Where do you like your cardio—outdoors or at the gym? People who run outdoors push themselves harder, on average, than the treadmill crowd, according to a classic study in the Journal of Sports Science (1996). The varying terrain and even the wind resistance add to the challenge. And the outdoors is always available—you never have to wait your turn.

You’ll probably find it more fun, too. People who are active in natural environments enjoy it more than indoor exercisers do, according to a 2011 study in Environmental Science & Technology. Those outdoor exercisers also reported feeling more revitalized, less angry and depressed, and more likely to plan to do it again.

Outdoor ways to get your sweat on

  • Tennis: Step out on the courts for a high-energy, functional workout. Tennis blends cardio, balance work, hand-eye coordination, and some strength stuff too.
  • Hiking: Head to the nearest trailhead. Then keep going. The steeper terrain offers a fuller workout. Bonus: a killer view from the top and lots of likes on Instagram.
  • Rollerblading: Rollerblades are back as a creative, energetic way to work out. Hit the streets and boardwalks.
  • SUP: SUPing (stand up paddleboarding) is trending, and it’s a great way to get a workout on the water. Remaining on the board, let alone moving forward, takes a lot of core strength. Another option: SUP yoga.
  • Rowing: Try rowing, AKA crew, if your school or community offers it. Most crew happens in the early mornings, so you can get a jumpstart on your day.


  • Check to see if your college has an outdoors club.
  • The best way to get active outside is to grab a friend and make it a social activity too: You’ll look forward to it and you’re less likely to bail.