Outdoor chinup

Complete Outdoor Guide to Park and Playground Exercises

Ah, spring. The snow is melting, and the birds are singing. And you’re itching to get outside and soak up some good ole’ vitamin D. (Seasonal depression is real, y’all.)

If you’re looking to ditch the dark gyms and take your workout to the great outdoors, you’re not alone. Over the last few years, there has been a shift in gymgoers’ activity, with many searching for fresh-air alternatives to their traditional health club 

Luckily, there’s an easy – and free – alternative around almost every corner: local parks.

Park workouts offer tons of benefits and are accessible to athletes of all ages and levels. And they’re praised for their mood-boosting and stress-reducing abilities.

From bodyweight exercises to free park equipment, there are plenty of ways you can work out in a park. In this article, we’ll cover:

  • How to prepare for outdoor exercise
  • Finding the perfect park for your workout
  • The 10 best park exercises for strength training
  • The top 7 outdoor cardio workouts 
  • FAQs For Free Outdoor Exercising

How Do You Prepare for Your Park Workout

Unlike getting in your car and driving to the gym, there are a few things you need to iron out before your park workout. 

Check The Weather Forecast

Nothing ruins a good workout like a middle-of-the-day thunderstorm. The weather can be unpredictable. And even if it looks like blue skies and sunshine, it’s worth a peek at the local weather station to ensure you’re 100% in the clear. 

Some other things to watch out for are air quality alerts, wind chill or heat indexes, and UV levels. These factors are important to consider when planning where and when you’ll work out, and what you’ll wear to stay comfortable.

Unfortunately, our favorite app for checking the weather was Dark Sky, but that was recently shut down and added to Apple’s Weather app. We now recommend that official app or Carrot.

Dress For The Weather

As the seasons change, so does what you wear for your outdoor workout.  Here are a few quick rules of thumb for staying safe and comfortable during your park workout:

  • When it’s hot outside: Lightweight, light-colored clothing will help keep you cool in the hot summer sun. Bonus points for moisture-wicking fabrics that lift and pull sweat off your body.
  • When it’s cool or cold outside: Layers are your friend. Dress in layers that you can remove as your blood starts pumping. Don’t forget accessories like hats, gloves, and gaiters to keep you nice and toasty from head to toe.
  • When it’s wet and rainy: Wear your best raincoat and opt for waterproof shoes to keep your toes dry and blister-free. A hat with a brim will help to keep the rain out of your eyes while you exercise. No one would judge you for wearing your umbrella hat…

No matter the temperature outside, don’t forget your sunscreen if the sun is out! While park workouts are a fantastic way to increase your vitamin D intake, the sun’s UV rays are no joke. Protect your skin with sunscreen or UPF-protective apparel if you want to be extra safe.

Choose Your Workout Equipment

Whether your park of choice has fitness equipment or not, a few pieces of personal equipment will spice up any workout routine. From warmup to cool down, there are tons of tools that can enhance your workout. 

Some of the most versatile and lightweight options are:

  • Resistance bands
  • Jump ropes
  • Walking hand-weights
  • TRX Straps

Keeping extra fitness equipment on hand allows you to take any outdoor strength or cardio workout to the next level.

How To Find a Park Near You for Your Outdoor Workout

You’ve checked the weather, dressed for workout success, and packed up your gear. Now you ask, “How do I find a park to work out near me?”

Pick Your Park Exercises

Decide what kind of workout you want to perform in the park. If you’re:

  • A runner looking to get in some miles, choose a park with plenty of paved trails with mile markers.
  • A Yogi looking for a quiet place to stretch and meditate, avoid crowded playgrounds and family-friendly parks. Instead, opt for a nice, grassy area with quiet trails.
  • Or if you’re interested in getting a pump in with the help of some circuit training tools, seek out a park with gym equipment like pull-up bars or dip stations.

Search for Local Parks Near You

  • National Park Service: There are tons of tools available to help you find a park for your outdoor workout. A great place to start is on the National Park Service website. This site allows you to search for national parks in any state across the US. Once you choose your state, you’ll find a list of the top national parks in your area with a brief history of each location.
  • FindYourPark.com: I bet you can’t guess what this site does. This website is another fantastic tool to help you pick a park for working out. A unique feature of Find Your Park is the ability to filter your desired activity.
  • TrailLink: If your internet search for parks near you is coming up short, TrailLink can help. This app has data on 40K+ miles of trails across the US and even offers access to offline trail maps. Simply input your city, state, or zip and receive a list of your area’s park trails. Perfect for those interested in walking, running, or hiking workouts.

