Photo: Olga Yastremska via 123RF

As the weather cools down, head outside for a breath of fresh air without all the heat! Spending time outdoors is excellent for mental health. Turning your outdoor excursions into a workout to benefit physical health is also easy. Outdoor fitness is as straightforward as stepping outside to take a walk. Still, if you’re looking for something more engaging, here are a few ideas to get you started.

Go “Leaf Peeping”

Autumn is the perfect time to head out into the mountains and hillsides to see the leaves turn brilliant shades of red, orange, and gold. Turn this activity into an enjoyable exercise by walking or hiking as you’re able. Local guides can point you toward paths that vary in difficulty so you can find one that’s right for you.

Start Bird Watching

Bird watching is one of the most underrated hobbies. But it’s a wonderful option for active adults who want to try something new. Because you don’t need much training or start-up equipment for this hobby, you can jump right in when you’re ready. And the first step starts right in your backyard! To turn this hobby into a more physical activity, commit to walking around the park, hills, riverside, etc. at least once a week in the early morning to find new birds. Investing in a field guide that includes the species in your area is a perfect way to keep track of each new bird you see (and hear!). Here’s a guide to get you started on your journey!

Volunteer Outside

One of the best ways to get outside and exercise your body and brain is to volunteer! Many local events, clubs, and organizations need volunteers to assist with fall activities and tasks, so ask your favorite groups if they need help. Often, zoos and botanic gardens have additional fall cleanup needs, so extra volunteers during this time are always appreciated. You can help with more physically demanding tasks (like raking, weeding, etc.) if you’re able, or you can ask for less intense options such as repainting signs, leading walking groups or school field trips, and more! If you live near hiking trails, the forest service often requests volunteers for trail maintenance in the fall; call your nearest ranger station for details.

Photo: Wavebreak Media Ltd via 123RF

Take an Outdoor Class

Did you know that learning new skills is one of the best ways to keep your brain and body active? Take advantage of the lovely outdoor weather and take a class outside! This can be fitness-specific, like Tai Chi or yoga in the park, or it can be a class that includes plenty of movement alongside the curriculum—think gardening, local plant identification, the geological history of your area— get creative! A local university or community college is an excellent place to look for these classes, and seniors often qualify for extensive discounts.

Sign Up for a “Fun Run”

Don’t be deceived by the name. A “fun run” doesn’t have to involve running (although it can if you’re so inclined!). Many cities organize running and walking events in the fall when the weather begins to cool down. Most include a “fun run” portion that offers space for those who wish to walk or run at a leisurely pace instead of timed competition. The thrill of walking with a crowd and sharing in a collective goal is an excellent mood-booster. Plus, you’ll get plenty of exercise if you train for the walk during the weeks beforehand. As a bonus, many of these events collect money for charities, so you can give back to the community while staying fit!

Plant a Winter Garden

If you think of gardening as a sedentary summer activity, think again! There are many physical fitness benefits from gardening. You’ll engage most of your major muscle groups, get vitamin D from the sunshine, improve your mental health, and more! Planting a winter garden during the early autumn months is a wonderful way to embrace this activity year-round. If you haven’t gardened during the cooler seasons before, follow this guide to get started!

Take a Walking Tour

How much of your town have you really explored? What about the surrounding area? Fall is the perfect time to play tourist and take a walking tour of your community. Check with local tour guides and museums to see which routes they offer. Then, put on your walking shoes and head out. You can often learn about your city’s “hidden history” simply by exploring on foot!

Enjoy the crisp and sunny skies as you exercise this season with these easy ideas!