Outdoor workouts are a great change of pace from training indoors and provide a ton of health benefits. When the weather is cool and sunny, it seems like the perfect time to change up the scenery and take your workout outside. Or maybe you’re a fan of running in the cool breeze during the winter weather. Or maybe climbing is your thing. Whatever you choose, it’s important to keep you and your skin safe while exercising outdoors.
Many people think that when there’s no sun out they don’t need to wear any sun protection—wrong. Whether you’re working out in the heat during summer or on a cloudy day during winter, protecting your skin from harmful UV rays should be a priority year-round.
Below, I will go over the benefits of outdoor workouts, how to keep your skin protected during them, as well as 5 outdoor workout ideas you can incorporate into your fitness routine.
Benefits of Outdoor Workouts
As mentioned, outdoor workouts provide a great change of scenery and a healthy dose of vitamin D. Who doesn’t love a good run in the sun or in the rain if you prefer that -- or even some Wim Hof style cold exposure. Aside from the change of pace, exercising outdoors provides a ton of other health benefits. Here are just a few of the many benefits outdoor workouts bring:
- They’re more accessible and affordable. Outdoor workouts are pretty much free! You can skip out on monthly membership fees and don’t need any certain equipment when exercising outside.
- They provide cleaner air quality. Did you know that indoor air can actually be more polluted than outdoor air? According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), research has shown that those who spend time indoors may be at greater risk of indoor air pollution than outdoors.
- They can boost our mood and improve our overall mental health. Studies have shown that outdoor workouts may have a greater impact on our mental health than doing the same workout indoors.
- They increase our Vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is essential for maintaining healthy bones, joints, muscles, teeth, immunity and overall health.
- They can provide a challenge to our minds and body. Our bodies naturally work harder when we’re in a different environment. If the terrain we’re exercising on is challenging, the workout will be just as challenging.
How to Protect Your Skin During Outdoor Workouts
While there certainly are a ton of benefits to exercising outdoors, it’s important to always keep ourselves and our skin safe. Even on days when the sky is covered in clouds and you don’t see much sunlight, harmful UV rays can still penetrate through light clouds and cause damage. Here are a few tips for making sure your skin is protected during your outdoor workouts.
Wear Protective Gear
Wearing proper gear is important for any workout, especially when exercising outside. To make sure you’re protected from harmful UV rays, investing in protective gear like a hat, breathable jacket and shirts that are made with UPF 50 fabric will be your best bet. Ultraviolet protection factor (SPF) fabric shields exposure from harmful UV rays. UPF is a measure that determines how much UV radiation can reach your skin through fabrics. For example, UPF 50 fabric blocks 98 percent of UV rays, thus significantly reducing UV exposure.
Aside from clothing that protects your skin, you’ll also want to invest in gear suited for the terrain you’re working out in. Whether that’s proper running shoes, hiking sneakers or a helmet, having the right gear will make for a safer and better workout.
Pay Attention to the UV Index
The ultraviolet index or UV index measures the intensity of UV radiation from the sun. Though exposure to the sun is healthy, high amounts of UV exposure can become dangerous. Before planning an outdoor workout, check the UV index in your area so you can plan accordingly. When scheduling your workout, aim to schedule it when UV exposure is the lowest to stay safe.
Don’t Forget SPF
Sun protection is key when exercising outside, even if you don’t see the sun outside that day. Remember, UV rays can still peek through clouds and penetrate your skin. Be generous with sunscreen and try to get in the habit of reapplying it every two to four hours, especially before exercise. Even if you don’t typically burn easily, wearing SPF 30 or greater can protect your skin from cancer and premature aging.
Here is a note on sunscreens though:
Be super careful about which product you buy! Some of the products were proven to be extremely harmful to your skin and body. Best is to go natural. Cover your skin with clothes, ash or dirt. That may seem weird, but if you are doing an obstacle race like a Spartan race, that is your best bet. If I really have to buy a commercial sunscreen product I check it’s ingredients with the independent and awesome Yuka app. This app exactly lists all of a products ingredients and how unhealthy it may be for you.
Conduct a Self-Exam
Even if you may think you’re immune to sun damage because your skin doesn’t tend to burn, everyone is susceptible to UV damage and high amounts of UV radiation can lead to skin cancer. If you exercise outside often, it’s smart to conduct a monthly self-exam. When examining your skin, check for any abnormal moles, marks or other irregularities. If anything looks out of the ordinary, schedule an appointment with your physician.
5 Outdoor Workouts to Try Today
Now that you know how to keep yourself safe while exercising outside, here are a few outdoor workout ideas you can add to your fitness routine.
Hiking is a great form of cardio that can help strengthen your lower body and can be an excellent exercise for any experience level, depending on the trail you choose. Hikes can last anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours which means you can burn a ton of calories. Make sure you’re prepped with the right nutrition and equipment as most hikes require you to walk on uneven terrain.
2. Park Bench Workout
If you have a park nearby you, utilizing the space can offer a great workout. If you have access to a bench, there are plenty of exercises you can do with it to complete a full-body workout. Here are a few exercises you can do from any park bench:
- Incline/decline pushups
- Tricep dips
- Bulgarian split squats
- Box jumps
- Mountain climbers
Aside from the bench, parks offer an open area to do most cardio exercises, like running, walking, cycling, and HIIT workouts.
Swimming is one of the best cardio exercises that target your entire body since you’re using every muscle to propel yourself forward. Swimming burns a ton of calories and is great for improving your cardiovascular health. It’s also a very healthy option as the impact on your joints is less, or can be used for those who are injured or recovering from an injury.
Though it’s a low-impact exercise, cycling is great for effectively targeting your lower body. If you’re looking for an exercise that minimizes stress on the joints, biking is a great option. It also has positive effects on your cardiovascular health and can help improve balance and coordination. If you wanna go for a quick hardcore version, sign up for a spinning class.
5. Skiing and Snowboarding
Outdoor workouts can be done year-round, not just during the hotter months. Skiing and snowboarding are great outdoor activities to do during the winter. Just like biking, skiing and snowboarding are great for improving your cardiovascular health and improving your balance. Aside from that, the thrill of it makes it that much more enjoyable.
Make Sure to Keep You and Your Skin Safe During Outdoor Workouts
Outdoor workouts are great for improving our mood and challenging our body and mind. While they have a ton of benefits, it’s important to keep yourself protected from harmful UV rays while exercising outdoors. In this article I covered the various benefits, how you can protect yourself and also gave 5 ideas for outdoor workouts that you could and should try and add to your fitness routine.
For more outdoor workout safety tips, check out the infographic guide below.
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