Who wants to workout in a stuffy crowded gym on a sunny summer day? After all, you have ample opportunity to add variety to your workout by taking it outside. With the right strategies, you can stay fit during the summertime and turn the outdoors into your gym.
Home workouts don’t necessarily mean working out at home. You can use your backyard, park, community recreation center, church facilities, beach or lake (if you’re lucky enough to live near one), or anywhere that you can savor sunshine, warmth, and bask in the outdoors.
So, mix things up and find a new summer fitness routine Here are a few ideas:
- Try a different walking or running route
- Take a park fitness class with friends
- Join an outdoor volleyball league
- Do a sunrise yoga class
- Hire a personal trainer and work out at your park
- Take a day trip to a nearby hiking spot
- Alternate walking along the lake with bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, and push-ups
Whether you decide to try something new or stick take your typically routine outdoors, keep these two crucial elements in mind when exercising outdoors in the summer
- Move more, period.
- Take precautions to stay safe during warm weather.
Always talk with your doctor and get a physical examination before you begin any exercise program, especially with more intense workouts.
Move More, Period
Fitting in fitness when the weather is warm becomes easier when you make your workouts fun. One of the simplest ways to fit in more exercise in the summertime is to move more, period.
How you do that depends on your schedule, how intense you want your workout to be, and what inspires you to move more. Every little bit counts. Even parking further from the grocery store doors or getting off a subway stop before your destination can count toward your exercise quota.
Make Fitness Fun: A Workout Guide for Beginners
One of the best summertime fitness tips is to get outside. Outdoor fitness allows multiple options for fun summer workouts. For you, that might entail tennis, swimming, biking, doing some push-ups and other exercises at the park (some have guided workout stations dispersed throughout), or sunrise beach yoga.
Many communities also offer outdoor fitness classes. Ask for a trial class (especially if they cost money), which will help you determine whether that class provides you with the right fitness level.
Take the time to find a warm-weather workout routine that works for you and that you’ll actually enjoy. Don’t schedule 6 a.m. pilates classes by the lake if your idea of early mornings involves curling up with a book. Conversely, if your day’s obligations push exercise to the back burner, aim for a quick early-morning workout and you can cross it off your list.
Walking is a fun, pleasurable way to move more if you’re an exercise novice. Aim for 10,000 steps daily. If that feels like too much, start lower and gradually increase that number. Your phone might already have a tracking app; if not, you can download one easily to count your steps.
Walking can be fun. Schedule a morning park stroll with a good friend. Stream an audiobook you’ve been meaning to read. Make a fun upbeat mix that will get you moving more vigorously.
If you have a nearby beach, walking in the sand adds intensity. Or research nearby trails, pack some healthy snacks and make a morning outing out of the experience. Wandering in nature will rejuvenate you, get your blood flowing, help you better appreciate the world around you, and invigorate you during warm summer weather.
Quick Workouts for Your Busiest Days
Walking or otherwise moving more in warm weather makes a great start, but you might want to up the intensity. Or maybe you just want to knock out a killer workout and get on with your summer day.
You don’t need to spend hours in the gym to get a full-body workout, and that is especially true during the summer. In fact, you can get an intense workout in as little as 15 minutes.
With high‐intensity interval training (HIIT), sometimes alternately called burst training, you can get a full-body workout in less time than it takes to find a beach parking place on a crowded Saturday afternoon.
“High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, involves working at the very top end of your capacity for 45–60 seconds, then recovering for 3 minutes by walking or a slow jog, then returning to very high intensity for another 45 – 60 seconds,” says Mark Hyman, MD. “You can do it walking, running, biking, jumping rope, dancing, or even swimming.”
Note: Actual move-and-rest times vary among HIIT programs, but the central focus is to alternate maxing out physically for up to a minute with moving at a regular pace.
Research shows compared with moderate-intensity exercise, HIIT provides similar or even better benefits for physiological, performance, and health‐related markers.
With HIIT, you only need 15–20 minutes and minimal or no equipment to knock out a quick workout. And you can do it outdoors —many parks have hills, for instance, that are perfect for burst training.
Here’s how to interval train while running:
- Sprint up a hill as hard as you can go for up to one minute.
- Walk back down for one to two minutes.
If HIIT is new for you but you’re committed to trying, start slowly. If you can’t do a full minute, going as hard as you can for even 10 or 15 seconds can provide its benefits. Be prepared to sweat — HIIT should be intense, and a workout should leave you breathless and physically maxed out
But HIIT can also be fun. Researchers find although this type of workout is more physically demanding than more moderate-intensity exercise, people report greater enjoyment doing HIIT because of its time efficiency and (speaking of mixing things up) constantly changing workout plan.
Be Safe During Your Summer Workout
Whether your warm weather fitness routine involves a brisk walk along the lake or HIIT, make sure to take some simple but crucial precautions when working out outdoors.
While longer, sunny days makes outdoor exercise perfect, obstacles like sun overexposure, heat, and dehydration can derail your workouts and potentially jeopardize your health.
Those potential problems shouldn’t deter your warm-weather workout when you become proactive and minimize your risks. Here’s how.
