Transitioning to Outdoor Exercise

Transitioning to Outdoor Exercise

Written by Anthony Walsh PT, DPT

It’s that time of year again! The temperature is starting to rise and the sun is staying out for longer each day. It’s time to grab those sneakers and head outside for your workout to take advantage of the natural terrain and fresh air for great mental relief. Taking your exercise outdoors is a natural antidepressant and it also challenges your body for an extra boost. Best of all, it’s free!


Avoiding Injury

If something feels tight or sore, be sure to gently massage or foam roll the given area followed by stretching for about 2-3 minutes. Do not worry about excessively stretching each muscle. What’s more important is a dynamic warm up!

Dynamic warm ups involve activating the muscles by performing similar movements to your workout in ways that mimic the body demands about to take place. This should be done for any type of exercise. For example, running is a very common form of outdoor exercise. Prior to running, try performing these movements to improve blood flow, gradually increase heart rate, loosen up your joints Land get the leg muscles ready:

Air squats

Hip hinges (preferably single leg)

Walking lunges

Single leg balance with hip flexion and extension

Light jog in place for a minute

Lastly, do not worry about doing too many repetitions and tiring yourself before your run. 10-20 good repetitions of each will suffice. If you are unsure of your ability to perform any movements be sure to ask your Professional physical therapist.


Outdoor Activities

Running is a great form of exercise, but there are plenty of options of outdoor activities that serve as great forms of exercise! Exercises don’t have to include weights. Think of it this way, if you are moving your body at a heart rate (HR) slightly elevated than your resting HR, then you are exercising! Some great outdoor activities to get your blood flowing can include:


Bike riding

Basketball, softball, flag football etc.



Additionally, if you have access to some free weights, resistance bands, or other workout equipment, it is always good to find some open space and perform your usual routines outside in the sun for some Vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential to our immune system and plays a role in helping us absorb the calcium we need to keep our bones nice and strong!


Tips & Tricks

If you and your Netflix account became closer friends this winter and you spent less time exercising, do not rush back into it! Be sure to warm up accordingly and start with lower weights, lower reps, or less distance. Remember, muscle soreness is delayed (commonly referred to as “DOMS” for delayed onset muscle soreness). So you may be feeling great during your workout as our bodies natural endorphins leave us feeling great with exercise, but push too hard and you may be in a lot of discomfort for a couple of days after. Prolonged discomfort results in less availability for your exercises!

Also, as your activity increases, your body’s demand for fuel and hydration will as well. Be sure to drink plenty of water, and eat plenty of food consisting of protein, healthy carbs, and vegetables. For specific nutritional advice, be sure to ask your Professional PT for a local dietician or nutritionist!

Interesting final tip, if running is your exercise of choice and you are returning to outdoor running, consider your route. Make sure to change your route occasionally or change the direction in which you run. Believe it or not, always running the same path can actually lead to minor injuries over a period of time! This is because roads are designed to have a degree of inclination. This incline allows for proper drainage after it rains. Therefore, when running on the side of the road, one leg is technically ‘reaching’ more than the other. This can impact your ankle, knee, hip, or low back joints differently than the opposite limb when done excessively and expose the body to increased risk of injury.


If you’re experiencing any pain or discomfort while engaging in your workout, schedule an appointment with a Professional physical therapist for a complimentary injury screen to see if you’re a fit for physical therapy by visiting,