Outdoor workout tips to boost your mood
Want a super fast way to boost your mood and energy levels? Bring your workout outside. Here’s how to stay safe and reap the most benefits.
You’ve heard it before, but being active is key for warding off high blood pressure, weight gain, and a host of other health problems like heart disease and diabetes. But here’s something you may not know: Taking your workout outside can give you an added mental health boost too.
“Studies have shown working out in the outdoors may make you a happier person,” says Errick McAdams, a certified personal trainer in Washington, D.C. Indeed, a review of studies comparing people’s mood after indoor and outdoor workouts found that exercising in nature led to less feelings of tension, anger, and depression. Participants also said they enjoyed moving in nature more—and they were more likely to want to continue being active going forward.
So, are you ready to embrace nature? Use this guide to make the most of your outdoor workout.
1. You don’t need a gym to work out
“I would encourage everyone to get outside a few times a week and exercise, just to lift your spirits if nothing else,” says McAdams. Plus, the varied inclines and wind resistance can add an extra challenge (aka more calories burned) 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 the sunscreen at least 15 minutes before going outdoors so that it can fully absorb and protect you, says the American Academy of Dermatology. If you’re staying outdoors for a while, aim to reapply every two hours—or immediately after you’re done sweating. Wearing a hat or UPF-rated clothing can offer extra UV protection too.
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 or walk 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, often called electrolytes. Minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium are critical for maintaining the fluid balance in your body. They also help your muscles contract and perform at their best.
If it’s an especially hot and sweaty day or you’re working out for more than an hour, you’re going to want to make sure you replenish those lost electrolytes. While low- or no-sugar sports drinks are one option, there are also a ton of naturally hydrating and healthful sources, such as cucumbers, watermelons, low-fat yogurt, coconut water, or unsalted pumpkin seeds. Even eating a balanced meal post-sweat can do the trick.
8. Don’t force it
To stay safe—and maximize your enjoyment—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 do it early the next morning before temperatures heat up.
Talk to your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.