Best Ways To Stay In Shape (Or Get In Shape) Without A Gym

A jogger stretching outside with the sun rising.

Many people believe that the only way to stay fit is with a strict gym routine. With the abundance of equipment and structure, the gym has to be the best way to get or stay in shape, right?


We outdoors enthusiasts know this to be patently false. We could spend all day talking theory and the pros and cons of indoor versus outdoor exercise, but experience tells us all we need to know: the outdoor world is chock-full of everything we need to work out!

Stay with us as we elaborate on a few of our favorite examples of exercises and locations to get your grind on. Almost every activity can happen in almost every town in the nation, using the natural and man-made environments as your personal workout zone. These are some of the best ways to stay in shape, and the best part is that they’re all cheap to free!

1. Stairs

A woman jogging up the stairs.

Most cities have them, office buildings have them, hotels have them. Stairs are found nearly anywhere. They’re a naturally perfect way to get your blood pumping, expend some energy, and really work out the leg muscles. Gyms offer stair machines, which are basically an expensive surrogate for the real deal. Instead of jumping on that machine, try finding a set of public stairs and use them for your workout.

Many tall buildings welcome the use of their stairs, and outdoor venues have absolutely no restrictions. Even if you are not currently aiming to work out, taking the stairs instead of the elevator will keep your blood flowing and energy level high, grafting a bit of exercise onto an otherwise mundane part of the day.

2. Jogging

A woman jogging outside at the tree lined street.

The most traditional of old school exercises for staying or getting in shape, jogging is a great start and an old standby for many reasons. Requiring the least amount of equipment possible, it can be done virtually anywhere. With a pair of shoes and a positive attitude, you can turn any space into your own “gym” with jogging. We know that a lot of folks, even those who are in shape, are loathed to start jogging.

However, it’s a fantastic and incredibly simple way to maintain fitness. Working a jog into your daily routine can be, after a couple of weeks of adjustment, utterly painless. You do not have to run marathons to stay in shape. You don’t need the latest in high-tech footwear.

You simply need to carve a little bit of time out! We should add that you can diversify your jogging routine by incorporating interval training, or any other specific disciplines. This will keep it fresh and fun, which will keep you jogging.

3. Hiking

A family hiking along a creek in the forest.

Jogging just might not be your thing. Maybe you prefer more natural surroundings, or maybe your neighborhood just isn’t conducive to foot traffic. If you have any appreciation for nature, your best bet for outdoor exercise will be hiking. Whether for a short jaunt or a lengthy trek, hiking is a comprehensive body workout. Weather affects every outdoor activity, but perhaps hiking the least; many big fans think “the dirtier, the better.”

Even if you’re not a fan of rain or mud, a short hike won’t get you stranded the way long-distance backpacking might. Once you’ve absorbed the splendor of nature and fitness payoff, you’ll find fewer and fewer excuses for not getting outside and staying active. Remember, even if you live deep in an urban area, city and county parks can make for fantastic alternative destinations!

4. Biking

A family biking outdoors by the field of grass.

Bicycling is a near-perfect low impact exercise that has myriad benefits for your body and mind. If your knees are starting to creak, hop on a bike for low impact workouts. Find a low traffic area and go for a spin. Many cities have dedicated biking and running paths, too! Of course, everyone knows that you’ll find stationary bikes at the gym.

What you may not know is that the air on your face, the scenery rushing by, and the sheer sense of freedom achieved on an actual outdoors bike all combine for a dose of motivation you’ll never see in the gym setting.

Remember that you don’t need to find a super-lengthy route to fit a nice workout in. Pick a location you enjoy, and make as many loops as you’d like. Bicycling is one of the best ways to diversify your workout toolbox so you can stay in shape and have fun doing so.

5. Weekend Outings

A person kayaking on a lake with low morning fog.

Weekends do not have to be the sole purview of relaxation, staying at home, and watching television. Recreation can mean an abundance of activities both fun and worthwhile for your body and mind. Simply making an effort to get out there and join in any of the aforementioned activities will pay off handsomely for anyone.

Try moving beyond the mundane and reaching for something fresh. Backpacking, kayaking, and geocaching are fun adventures. Trying a new sport with friends is another idea. Here’s a whole article full of great weekend ideas.

6. Stand Up Paddling

A family on stand up paddle boards with kids on the board.

Stand Up Paddling (SUP) is a fantastic workout for those who live in an area with flat bodies of water. More than even kayaking, SUP helps strengthen your core, improves your balance, and provides unmatched enjoyment and challenge whether on a lake or river.

You’ll need a bit of equipment for this one, of course, but the upfront cost is balanced by a completely free activity day-in-and-out. Be sure to check up on local laws for personal floatation requirements!

7. Swimming

A swimmer doing laps in a pool.

Swimming is one of the most well rounded total body workouts in existence. Lake or ocean side residents can leap into the big water any time the weather permits, and most cities have pools available, whether public or membership-based.

If there is a local pool in your area, ask about costs; the fees are likely far cheaper than a quality gym membership. If you are able, swimming is a sublime option for staying in shape. Not only is your entire muscular system engaged; swimming is a huge calorie burner.

We hope that we’ve opened your mind a bit to the wider world available for the taking, and the exercises and workout opportunities just waiting to happen when you step outside the gym. It’s a great resource for those who are ready to utilize it, but sometimes we just need some sunshine, fresh air, and exposure to the natural world to keep us motivated. Combined with the ideas laid out here, we’re sure you’ll find a fun time staying fit in the great outdoors.

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