10 Strength Training Exercises to Do in the Park

There are tons of ways you can perform a strength training workout outside of the gym. All you need is your body weight, the great outdoors, and some creativity. Here is a list of the 10 best strength training exercises you can do in a park:

  1. Park Bench Push-Ups: Push-ups are a classic exercise that targets your chest, shoulders, and triceps. To add a bit of variety to your push-ups, use a park bench. Beginners, put your hands on the bench and feet on the ground. Advanced athletes, flip that: put your feet on the bench and hands on the ground.
  2. Monkey Bar Pull-Ups: Work those lats and biceps through pull-ups. Use any solid fixture from the monkey bars, to a solid tree branch (if you’re feeling bold).
  3. Squats: Squats are a lower body staple. Build your legs and booty through any variation of the squat. Including bodyweight squats, sumo squats, jump squats, or resistance band squats (using your personal equipment).
  4. Lunges: Take advantage of the miles of open space during your park workout. Use trails or flat grassy areas to perform walking lunges. Or increase the difficulty of your lunges by using a park bench or swing. Put your back foot up on a fixture to isolate one leg at a time.
  5. Bench Dips: Burn out those triceps and pectoral muscles through bench dips. Place your hands on the seat behind you, keeping your legs bent or outstretched in front of you. Then lower yourself down and squeeze your triceps to raise back up.
  6. Planks: Work your entire core by holding a plank for 30 seconds to 1 minute. You can do any variation of a plank, like side planks, up-down planks, or planks with arm or leg extensions. If you’re at a family-friendly park, find a swing and put your feet on it while holding your plank for the ultimate ab workout.
  7. Tree Stump Step-Ups: Target your quads, glutes, and hamstrings in one movement. Find a park bench, curb, or tree stump and alternate your step – try to avoid pushing off with your foot on the ground. Remember, the higher the step, the stronger the burn!
  8. Single-Leg Glute Bridges: Do these on a flat, grassy surface or with the help of a curb or bench. Lie on your back and elevate one foot while pressing firmly with the foot on the ground – feel the burn in your glutes and hamstrings.
  9. Donkey Kicks: On your hands and knees, press your heel to the sky and squeeze your glutes.
  10. Mountain Climbers: Get in the plank position and alternate bringing your knee across your body to your elbow. Really squeeze your abs and obliques for a core-crushing workout.

7 Cardiovascular Exercises to Do in The Park

Nothing beats breaking a sweat in the great outdoors. Check out this list of the 7 best cardio workouts you can do outdoors:

  1. Walking: Don’t underestimate the power of walking. This go-to cardio exercise is easy on your joints and an effective way to get your heart rate up and burn calories.
  2. Hiking: Hiking gives you the benefits of a walk, with the bonus of lower body strength training. A 160-pound person can burn around 1,320 calories on a 90-minute hike while toning calves, hamstrings, glutes, and quads.
  3. Biking: Cycling is another effective low-impact cardio workout. Not only does it get your heart pumping, but it also works large muscles like your quads, hamstrings, and glutes.
  4. Jumping Rope: All you need is a standard jump rope and a stretch of pavement. Jumping rope can burn over 10 calories a minute – making it a time-effective cardio workout. Beginners can get a similar workout without the rope while still going through the motion.
  5. Running or Jogging: Running in a national park beats the treadmill any day. Test out different terrains like paved paths, dirt trails, or grass to work different muscles.
  6. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): You can turn any exercise into a HIIT workout by working in short, intense bursts with minimal rest. Try sprint intervals where you run for 60 seconds, followed by a 60-second walk of rest to boost your aerobic capacity. For more, check out our Beginner’s guide to HIIT.
  7. Burpees: You can center a whole workout around this one move. A burpee combines a jump squat with a push-up, effectively working your whole body.

5 FAQs About Exercising in the Park:

What are some of the benefits of outdoor exercise?

Exercising outdoors has many benefits you can’t find from indoor fitness. Some include vitamin D exposure, reduced cortisol levels, accessibility (aka, it’s free), and fresh air.

What are some of the most popular exercises to do in the park?

From cardio to strength training, there are a plethora of exercises to do in the park. Some of the most effective cardio exercises are running, hiking, cycling, jumping rope, and walking. Popular strength training exercises include bench push-ups, pull-ups, bench dips, squats, step-ups, mountain climbers, and planks.

How do I find parks near me good for working out?

A few great resources to find parks and outdoor fitness locations in your area include the National Park Service website, Recreation.gov, FindYourPark.com, and apps like TrailLink.

How should I prepare to exercise outdoors?

First, double-check the weather is acceptable for your outdoor exercise plan. Then, make sure your clothing is appropriate for the weather. If it’s hot, dress in loose-fitting, moisture-wicking clothing. During winter, you’ll want to dress in layers. Finally, remember to pack some personal workout equipment to enhance your workout.

How do I exercise safely in the park?

Staying hydrated, bringing a friend, avoiding overexertion, and being aware of your surroundings are a few ways you can maximize safety during your park workout.

Enjoy Your Outdoor Exercise

At the end of the day, your indoor gym isn’t going anywhere. Exercising in the park is a fantastic way to switch up your workout routine and reap the benefits of nature. 

Whether you’re an avid exerciser or a beginner, park workouts are suitable for all ages and levels. Between bodyweight exercises, utilizing park equipment, or a simple stroll, there are plenty of options to choose from. And the best part? They’re all free.

So head outdoors to your nearest local park, get your sweat on, and don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.

Author Bio

Devon Gonzales is a former NPC competitor and fitness junkie living in Tampa Bay with her husband and two pups. She is passionate about providing fitness tips and health advice to help others live their best life.

Devon offers freelance copywriting services and specializes in offering content and digital marketing to the health and fitness industry.