Nature is a gym and membership is free By Tanya Pascall

I’ll let you into a little secret. The sunny days aren’t my favourite. It’s the cold, crisp mornings, when the sunlight is reflecting off the frost-covered grass and you can see your breath that I count my lucky stars that this – the great outdoors – is my office. Of course, living in the UK, you get used to the grey and rainy days too, but however foul the weather, it’s nothing compared to the mood I would be in if I were denied my fix of outdoor exercise.

I watch the annual migration of half the population to the gym every January with mixed feelings. While it’s great that people are feeling motivated to try and shift those extra pounds and embrace a healthier lifestyle, they are seriously missing a trick.

Here are my top five reasons why exercising outdoors will always trump a session in the gym:


It is well-known that the oxygen boost you get from fresh air gets the serotonin flowing, but did you know that exercising in natural environments results in greater feelings of revitalisation and increased energy, and a reduction in tension, confusion, anger and depression when compared with exercising indoors? Even better, you don’t need Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty to reap the benefits; a 2015 study from Stanford University showed that a walk through the campus was enough to reduce anxiety. Even looking at images of greenery is a mood-booster; just imagine what an outdoor workout with friends would do for your state of mind!


Mother nature provides a helping hand; wind resistance and uneven terrain can help to burn calories and build definition. In a study looking at running indoors versus outdoors, outdoor exercisers were found to exert more energy than treadmill runners when covering the same distance. Surprisingly, people who exercise outdoors are also less likely to suffer from injuries as there is so much more variety in their workout – no repetitive pounding on the treadmill!


My eyes watered when I last enquired as to the cost of joining a local gym (out of curiosity!) Why would you when you can join a local outdoor exercise class for a fraction of the price and benefit from all of the added extras? All the free things in parks that can help you build muscle tone is a big enough perk in itself, surely! A park bench provides an ideal piece of equipment for tricep dips or step-ups – not to mention all of the impromptu sprints running away from playful dogs! Believe me, the cost of some waterproof trainers/workout gear costs less than the average monthly gym pass.


If you’re exercising outdoors, you’re more likely to do it in a group and social interactions are known to reduce stress and boost happiness. The camaraderie, banter and support in all of my outdoor boot-camps has to be seen to be believed. Everyone is made to feel welcome and no-one is judging anyone. Friendships develop quickly and is one of the biggest motivating factors for my regulars.


It stands to reason that if you’re having fun with friends while exercising, you are far more likely to stick with it than if you’re relying on your own self-discipline and motivation. The scenery itself can provide a welcome distraction, eliminating the temptation to clock-watch altogether.

To experience the benefits for yourself of exercising in the open air visit and to find out more about my outdoor boot-camps, training programmes and personal training sessions.

phil hill