9 Ways To Get Fit Outdoors (PICTURES)

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When it comes to exercising, winter is like that friend who always tells you what you want to hear.

Dark, ominous mornings offer you the perfect excuse for languishing in bed.

But summer, for all its brilliance, is a little less sympathetic.

It’s that slightly smug friend, up with the larks, flinging back the curtains at 6am, digging you in the ribs to remind you there’s no time like the present.

You can run but you can’t hide.

On the upside, the weather is better and opens up a world of opportunities to make keeping fit a lot more fun.

“The changing scenery can really take your mind off the repetition of running, which some people can find boring,” says Andy Holl, Virgin Active Head of Fitness.

And the less bored we are, the more likely we are to stay motivated.

A 2011 study by the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry found that those who exercised outside “reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity and declared a greater intent to repeat the activity at a later date” than their gym-going counterparts.

Exercising outside can offer faster results, too, by boosting the effectiveness of your workout.

“Physical activity outdoors can burn up to 30% more calories than doing the same workout indoors," Garry Kerr, Head of Operations and Training at British Military Fitness, told HuffPost UK Lifestyle.

Stacy Berman, HuffPost blogger and creator of the Body Mind Project, explains that when you run on a treadmill, the machine is doing some of the work for you.

“When you run outside, you provide the movement. Both activities may look similar, but running outside will increase your work load from 2% to 10% through air resistance,” she says. “As you transition from a walk to a run the wind resistance increases. So as you improve, running naturally becomes more difficult.”

And it isn’t just your physical fitness that will improve by heading outside, there are a wealth of benefits for your mental wellbeing, too. For one thing, the exposure to sunlight helps to keep Vitamin D levels topped up, which can lead to depression when depleted.

The Peninsula College study also found that “exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalization and positive engagement, decreases in tension, confusion, anger, and depression, and increased energy.”

And if running makes you want to (not) run a mile - there are plenty of other activities you can enjoy outside. From alternatives to your regular gym classes to extreme sports, here is our round-up of the best outdoor fitness activities of 2014.