Get fit in the great outdoors

Bored of going to the gym? It's time to take your fitness sessions outside, writes Liz Connor

Surfing is one of the most physically challenging watersports out there
Liz Connor

IF YOU'RE looking for a late summer fitness kick, it's really easy to stay active while also getting a fix of fresh air. From coast to countryside, there are plenty of pursuits that can tone your arms, strengthen your abs and clear your mental clutter.

Here are just a few family-friendly, al fresco activities to try...

1. Surfing

Surfing is one of the most physically challenging watersports out there, engaging your core and stabiliser muscles as you work to bend and balance on the board. "It's great for your heart," says Harris Rothschild, senior instructor at St Ives Surf School (

"Putting on your wet suit, running down the beach, paddling out into the surf and catching waves are all aerobic exercises that hugely benefit for your cardiovascular system."

Because you're usually out on the waves for at least an hour, Harris says it tests your stamina and endurance, while sculpting your back, shoulder and leg muscles.

2. Inline skating

There's something seriously addictive about rollerblading and all that lower-body power does wonders for your hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes.

Easier on your joints compared with running, it's estimated that a 10-stone person can burn about 580 calories per hour of vigorous skating.

3. Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP)

"SUP is a great low impact muscular endurance workout if the ocean is your thing," says Matt Harass, regional group exercise manager at Virgin Active (

"During a SUP session you'll be firing up most of the muscles, with the lower body and core contracting as you anchor to the board and paddle," says Harass.

4. Trail running

"Natural landscapes offer a mosaic of horizons to stimulate your mind," says Ceri Rees, founder of Wild Running (

Rees says a good trail run through rock, scree and mud will force your body to recruit different muscles that you'll need to stabilise your core. It's accessible to everyone, costs nothing and is one of the highest bang-for-your-buck methods of calorie burning after intense weight training.

5. Cycling

It's not a specialist skill, so anyone can give it a go, and it's relatively cheap – there's just a one-off payment on a bike to factor in. Cycling works the thighs and often arms hard, as well as being a great alternative for those who have joint troubles where high impact exercise can cause problems.

6. Rock climbing

There aren't many outdoor sports that will be as demanding on your body as rock climbing. Research has shown that climbing requires significant aerobic capacity to maintain position on a rock face and anaerobic capacity for the climb.

It's a sport that you'll will need to have a basic level of fitness and grip strength to start with, but it can pay dividends on your shoulders, legs, abs and even mental capacity.

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