Get Outside: How to Make Exercise Fun

When you think of exercising, there is a good chance you picture a large gym with wall-to-wall mirrors, grunting powerlifters, and fitness classes featuring trendy exercises you can barely pronounce. The truth is, gyms, fitness studios, and exercise classes can easily overwhelm—or bore—the health-conscious individual.

Never fear! Here are more than a dozen different ideas for how you can make exercise fun—and some of them might even surprise you (yes, walking your dog is exercise). So get outside, make fitness fun again, and reap the rewards of living an active, healthy lifestyle.

Splash! Hit the Water

During the summer months (or if you’re lucky enough to live someplace where it’s warm all year), set your sights on local rivers, lakes, and pools for fun, outdoor exercise options. Some of our favorites:

  • Stand-up paddle (SUP) boarding: Start out on a calm lake or river if you’ve never done SUP before, and make sure there isn’t much wind. This workout is not only fun and challenging, but because you have to balance, it works your core.
  • Floating yoga: If you’ve ever thought, “I should do yoga in a pool while floating on a platform,” then you’re going to love the challenge of floating yoga. The weight-bearing exercise improves balance, strengthens core muscles, and offers cardiovascular benefits.
  • Swimming: A classic exercise for people of all fitness levels, swimming in a lake or outdoor pool is a great way to exercise without being hard on your joints. Level up your swimming by gamifying it. Pool games aren’t just for kids; adults, too, can master the art of noodle jousting and plunge into the depths for mermaid races.

Don’t forget winter water activities. If you live in a place where lakes freeze over and are safe enough, ice skating is a great outdoor fitness option that builds muscle and burns calories faster than most activities.

Download the Personal Trainer Career Guide

Tried-and-True Favorites

Don’t discount time-tested forms of exercise that can be done outside. Some options for making exercise fun with classic outdoor favorites include:

    • Running: Join a running group or start your own. Running is one of the most popular forms of outdoor cardio exercise because it’s easily accessible, improves heart health, burns calories, and can help boost your endurance levels.
    • Rock climbing: Although indoor climbing spaces have become popular in recent years, you can reap the benefits of fresh air and vitamin D by getting outside and into nature for bouldering, top roping, aid climbing, and more.  
    • Bike to work: If your morning commute could use a bit more fun and a little less traffic, consider biking to work. If you’re worried about showing up to work hot and sweaty, simply pack a change of clothes and ride to work in something comfortable. When you arrive, change and impress your coworkers with your fitness and your ability to look amazing after a workout. Click here for some tips to get started on your first bike-to-work adventure.
  • Walk/hike with your dog: We know what you’re thinking, but yes, walking your dog counts as exercise—even better if that walk is actually a hike on varying terrain, but just walking around the block with Fido a few times a day can boost your health in amazing ways. It’s exercise, it’s fun, and—when you have a dog—mandatory.
  • Dance: If you thought dancing was only an indoor activity, then this might shock you as an option for fun, outdoor exercise. Dancing is a great cardio workout that increases flexibility, helps with weight management, and aids in maintaining a healthy core. Whether you opt for a silent disco or Capoeira, a challenging blend of dance and martial arts, make sure you’re having fun.

Get Creative, Get Active

The best way to make fitness fun is to make the workout seem less like working out and more like an activity. Here are some creative ideas for outdoor workouts that are best to do with another person, a group, or with children:

Scavenger Hunt

By their nature, scavenger hunts are loads of fun, but blending exercise into the activity can really level up the fun. Here are two ways to turn a scavenger hunt into a fitness hunt:

  • Option 1: Gather in a park and distribute a list of clues and exercise challenges throughout the space with teams focused on completing everything and getting to the finish line first. Some ideas: Find the green bench and do 20 pushups, find the drinking fountain and do 20 lunges, find the amphitheater and run the stairs five times.
  • Option 2: Have a list of clues for different locations in a confined space such as a zoo, park, or outdoor shopping center. Participants start out with a clue and need to arrive at the right location in order to complete an exercise and get the next clue. For example, at a zoo, the first clue could be “You might find Dumbo here” and the team has to run to the elephant house. When they arrive, they’ll receive an exercise to complete (e.g., do 40 jumping jacks), after which they’ll get the next clue (e.g., “Find the largest bird on earth!”).

Geocaching or Letterboxing

Location-based “treasure hunting” games, such as geocaching and letterboxing, are great ways to make exercise fun.

  • Geocaching or multi-caching: Hunt for and find a log book or hidden object (geocaching) or multiple objects (multi-caching) by using GPS coordinates posted on a website or inside an app.
  • Letterboxing: Much like geocaching, letterboxing involves hunting for a hidden object—but in this case, the hunt involves solving puzzles or clues. There are currently more than 90,000 active letterboxes ripe for the finding in North America alone!

By their nature, geocaching and letterboxing take place outdoors and are fun ways to tackle fitness goals. Some caches or letterboxes can be found by trekking into a nearby nature preserve, while others are hidden in urban spaces such as city parks or zoos. Much like a scavenger hunt, the gaming component is a powerful motivator, and there are plenty of apps available for both geocaching and letterboxing.

Turn Passion into a Workout

If you’re passionate about animals or helping families in need, there are some great ways you can turn your passion into a fitness activity. Try these:

  • Pet Shelter: If you love animals, volunteer and take rescue dogs on walks.
  • Build a house: For families in need, having a house to come home to is priceless. Habitat for Humanity and similar organizations are always looking for willing individuals to help with building projects, which means you can benefit both from a health-boosting workout and the knowledge that you’ve done something amazing.
  • Youth center: Donate time at a local youth center or a shelter for families and spend time playing basketball or soccer outside with kids. You’ll not only be getting your own exercise in, but you’ll also be helping children and teens get outside, get healthy, and have fun.

If you love teaching people how to make exercise fun, then you’re ready to turn your passion for healthy living and fitness into a career. Download our 7 Step Guide to Becoming a Personal Trainer now.

New Call-to-action


Article Categories: Health Tips
Share this article     

Stay Connected

Get immediate access to AFPA’s most recent health and wellness insights, exclusive offers and groundbreaking tips to help you become the trusted health, fitness or nutrition professional.