moving the balls back and forth until you've moved each ball 10 times to complete the outdoor workout.

CrossFit On-the-Road

Transform CrossFit into an outdoor workout with either of these workouts of the day (WODs) that use very little equipment, suggests Jason Benade, a CrossFit coach in Elk Grove, California.

Workout 1 (5 Rounds)

  • 5 Push-ups
  • 10 Sit-ups
  • 15 Squats

Workout 2 (5 Rounds)

  • 10 Burpees
  • 20 Bench jumps
  • 30 Push-ups
  • 40 Squats
  • 50 Lunges

Sailing or Rowing Classes

"Sailing and rowing courses are affordable and an awesome change of pace, says Andia Winslow, a professional athlete, certified fitness professional, and ambassador for the Women's Sports Foundation. Sailing is a total-body outdoor workout that helps build upper-body muscular endurance, agility, coordination, and flexibility and can burn around 200 calories, says Winslow.

And rowing? Forget the machines at the gym and get out on the water. This low-impact cardio outdoor workout challenges your legs, abs, and back in a major way and can burn up to 800 calories per hour, says Winslow. (When you are in the gym, try this 20-minute rowing workout.)


Take your outdoor exercises to new heights and channel your inner circus star. Try a private trapeze lesson (solo, with a pal, or with your significant other — do you!) or enroll in a class to experience this total-body, endorphin-inducing outdoor workout that can have you burn up to 500 calories an hour, says Winslow. Plus, controlling your body while hanging off a bar in midair is also one serious core workout.

Trail Running

Want to burn more calories during your outdoor workout without having to run longer? Try trail running. Thanks to the textured, uneven terrain, your body has to work harder with every step, making trail running a more intense and effective outdoor workout than pounding flat pavement.

"Runners must be wholly engaged as they find footings, achieve balance, and adjust to incline changes," says Winslow. "Both your aerobic and anaerobic energy systems are being used during your run, as some trail positions require bursts of energy, unlike the steady-state fitness level of pavement or the treadmill."


The muscles trained or number of calories burned shouldn't always be the focus of your workout. You can get active outside and give back to your community at the same time.

"Walking dogs for a local shelter or cleaning up a nearby park in the neighborhood are all great calorie burners and a nice way to give back," says Jaime Sutton, a certified personal trainer and the owner of J'aime Fitness, LLC in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. To find great opportunities in your area, take a look at Volunteer Match.

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