American Council on Exercise by American Council on Exercise

Last Updated June 14, 2024 (originally published June 30, 2021) 

Green exercise, or exercise that is done outdoors in natural environments, became a staple in the lives of millions of Americans over the past few years. The benefits of green exercise are far-reaching and include both physical and mental health benefits.

As such, exercise professionals have an excellent opportunity to grow their client base long-term by incorporating green exercise options into their clients’ routines. Here are five ways to get started.

1. Expand your offerings with outdoor sessions at a variety of locations. Give your clients a change of scenery, along with fresh air and sunshine, by offering outdoor exercise sessions at a wide array of convenient locations. Shared-use agreements (SUAs) and similar agreements issued by local governments allow exercise professionals and other physical activity and exercise program leaders to use community parks, school facilities, and other public spaces for structured, professional-led fitness activities.

2. Take a hybrid approach to indoor-outdoor sessions. These days, people are blending online and face-to-face classes in schools and remote and in-person employment in offices. Your approach to exercise should be the same. By combining indoor and outdoor exercise sessions, you’re helping to keep your participants committed and engaged with fitness in a variety of ways.

3. Use the ACE resources to establish and support a permitting process for outdoor sessions. There are several ways that you can go about establishing a process for the long run with your local government for your outdoor exercise sessions. ACE’s Shared Use Agreement Toolkit for ACE Certified Professionals and the Shared-use Park Etiquette and Safety: A Guide for Public Policy, the Health and Exercise Professional and Participants explain everything you need to know.

4. Engage your participants in green exercise outside of your scheduled sessions, with assignments to go hiking with family or friends. One great way to get your participants engaged with their natural surroundings for good is to assign them “homework” where they go for a leisurely hike or walk with family or friends. This helps underscore how moving around outside in nature solidifies a connection between physical and mental/emotional well-being.

5. Emphasize the mental health benefits of outdoor activity, including reduced stress and anxiety. Research has proven that the benefits of moving around outside are vast. Be sure to help your participants understand the ways in which outdoor activity can reduce their stress, anxiety, tension and bad mood, and how doing so directly impacts their physical fitness goals.

If you are a health coach or exercise professional looking to add outdoor fitness options to your list of services, be sure to check out Shared-Use Agreements for Outdoor Fitness (worth 0.1 ACE CECs), which will take you step by step through the process of delivering physical activity and exercise programs in parks and other public spaces.