Break out of the gym rut and venture outdoors this summer to burn calories while you enjoy the scenery.
By Jen Laskey
Medically reviewed by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD
Why spend your summer exercising indoors at the gym when there are so many fun activities you can enjoy outside? Doug Schnitzspahn, editor in chief of Elevation Outdoors magazine in Boulder, Colo., spends his days focused on outdoor activities for his Rocky Mountain readers. When he’s not at the office, he’s taking advantage of the mountains in his backyard — cycling, trail running, mountaineering, and chasing after his two young children. Schnitzspahn’s top picks for calorie-burning activities this summer include:
“As a workout, it takes a lot of energy to climb up mountain trails,” says Schnitzspahn. “But it’s good interval training, and you get a great payoff on the way back down.” Interval training alternates short bursts of intense activity with stretches of lighter activity, and it can really boost your calorie-burning power.
Schnitzspahn adds that mountain biking helps develop reaction skills that you can't learn on a gym machine. “Reacting to real terrain gives you a better core workout than just programming a machine to simulate hills,” he says. Schnitzspahn mentions that Lance Armstrong is a big fan of the sport — Armstrong won the Leadville Trail 100 and Colorado state mountain bike championship last year. But you don’t have to be a professional cyclist to enjoy mountain biking. Novices can take to the hills on beginner trails and still burn as many as 400 calories in 30 minutes.*
Skip the simulated version at the gym and hit some real trails. Like mountain biking, trail running builds reaction skills. “You end up needing to push yourself harder when climbing on trails,” says Schnitzspahn. “And that burns more calories.” You can burn up to 400 calories in half an hour of trail running.
Ditch the indoor track and take the scenic route. “Hiking offers many of the same benefits as trail running, without the impact,” says Schnitzspahn. It’s an especially good lower-body and cardio workout for people who need to go easy on their knees and other joints. Plus, it’s fun to do with friends and family. Many state parks offer hiking trails for varying fitness levels. By cross-country hiking at a moderate pace, you can burn around 200 calories.
Some outdoor activities are less accessible to people who live in urban areas, but parkour (also known as parcour and free running) offers terrain-based interval workouts and is becoming increasingly popular in urban and suburban regions. Parkour is a type of running exercise in which you adapt your movements to overcome obstacles in your path. It’s a bit like being in an action film — if, say, you’re running along and a fence or big rock appears in your path, you’ll jump, vault, or climb over it rather than go around it.
Parkour can be a great full-body cardio and conditioning workout, but it does require some training to do it safely and correctly. Expect to burn at least 300 to 400 calories, depending on the intensity of the workout. To learn more about parkour, check out American Parkour or visit your local CrossFit training center.
More Outdoor Calorie-Burning Fun
In addition to Schnitzspahn’s suggestions, there are many other great ways to burn calories this season. Whether you’re looking for activities to enjoy on your own or with your family, consider the calorie-burning power of the following fun summer activities.
* Frisbee: 100 calories
* Jumping on a trampoline: 100 calories
* Dancing: 115 to 150 calories or more
* Snorkeling: 120 calories
* Horseback riding: 150 calories
* Gardening: 160 calories
* Kayaking: 150 calories
* Swimming: 180 calories
* Playing tennis: 250 calories
* Rollerblading: 250 calories
* Beach volleyball: 280 calories
* Biking around town: 250 calories or more
* Jumping rope: 360 calories
*All calorie counts are approximate and are based on a 150-pound person engaging in the activity at moderate intensity for 30 minutes.