There’s no debate that cardiovascular exercise is not only an essential part of a balanced workout routine but one of the key factors in an overall healthy lifestyle. Cardio gets your heart rate up and improves your blood flow, activates your lungs’ work by boosting oxygen diffusion into the cells, stimulates major muscle groups to make your body stronger, and causes an intense production of endorphins that lead to a happier state of mind.
The issue is that when most people hear the phrase “cardio training,” they start picturing themselves hitting endless miles on the treadmill, impatiently watching the clock tick the slow seconds away. This might work for some people — hey, it’s pretty easy and all you have to do is press “start” — but for others, it may seem rather daunting to make cardio a daily habit.
But who said you have to be stuck in the same old cardio routine?! There are lots of other heart-healthy workouts with effects equal to running, which can actually be, dare we say it, fun! Plus, one major advantage is that they will get you out of the gym and outdoors, while introducing you to benefits you wouldn’t experience training indoors.
Doing cardio outside gives your lungs access to fresher, cleaner air compared to the circulated air we use to breathe indoors. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, even in large urban areas, indoor air may be more polluted than outdoor air. Plus, an outdoor workout is a great way to soak up the sun with its numerous positive effects on both physical and mental health. (Just remember your sunscreen!)
And of course, there’s something really special about exercising in nature — a peaceful setting might even make you forget how hard you’re working!
Here are the TOP 10 outdoor cardio workout options that will help keep you engaged in maintaining your heart health on a regular basis AND having fun. As a bonus point, skipping around between the different types of workouts can actually help you see results faster, since your body will be kept guessing and won’t have time to adapt to a particular movement.
Even though it may not feel as intense as running, hiking is a great cardio workout, especially if you’re walking at a decent pace. Hilly terrain will add extra difficulty points, plus, you may consider using hiking poles to up the calorie burn. No matter where you live, there’s almost always some type of hiking trail nearby. With autumn getting in full swing, the combo of bright fall colors and cool air will not only increase your cardiovascular health but also boost your emotional well-being.
Biking is a great low-impact outdoor cardio workout and a fun way to explore the neighborhood while torching calories. You can go at a steady-state pace to increase your cardiovascular endurance or work at speed to build muscle. A hilly route will add resistance and make this leg workout even more challenging. Cycling is perhaps the most straightforward outdoor workout to fit into a daily routine, especially while the summer weather is still here – just take your bike instead of your car to run errands.
Rollerblading is a super entertaining cardio activity that will strengthen your quads, help work out the outer thigh muscles as you move through the full range of motion, and ensure you a total calorie burn comparable to that of running. Don’t forget about safety tips and get a helmet and knee pads! Plus, if you’re into winter sports like skating and skiing, this will get you hyped up and well-prepared for those activities.
4. Mountain climbing
Mountain climbs (and runs) are a very effective way to get in shape and upgrade your cardio and fitness levels as they hit your entire body at the same time. So, if you are up to adding some adventure to your workout routine, this type of cardio is just what you’ve been looking for.
5. Stair climbing
If you don’t have quick and easy access to steep hiking trails, running stairs is an alternative option. This type of cardio workout blasts calories at a rapid pace and bulletproofs your legs and glutes. It also allows you to do your cardio in sprint style as you sprint to the top and then walk back down. You can walk up to get your body a moderate impact activity or run instead of walking to increase the intensity.
Swimming is an amazing way to break a sweat while keeping cool. It’s one of the best full-body workouts as it involves almost all muscle groups. Swimming at a high intensity guarantees you a powerful cardio workout. As the weather changes, membership at your local indoor pool can prove to be totally worth if you stick with a swimming routine!
Traditional aerobic moves such as jumping rope, jumping jacks, or trampolining are always a great choice to get your heart rate up in no time. Turn up your favorite playlist and jump to the beat! Plus, it’s science-backed that the jumping process itself is an incredible mood lifter!
8. Team sports
You don’t have to be a pro to enjoy playing your favorite sports game on a regular basis. Luckily, there are noncompetitive football, baseball, soccer, basketball leagues for amateurs – join one and get healthier and have fun doing your hobby! Or remember your childhood and invite a few buddies to play a friendly match at the nearest public stadium. It goes without saying that running around the field will get your heart pumping.
9. Racket sports
Try racket sports like tennis, badminton, or squash. All of these will keep you moving non-stop and burn a lot of calories while you dash around the court. Racket sports are also an effective full-body workout option as both your upper and lower body get to work.
Last but not least, dancing is probably the most fun cardio workout ever, and it doesn’t even have to feel like exercise! Dance moves increase your heart rate, tone up your whole body, improve your coordination, and help swipe away any stress. Dancing while doing household tasks or on a night out can be an excellent way to incorporate more cardio into your busy schedule. Keep an eye on outdoor dance floor options so the breath of fresh air can cool off the heat. And go ahead, dance like nobody’s watching!
The most essential part of any successful fitness journey is discovering the physical activity you enjoy. Once you find something you love, you’ll be having so much fun doing it that you won’t even consider it exercising! So, be creative, experiment with new things, and personalize your workouts to suit your own needs. Just make sure to get at least 30 minutes of cardio five days a week to reap the heart health benefits needed for a healthy lifestyle.
Go to dailyburn.com for more cardio workouts for any fitness levels and goals.
All images via Shutterstock