Fitness

Skip the gym this summer! 7 outdoor workouts that burn major calories

June 28, 2014 at 9:33 AM ET

outdoor exercise, exercise, outdoor workout, summer workouts
Dudarev Mikhail / Shutterstock

The long, warm days of summer leave plenty of time to fit in a workout without having to hit the gym. Try some of these expert-recommended outdoor workouts to burn calories and get fit while enjoying the summer sun.

Stand up paddle boarding
Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 350 

Stand up paddle boarding (aka ‘SUP’) might look intimidating, but the way the board is designed makes it easy for anyone to do, according to Kim Truman, a certified personal trainer and outdoor athletic coach. SUP is done on a large surfboard, which provides a wider area to stand on and balance. And while this activity can be almost meditative, you’ll still be strengthening your upper back, legs, glutes and abs while developing balance and coordination, too. 

To help maximize your workout—and minimize your chances of falling off—Truman suggests standing with feet hip width apart on the board, maintaining good posture and starting your paddle strokes on your dominant side (right if you're right handed) to help to find your rhythm, balance and strengthen your connection to both the board and the water. Once you're steady, start alternating sides after every third stroke. 

Hiking
Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 375 

Not only does hiking offer a physical challenge, it gets you out into nature, which can boost your mood. And the beautiful scenery and changing terrain shifts your focus to your movement and surroundings, taking your mind off exercising (unlike the boring repetition of a treadmill). “Hiking is one workout you can't help but fall in love with,” Truman says. Hiking is a great cardio workout that challenges all of your muscles as the terrain shifts (going uphill and stepping over rocks), says Truman. The pace of your hike will influence the intensity of your workout and how many calories you burn, so pick a trail that meets both your fitness level and goals. 

Never go alone hiking alone—if you get easy lost or stuck you need a buddy -- and plan out a route in advance. 

Biking
Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 400 

It may have been years since you last rode your bike, but it’s never too late to get back in the saddle! Riding a bike outdoors offers even more benefits than a stationary bike since you’ll have to balance, steer your bike and respond to changing terrain as you pedal. Cycling works your glutes, thighs and hamstrings as well as your core, Truman says. 

She recommends trying a pedal stroke interval to amp up your calorie burn and improve your cardiovascular fitness: Pedal as fast as you can for 60 seconds, then slow down and recover for 20, repeat five times in total. “Make it a cardio and mental game knowing you're getting stronger with each pedal stroke,” says Truman. Wear clothing that is easy to pedal in (such as bike shorts) and stiff-soled or bike shoes. 

For more on getting the most out of your ride check out these biking tips for beginners. 

Swimming
Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 425 

Want a total body workout that’s easy on your joints but still a great calorie burner? Try swimming! “Swimming challenges your muscles because of the density of the water. Your own body weight is your resistance and you are working much harder than you will feel in the moment,” Truman says. Swimming develops strong, lean muscles as well as strengthening your core and low back to help protect your spine and improve posture, she notes. 

Truman recommends focusing on your form and breathing with each stroke -- if you are new to swimming, just get comfortable with moving in the water. The faster your pace and the shorter your rest time in between laps, the more intense your workout (and calorie burn) will be. 

Beach volleyball
Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 500

Turn exercising into a fun game with volleyball—you'll get both a strength-training and cardio session. “Volleyball is a fabulous total body workout; it’s interval training at its best. You work hard, using the legs and butt to get under the ball, core to maintain your balance, and upper body to power through, followed by a period of rest, but you never know how long,” says fitness expert Sara Haley, creator of the Daily Sweat DVDs “Sweat UNLIMITED and Expecting More.” And, playing in the soft, uneven terrain of sand on the beach means you’ll be working even harder (translation: burning up extra calories) than on a flat, indoor court every time you go to spike that ball. If you're not near a beach start a game of pool volleyball – it's just as challenging (and fun). 

Rollerblading
Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 800 

If you love the feeling of running outdoors but find it too hard on your joints, give rollerblading a whirl. “Rollerblading, once you get the hang of it, is an incredibly effective cardio workout,” Haley says. “It’s low-impact, so it places less stress on the joints and muscles then running or aerobics. Plus, you use more muscle groups, especially your core, to maintain your balance,” she explains. 

Skating through a park with level terrain and no traffic is a great place to get your bearings and practice building your speed. Don’t worry if you aren’t ‘good’ at it in the beginning—practice makes perfect. “The best way to get better at rollerblading is to just get out and do it. You’ll be having so much fun learning a new skill, you’ll forget you’re working out,” says Haley. 

Yoga in the park
Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 175 

Summer’s warmer weather makes it the perfect time of year to try an outdoor yoga, which is often offered in local parks as a sunrise or sunset group class. Most outdoor yoga classes are for all levels (check with your instructor first to be sure), making it easy for beginners to join in without any prior experience. “Depending on the type of yoga, you might experience the benefits of flexibility, strength and/or cardiovascular training. Plus, you’ll have the most amazing backdrop, as you see the sun rise or set around you,” Haley says. 

Come prepared for class in an outfit that you’ll feel comfortable wearing in both standing and floor postures. Most classes are BYM (bring your own mat) and toting a towel can be helpful if sweat and dirt start to show up on your mat. 

Gardening
Average Hourly Calorie Burn: 250 

If you've never planted a garden, you may not think of gardening as exercise, but it's a great full body workout! “If you are doing some serious gardening, such as digging holes, planting and weeding, you will exert a significant workload, which can sometimes work the body harder than most typical exercise,” explains Haley. “From raking, lifting, pushing, pulling and shoveling, gardening is a complete body workout for the butt, legs, back, chest, arms and abs,” she says. 

Take breaks every hour from that forward, hunched over position by standing up and walking around. Try a few standing back extensions to help relieve any stiffness. Get inspired to dig into the dirt with these amazing garden designs for spaces and landscapes of all shapes and sizes. 

Calories burned are based on a 140-pound woman; exact calorie burn may vary depending on workout intensity, body composition and fitness level.

A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.

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