Most people don't want to be cooped up in the gym all summer, but this doesn't mean you need to sacrifice your fitness as a result. If you're not sure how the great outdoors fit into your cardio-boosting, muscle-building plan—or how venturing outside can help further your fitness journey—check out these great ways you can use the outdoors to your benefit.
1. Sign Up For Recreational Soccer
If you're a sports fan but haven't played team sports since your high school or college years, now might be just the time to get involved again. Recreational leagues abound for men and women alike.
If traditional cardio bores you, soccer is a great cardiovascular workout, with some added benefits. Your agility, strength, power, and speed should all improve from running up and down the court, kicking balls, and dodging opponents on the soccer field.
Hiking is lower impact than running, but you can make it as hard as you want on your lungs and muscles. Having to hike up a hill can lead to great lower-body strength benefits as your muscles work hard to pull you up each time.
Hiking is also an excellent way to trade the stress of daily life for time spent in nature. Looking to get the entire family into fitness? Try out a new trail each weekend, and make an afternoon out of it.
3. Boot Camp Class
Boot camp classes are highly popular right now, and for good reason. They boost cardiovascular conditioning and strength through a mixture of calisthenics, cardio, and resistance moves with resistance bands and dumbbells. A group fitness class also can encourage you to work harder.
4. Trail Running
If you want something a little higher intensity than hiking, trail running should be your go-to sport. Unlike the treadmill band, a trail's uneven ground helps work your lower-body muscles to an even greater degree. In fact, just a one-inch variability in terrain can increase calorie burn by 5 percent. If you're a runner, you'll find that a change of scenery might be enough to reinvigorate your love of pounding the pavement.
Before you set out, though, make sure you're armed with a solid pair of running shoes. Look for good tread, a light feel, and even features such as a heel-locking system to keep your foot in place.
Too hot to hit the trail or track? Consider swimming. Your entire body—including your lungs—will receive a serious workout. While swimming may not provide as much resistance as hitting the weights, the resistance exceeds what you'd get from walking or jogging.
6. Beach Volleyball
Another team sport, beach volleyball will have your lower body screaming for mercy. On the plus side, check out the lower body on any serious beach volleyball player. The uneven footing and texture of the sand will have your muscles contracting hard to stay stable. Your upper body works hard on every serve or hit. No wonder a 185-pound person burns a whopping 355 calories during 30 minutes of beach volleyball! Of course, that's assuming you're working hard and playing intensely with the intent of getting in a quality cardio session.
Kayaking is primarily an upper-body activity, but core work also comes into play to keep your body upright in the kayak. If you're looking to give your lower body a break after a heavy leg day, try it!
Want something that's lower intensity but keeps you active? Golf is a great choice. While you won't work up too much of a sweat with this one, if you walk the entire course you can still burn a considerable number of calories. In fact, playing golf and walking 18 holes is equal to a 5-mile walk or 3.5 to 4-mile run and can burn up to 2,000 calories.
As an added benefit, the act of swinging the club will work your shoulders, back, triceps, and biceps. Pro golfers these days are looking more and more jacked. Because it is lower in intensity level, golf is also a great activity to do on your rest days from the gym.
9. Flag Football
If you have a group of friends over for a BBQ, consider getting a game of flag football going. It mimics interval training in the sense that you'll be working hard then stopping for a brief rest between plays.
The majority of flag football—the sprinting, agility work, and quick changes in direction—will work your lower body, but your upper body will also come into play each time you go to make a pass. Best of all: no concussions.
Need a break from fast-paced exercise but want to keep moving? Cultivate your green thumb. Gardening is a great outdoor activity to consider. Whether you're planting flowers, picking weeds, or mowing the grass, you'll be burning calories as you go.
If you garden for a few hours, and you do more than trim the hedges—think pulling weeds and manually mowing—you can easily burn just as many calories as you would in a normal gym session. In fact, 45 minutes' worth of gardening can burn as many calories as 30 minutes of aerobics. You'll also save a few bucks by not paying a gardener.