Staying Hydrated during Summer Workouts
This summer fitness tip is simple: drink more water. Overall, your body is about 65 percent water, so it makes sense that staying hydrated impacts everything from your body temperature to your mood. Dehydration can also impair performance and your health.
Don’t be swayed by heavily marketed sports drinks that promise enhanced performance or specific health benefit. Clean filtered water is your best choice for staying hydrated during summertime heat. Invest in a bisphenol-A- (BPA)-free container and keep it filled.
Recommended water intake depends on many factors including your age, activity level, and outdoor heat levels. The U.S. National Research Council recommends eight to 10 eight-ounce glasses a day. Alternately, you can divide your body weight in half and drink that many ounces. (If you weigh 150 pounds, that would be 75 ounces of water daily.)
Listen to your body. Cramping, fatigue, and other symptoms when you sweat hard during an outdoor workout might mean you are depleting electrolytes. While they do provide some electrolytes, most commercial sports drinks contain sugar, artificial sweeteners, and other unhealthy ingredients.
Instead, consider a professional-quality electrolyte formula if you workout heavily in warm weather. You can find them as powders, and they mix easily in water. Read your labels to ensure no added sugar or artificial sweeteners. Unsweetened coconut water also provides electrolytes and makes a great way to stay hydrated on a warm summer day.
Sun Safety while Working Out in Heat
Even on overcast days, you might get more sun exposure than you realize. Likewise, swimming in a pool or lake exposes you to the sun. You might not feel its effects until later.Like many things, balance is key to sun exposure. Getting some rays feels good, and it also lets your body make sufficient vitamin D — a vitamin that’s really a hormone. Vitamin D deficiencies affect almost half of the population (or one billion people) worldwide, across all ethnicities and age groups. These deficiencies can contribute to various diseases.
On the other hand, sufficient amounts of vitamin D can benefit numerous conditions including several cancers, cardiovascular disease, fracture prevention, and mental health. Sun exposure becomes a great way to get more of this vitamin, but increased rates of skin cancer in many developed countries make sun overexposure a serious concern. To reduce sun overexposure while still getting enough of this essential vitamin, consider a vitamin D supplement.
Outdoor fitness becomes a great way to get more sun exposure to meet your vitamin D quota, but a little bit goes a long way. Balance is key. Consider 15–20 minutes of unprotected sun exposure daily and then use a sunscreen to prevent sunburn or poison if you stay outdoors longer. The Environmental Working Group has an excellent database of safe sunscreens.
Overall, use proper judgment with sun exposure. If your meteorologist mentions a heat advisory or the sun feels especially strong, don’t risk sunburn or sun poisoning working out outside. Seek shelter and plan an indoor workout on those days.
Heat-Related Problems with Outdoor Fitness
Heat-related illnesses can create symptoms including fatigue, cramps, and edema. Without intervention, they can progress to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Athletes are especially susceptible to heat exhaustion. Among the signs you might have heat-related problems include:
- Heavy panting
- Fast, weak pulse
If you feel any of these symptoms, please refrain from physical activity, rest, and seek medical attention if necessary. “Pushing through” these obstacles while you’re working out during summer heat can quickly become an invitation for injury or worse.
Heat stroke is a life-threatening condition where your body temperature increases dramatically (usually above 104 degrees Fahrenheit) along with central nervous system dysfunction.
Symptoms of heat stroke include delirium, seizures, and coma. Classic heat stroke mostly occurs among immunocompromised people, whereas exertional heat stroke can occur among young fit people during strenuous physical activity in hot temperatures.
While everyone is at risk over-exerting themselves during intense heat, certain demographics besides athletes are more susceptible to heat-related illness including:
- Children (who have a lower thirst response to dehydration and less sweat production)
- The elderly
- Patients with chronic diseases
- People taking any prescribed medications
- People without adequate air conditioning, especially in upper floors of a building
Fortunately, you can implement precautions to minimize or prevent these problems during your warm-weather workout. Among the strategies you can take to prevent heat-related problems include:
- Know the best times to exercise outdoors during the summer — usually, morning and early evening are best but always check the weather forecast for heat advisories
- Stay hydrated — by the time you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated
- Wear breathable, light-colored clothing and proper headgear
- Stay mindful about heat advisories and take proper precautions
When you have any doubt, please be safe rather than sorry. A swimming pool or ocean can make a cooler option for a full body workout when outdoor temperatures become high, but any kind of physical activity can increase body temperature and your risk for heat-related problems.
Optimizing Fitness in Warm Weather
There’s an old joke: When is the best time to work out? Whenever you do it. That’s the best time.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t always prove true during warm weather, when exercising during extreme heat or other inclement conditions isn’t the best time and can create adverse conditions. At the same time, the outdoors can provide an amazing gym during the summertime. Find something that challenges you but also feels like fun. Rather than have it feel like work, find the pleasure in working out. Consider all the positives you’re creating, including better health and wellbeing!
Most importantly, enjoy the sun and warmth that summertime provides. Unless you live in a perennial warm weather climate, summer will be over before you know it!