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4 Outdoor Workouts to Skip the Gym Without the Guilt

By Stephanie Vuolo, B.A.
July 10, 2015
4 Outdoor Workouts to Skip the Gym Without the Guilt image

Are you looking for ways to exercise more like a hunter-gatherer? Break out of your regular indoor gym workout routine this summer and discover new ways to challenge your body. The current epidemic of lifestyle related health conditions are linked to the daily physical activity patterns that have evolved with modern life.1 By challenging your body with different movements, especially outdoors, we can optimize our gene expression and get the maximum benefits out of our time spent exercising.

Just like we eat seasonally available food, seek out seasonally available activities where you live. Running, swimming, and biking are all common warm weather activities to keep you in shape. However, there are additional opportunities to explore outdoor workouts this summer. Skip the gym and reconnect with more Paleolithic forms of movement by going outside, trying something new, and being active with your friends and family.


Numerous options exist for creating strength based, and high-intensity workouts using existing structures. Whether you use the wide-open spaces at your favorite park or utilize the equipment at your local playground, you can get a great workout, in less than 15 minutes, while enjoying the outdoors.

Step-ups or jumps on a bench can build cardiovascular endurance, and strengthen the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. Swinging and hanging on the monkey bars, which is much harder as an adult than it was as a child, provides attention to your biceps, lats, and abs.


You’ve probably heard you can incorporate more activity into your day if you take the stairs and skip the elevator. Take it to the next level with a stair-climbing, outdoor workout. It’s a thrilling, complete workout that will tax your lower half, and you’ll also benefit from both the ascending and descending movements.2

I am lucky to live in Seattle, which has over 650 public stairways that add up to a distance of about 100 miles to climb. If no stairways come to mind, check out your local high school stadium stairs near your home. Better yet, take the master in Stairmaster to a whole new level and explore steps worldwide at Machu Picchu, the Flørli stairs in Norway, and Switzerland’s suspended bridge over the Traversinertobel.3


Paddle boarding, one of the fastest growing water sports4, is a cross between kayaking and surfing. It’s simple and safe enough for even small children (with a life preserver) and dogs to come along for the ride, while you get the benefits from the workout. Above all else, it develops your sense of balance, as well as works the muscles of the arms and core.

As the sport evolves, it is being taken to a new level where some are doing yoga, Pilates, and even high intensity intervals of push-ups and squats on the paddleboard. Not close to water? Get all the same benefits from land paddling on a larger version of a skateboard (called a long board), which has rubber wheels.


Speedminton, which originated in Germany in 2002, is a trendy new game you can play in your backyard that’s a blend of tennis, badminton, and racquetball, using a “speeder” similar to the birdie in badminton. There’s no net, so the shots can go as low as you’d like and it can be played in any open space. Speedminton is a great way to build endurance and incorporate sprinting into your fitness routine as you dash for the speeder and have fun with your friends.

Wherever your fitness endeavors lead you this summer, consider broadening the way your body is challenged to perform. Not only can skipping the gym maximize the pleasure you get from exercise, but also allow you to experience the full benefits of sunny, warm weather. Live Paleo. Move Paleo.


[1] O'Keefe, James H., et al. "Exercise like a hunter-gatherer: a prescription for organic physical fitness." Progress in cardiovascular diseases 53.6 (2011): 471-479.

[2] Teh, Kong Chuan, and Abdul Rashid Aziz. "Heart rate, oxygen uptake, and energy cost of ascending and descending the stairs." Medicine and science in sports and exercise 34.4 (2002): 695-699.

[3] Available at: // Accessed July 3, 2015.

[4] Available at: // Accessed July3, 2015.

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