25/03/2015 11:24 GMT | Updated 24/05/2015 06:59 BST

The Great Outdoors

Dean Hodgkin goes back to nature, suggesting making the most of spring by exercising outside to boost your results.

Due to the recent boom in bootcamp style workouts fresh air training is now much more common as personal trainers and exercise instructors shift sessions outside and get creative with the natural resources to hand. Whether it's the beach, a park or a children's playground, there are countless ways to devise a safe, effective and fun outdoor workout. A sturdy tree branch is great for assisted chin-ups and a climbing frame for triceps dips. Boulders, fences, lamp posts, tree trunks, picnic benches and even puddles can all be used as obstacles or exercise stations. The good news is, not only is this a route to helping you to rediscover your inner child and to put the fun back into fitness but it can also lead to you achieving better fitness and weight loss results.

Transferring just one of your weekly workouts to the outdoors can bring a new edge to your routine, introducing a sense of adventure and stimulating an adrenalin boost. It can take you back to thoughts of endless hours spent running about playing and exploring when you were young but more importantly it lets you enjoy your body again.


Research found that exercisers who run outside and focus on the environment feel less anxious, tired and depressed than indoor runners who tend to focus more internally. This is chiefly linked to the outdoor experience stimulating the senses significantly more than the sterile gym environment and promoting an increased release of endorphins, the feel-good hormones.

In addition, battling against the wind and uneven terrain leads to a greater calorie burn when comparing like-for-like exercises indoors. If you also consider that it is estimated over half of us are deficient in Vitamin D, then exposing your workout to the sunlight promises a real win-win.

Also worthy of a mention is the current interest in the healing effects of the outdoors, with psychologists looking into how nature can help to lift depression, reduce anxiety and counter loneliness. The therapy, roughly defined as the study of the relationship between the human psyche and the natural environment, is known as ecopsychology. Exercising outdoors, then, is one route to reconnect people with nature with therapists taking groups into the countryside to walk, camp and even meditate.


The Indoors-Outdoors Swap Shop

Switch your usual exercise routine for a totally different activity that will give you the same gains but also guarantees to put the fun back into fitness.

Upper Body Gym Exercises for Windsurfing

When learning, be prepared to get wet as you will fall in a lot but don't complain because the constant off-and-on will boost calorie expenditure and once you get the hang of it the water is yours to discover. Pulling and pushing the sail around, not to mention dragging yourself back onto the board when you fall off, are super ways to tone the muscles in your arms, shoulders and back.

Squats for Horse Riding

If you don't have a bundle of experience then stick with a basic rising trot, which you'll soon master once you get tired of your sore bum hitting the saddle if you're out of synch! This is a fantastic exercise for toning your thighs, particularly the inner thighs, an often overlooked area in a lot of workouts but, unfortunately, usually also a wobbly one.

The Treadmill for Hiking

A good hike will not only allow you to discover local beauty spots but will also be a massive boost to your fitness level. Walking has been proven to have a major effect on weight loss, in addition to controlling cardiovascular disease and reducing stress. Lower body conditioning is also a given but try to find a few hills and attempt long slow strides as this will bring the added bonus of sculpting the buttock muscles.

Circuits for Beach Volleyball

Even just a basic hand to eye co-ordination level will equip you with all the ball skills needed to enjoy a game of beach volleyball. Running around on sand is much harder than it looks, so the quick bursts will really get your heart pumping. Combine this with squatting to defend shots as you dig and then jumping to smash the ball as you spike and you can expect to give your legs a really tough workout.

Kettlebells for Water Skiing

It actually looks harder than it is, you'll soon master the technique and be standing up to experience the exhilaration that only skiing can bring. Kettlebell exercises are designed to work the whole body, requiring you to maintain good posture by engaging the deeper muscles around your trunk to generate force in your arms and legs. This is directly mirrored in water skiing, as you again need a strong centre to enable your arms and legs to keep you upright and hanging on to the rope.

Core Training for Surfing

Imagine riding a wave that has come from the depths of the ocean. Maybe you're the only one to ride that particular wave and when it hits the disappears forever. Lessons are essential to get you started, but there's nothing like the exhilaration of the first time you get to your feet. Core strength is improved by performing exercises on unstable surfaces, disturbing your balance and so your deeper abdominals kick-in to keep you in position. Surfing takes this to the next level as, not only does your core have to work to keep your balance, there is an extra random factor provided by the waves that doesn't exist in the safer gym environment, so it's an even greater challenge that will therefore produce even better results.