22 Fun and Free Summertime Exercise Ideas

There are many reasons why exercising in the summer is fun and more feasible than ever. For starters, there is much more daylight during the summer, so you can get outside for more hours, say from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. (rather than 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the winter).

Your schedule may be less hectic in the summer and give you the leisure time to devote to fitness, especially if you do not have to make sure your children go to school in the morning and finish homework at night. Plus, friends and family may be more likely to join you in an exercise-related adventure. (See also: 7 Summery Ways to Protect Your Skin)

Just thinking about being outside may bring to mind fun and free exercise ideas. But if not, consider these favorites.

1. Create a Boot Camp With Your Friends

Whether you are a veteran of a paid program or not, you can start your own free boot camp with friends. Hold a session in a public space, a common area in your neighborhood, or your backyard if there is enough room to exercise without disturbing others. Use online resources like this one to create your own outdoor boot camp.

2. Take Swimming Lessons

Free swimming lessons are often available at city and county facilities. Check with your city parks and recreation departments, county parks departments, and the American Red Cross to learn about any free lessons in your area for children, teens, and adults.

3. Hike as a Friendly, Romantic, or Family Outing

Summertime is perfect for trying out new trails at the state park or returning to old favorites. Many parks close at dusk year-round, meaning they may be open much later in the summer than the winter (9 p.m. vs. 6 p.m., for example). Leave straight from work, bring a picnic dinner, and finish an evening hike while it’s still light outside.

4. Run Some Hills

If you want to build your fitness capacity, running up hills in your neighborhood or a local park is a simple way to get strong. Take about 20-30 minutes in the morning, afternoon, or evening once a week to tackle hills. This exercise can help you get ready for local 5K runs.

5. Walk the Neighborhood

Summer is a great time to start walking, especially if you are just beginning to exercise. Get up early to stroll before work for a great start to a busy day. Or, take time to walk in the evening for a relaxing end to a stressful day.

6. Walk or Run on an Outdoor Trail or Track

If you want to exercise with the entire family or a group of friends with varying fitness levels, consider going to a multi-use trail, cross-country trail, or outdoor track. In my area, you can find these at public spaces run by the city and county park systems, local Y (outdoor areas are available to members and non-members alike), and even a public garden with green space frequented by area distance runners.

7. Swim the Lake or Ocean

If you are an accomplished swimmer, you can swim in open water. Find designated swimming spots in lakes (often roped off with buoys) or public-access areas of lakes and oceans.

8. Go Swimming at the Pool

Sure, pool memberships can cost you. But you may have access to a pool at no charge sometime during the summer. Bring your swimsuit when you travel for work or leisure (swimming privileges may be included in your lodging rate at hotels or resorts) or go to a neighborhood pool party.

9. Swim Laps in a Competition-Sized Pool

If you sign up for a triathlon training program, a temporary membership to a swimming facility is often included in the fee. Technically, you’ll have to foot the bill for the program, but you may be able to get pool access for no extra charge. Similarly, membership in a triathlon club may include free swim sessions.

10. Jump Rope Outside

Do a quick workout on your driveway. If you’ve never tried jumping rope a la Rocky, you may be surprised at how demanding and rewarding this exercise is. For more ideas on technique, see this article from Real Simple on jump-rope workouts.

11. Play Tennis

You’ll need to bring a racket and balls, but court use is typically free. Some sites may require reservations while others have courts available on a first-come, first-served basis.

12. Play Softball

You may be able to find a place on a team sponsored by your company, church, or other group. Often, the team practices, uniforms, etc. are paid by the sponsoring group. So, you can get some exercise while bonding with friends, neighbors, and coworkers.

13. Learn to Row or Sail for Free

Boating can be an expensive hobby. But you may be able to snag free rowing or sailing lessons, getting you outside and exercising both body and mind simultaneously.

One way to learn, as suggested by former sailing crew members in a discussion forum, is to volunteer as a hired hand for a regatta. Another is to look for free classes sponsored by groups that seek to promote the sport or activity. For example, MIT offers training to its community and rowing clubs provide free lessons at least one day each year.

Finally, privately run camps and resorts (frequented by kids and adults) may have sailing included in their list of activities, so there are no extra fees to learn boating skills and get exercise at the same time.

14. Go Climbing

If you happen to own or have access to proper gear, summer is a great time to climb mountains outside.

15. Ride Your Bike

Travel on multi-use trails, roads, or mountain bike trails. Go alone or find a group with your local bike shop, cycling club, or Meetup.com group. Make up your own route or check out pre-made routes on sites such as MapMyRide.com.

16. Go Rollerblading

I often see friends and families rollerblading on the trail where I run. There is also a group that practices together and participates in local charity bike rides. Rollerblading looks like a great workout and lots of fun.

17. Join a Pick-Up Basketball or Soccer Game

You may have a group of friends who get together regularly to play a game. Join them just for fun. Alternatively, wander over to your local park and start bouncing or kicking a ball around; very often, you will meet people who are interested in playing but just need more players to field a team.

18. Accept an Offer for an Outdoor Adventure

You might agree to participate in an outdoor challenge or ropes course as part of a team-building effort, which could be more fun if you see the activity as a chance to get a free workout rather than consent to a corporate effort. Similarly, you could accompany a friend who has been asking you to go on an adventuresome outing. For example, you might go kayaking with a friend who has her own boat.

19. Sign Up for the Free Trial Membership at the Gym

Take the summer lull as a time to try a new gym or exercise class for free. Last summer, I was approached in the grocery store parking lot by two people giving away trial memberships; some gyms may be especially welcoming to guests during this season.

20. Play Outside With Your Kids

Leo Babauta of Zen Habits often talks about simple, fun ways to get exercise. Specifically, he mentions playing with your kids as a great way to get a workout while enjoying yourself, which is a more sustainable way to form a habit than forcing yourself to do exercises you dread.

21. Join Your Kids on Their Outings

If your kids need a chaperone for their scout or school-group hikes, volunteer to accompany them. You could get a free ride plus exercise on the trip.

22. Visit Your Playground

Many of the traditional playgrounds have pull-up bars and swings that can give you a good workout. If you need more precise instructions, learn to play your way to fitness with exercises like jumps, planks, and lunges.

We often think of the beginning of a new year as the best time to start a new exercise regimen. But January is often booked with work, school, volunteer, and family obligations so adopting a new habit then can be difficult. Summer's less pressured atmosphere is a perfect time to play outside, try new things, and make fitness fun.

What fun and free ways do you like to exercise outside during the summer?

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