Great Summer Workouts

By Barbara Russi Sarnataro
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Charlotte Grayson, MD

Ah, summer! The great outdoors beckons with warm weather and longer days. Make the most of the season by turning your tired indoor fitness routine into creative outdoor workouts wherever you live or vacation.

To get started, WebMD asked exercise physiologists to share their summer workout tips. Whether you're at the lake, in the mountains, on the beach, or at the pool, here's how to stay fit this summer.

Fitness at the Lake

Taking the family to the lake this summer? Great. Water is a perfect place to exercise in the heat and humidity of summer. Swimming is an obvious choice, says Patrick Ayres, MS, exercise physiologist at Lifestyle Management in Bloomington, Minn.

"Swimming or treading water is a great way to work the cardiovascular system," he says. "Lots of people go to the lake and get motor boats," he says. "If you are boating, go out to an area, stop the boat and anchor, and do some swimming."

Don't get caught up in the idea that the exercise has to be a consistent 30 minutes, says Ayres. "Recreational activities can also be exercise," he says, and doing something is better than nothing. Ten minutes or so a few times throughout the day will add up.

Kelli Calabrese, MS, an exercise physiologist, fitness author, and owner of Calabrese Consulting in Long Valley, N.J., recommends canoeing for an all-over body workout. Many lakeside facilities offer rentals and lessons, she says.

If you're unsure of your ability or if it's been a while since you've been in a canoe, Calabrese advises taking lessons. Just learning will be a workout in itself.

"It's great for the shoulders," she says, "but it's also great core, great obliques, and great back work." In addition, she says, the legs work as stabilizers.

Be conscious of muscle balance, she says. Don't always turn the canoe in the same direction. If you're circling the lake, reverse the circle. Row on alternate sides of the boat, or use a longer, double-sided paddle, which makes balancing even easier.

And enjoy the ride. "It's different, it's fun and it's a great way to see the lake, from a canoe," says Calabrese. "It feels good just to be out in nature and listen to the sounds of the water."

If you have no access to a canoe or boat, you have other options. Jesse Pittsley, exercise physiologist and program director for the exercise science department at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina, knows the lake scene well.

"My parents live on a lake," he says. "We have a rocky beach by my parents' dock. We go out waist deep and grab around for rocks at the bottom of the lake and see if we can throw them to the shore."

This friendly family competition becomes a workout for the shoulders and abdominals (particularly the obliques). Before you know it, you're exercising and burning calories.

Working Out in the Mountains

Want a whole-body workout in rocky and mountainous terrain? Try pole hiking, says Calabrese.

What you'll need are a set of aluminum, rubber-tipped poles and a good pair of hiking shoes. The poles costs between $70 and $100 and are sold at some sporting goods stores or at walkingpoles.com.

Using the poles allows you to involve the upper body in activity that normally works mainly the legs and glutes, says Calabrese. "You move with quicker, smaller steps, your arms are pumping and it's almost like race-walking," she says. "The upper body motion really gets the heart rate going. It's a great way to add some intensity to your hiking."

It's also great for a beginner because using the poles reduces stress on the knees and distributes the body's weight more evenly.

The mountains are a great summer workout location because it's usually shadier and cooler in hilly terrain. Since you'll be gaining altitude, you may notice a drop in temperature as you climb. In desert climates such as Tucson, Ariz., where summers can be scorching, many people make the 40-minute drive up Mt. Lemmon to escape the 100-degree temperatures in the city. Then they hike in the 70-degree shade of pine trees.

Wherever your mountains are, exploring them is a great way to take a workout outdoors. Ayres says to bite off little chunks of the mountain, power walking for a specific amount of time, then resting and repeating.

"It can be a way of doing natural intervals," says Ayres, when you push the body, then rest alternately.

In Winston-Salem, N.C., Pittsley hikes in the Appalachian Mountains.

Take a picnic lunch, he says, and hike until you find a view somewhere to spread out, near a pretty steep incline. Relax and have lunch, he says, taking in the view and the scents and sounds of nature. Once you've rested and digested, use the incline to challenge yourself.


"Moderate trail cycling is a great whole-body workout that doesn't feel like exercise."