Pete McCall by Pete McCall

Whether your clients enjoy the challenge of exercising outside in the summer sun or simply appreciate an outdoor stroll when the weather is nice, planning outdoor exercise sessions can be a great way to help your clients stay motivated and avoid lapses and subsequent relapses. At this time, it’s also likely a safer option to exercising indoors, particularly for older adults and others in higher-risk categories. If you work with older adult clients who are interested in staying active, here are eight ideas to help them get outside and explore creative ways to get adequate amounts of physical activity.

Agility Drills

Agility drills, such side shuffles and skips, can be considered a combination of dynamic balance and vertical core training that prepare the body to rapidly move its center of mass over a changing base of support. Grab some space at a park, mark off a distance of 10 yards and instruct your client to travel in one direction while performing a variety of movements and then walk back. Complete 2-4 repetitions of each of the following moves: high knee jog, heel-kicker jogging, lateral shuffle, back pedal, forward skips, lateral skips and backward skips.


Exploring your regional parks while following all appropriate health and safety guidelines can be a great option for hiking, running and bike riding. Urge your clients to plan an outdoor hike with a friend as a way to be physically active and also connect in-person while keeping responsible distance from one another.

Walking the Dog (and Playing Fetch)

Taking the family pet for frequent walks is a great way to achieve some additional movement time. However, for health benefits, remind your clients to maintain a good walking pace. As a rule, if you are walking at a pace that allows you to talk but not sing, you are working at a moderate intensity. Have your client perform an honest assessment: If their canine is slowing their roll, it’s probably better to go solo when it’s time for their fitness walks. Taking a canine companion to a dog park to play fetch is another way to get some extra activity, especially if the client takes part by playing an active form of catch or tag.

Cycling on Rail Trails

From quick rides for work commutes to a weekend training ride to exploring a new region during a multiday cycling and camping trip, bicycle paths built on old railroad rights-of-way provide numerous options for those who love to travel via two wheels. Rail trails provide numerous options for cycling, walking or running they are a great outdoor exercise resource that many people often overlook. Urge your clients to find one in their areas and start exploring.

Mountain Biking

Although members of Generation X (born 1965-1980) are largely credited with inventing outdoor adventure sports such as mountain biking, there is no age limit on who can enjoy exercising outdoors on a bike. The degree of challenge can vary widely, depending on the terrain—rocks and steep inclines can significantly add to the challenge and intensity, while flatter, wider trails are relatively easy to navigate. One of the important safety benefits of mountain biking is that it doesn’t require riding on city roads and competing for space with distracted drivers. Remind your clients to look for classes or guides who can help them find local trails and learn how to navigate them.

Playground Workout

Local parks and playgrounds generally offer everything needed for a great workout. When looking for space at a park or playground, have your clients think about using the space, not just the equipment. The space is where they can run sprints or agility drills; park features such as low walls or benches turn into great platforms for step-up or jumping exercises (use a height lower than the knee for safety). Here’s a quick and effective workout your clients can do while  walking through a local park: 10 step-ups in each direction on a low wall; 10 split-squats; 6 jumps and 15 triceps dips on a bench. Once your clients see the park as their own fitness dojo, they will start developing a lot of ideas about how to move in the space.

HIIT Workout

A local park or playground is also a great place to do a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout. And here’s some good news about HIIT you can share with your clients: Even a 10-minute workout (not including a full warm-up and cool-down can be really effective. Have your clients download a Tabata timer on to their smartphones and perform this body-weight Tabata style workout: jumping jacks, push-ups, running in place and mountain climbers; perform each exercise as fast as you can, with good technique, for 20 seconds and recover for 10 seconds after each exercise. Complete each exercise two times before moving on to the next exercise.

Stand-up Paddle Boarding

Stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) is a great option at a time when physical distancing is essential to staying healthy. The balance required to stay standing on an unstable surface combined with the strength needed to paddle make SUP an excellent outdoor fitness activity.

Going outside for a workout is a great way to provide a different physical challenge to the body, but it’s also important to have a change of scenery or to try to learn a new form of exercise. Learning a new exercise offers a unique way to move the body, and learning new skills helps to strengthen the brain as well. Your clients should never have to skip a workout if the gym is unavailable. Taking the time to identify a location and plan a strategy for exercising outdoors means that they have the skills to be physically active no matter where they go.

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