Say your gym is expensive, and there are long waits to use certain exercise equipment. Maybe it is time to return to the basics and exercise outdoors.

There is considerable evidence that an outdoor workout can be more beneficial than indoor exercise in several ways, especially to improve your mood and relieve stress. One reason for this is pretty obvious. Instead of the stale, often overheated air of a stuffy gym, outdoors you inhale fresh air, which promotes better health. In addition, outdoor exercise provides vitamin D from the sun, which maintains your calcium balance and may even boost your immunity.

One of the great things about outdoor exercise is that it offers virtually unlimited variety. Running, walking, swimming, hiking are just a few options available in the great outdoors. You can also vary the intensity quite easily. For instance, you could do something as simple as walk the dog—a very low-impact workout—or you can jog with the dog, which adds variable resistance. Raking leaves provides a moderate workout, enabling you to burn off some calories while performing a necessary chore. And hiking up a steep hillside or rock climbing will give you a good cardiovascular workout while providing resistance for your upper body muscles.

Outdoor exercise also benefits the mind. No matter what outdoor regimen you undertake, your mind is more likely to stay alert, preventing the monotony that can set in at the gym. Because safety is an essential component of any good workout, you must be aware of changes in terrain and weather as you walk or run, thus keeping your mind sharp.

However, apply common sense to outdoor exercise. Be cautious about exercising in extreme heat or cold, or in icy conditions.  With any cardiovascular activity some restrictions may apply.  Especially when starting a new activity be sure to ask your doctor if they want you to limit your maximum heart rate.  There are many low cost devices to monitor heart rate to ensure a safe and produtive work out when away from the gym.  A great local resource for outdoor activities is the Saddle River County Park (Wild Duck Pond) in Ridgewood, NJ close to the Paramus border.