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When you think about working out, you might picture treadmills, weights, and fitness classes inside a bustling gym. While those are great options, the YMCA in Alexandria, Minnesota, believes in extending fitness beyond the gym walls. With our beautiful Minnesota scenery and fresh air, why limit your exercise routine to indoors? Let’s explore how you can take your workout outdoors with the YMCA and enjoy all the benefits nature has to offer.


What are the benefits of outdoor exercise?

Exercising outdoors offers numerous benefits that go beyond physical fitness. Here are some reasons why you should consider taking your workout outside:

1. Improved Mental Health

Spending time in nature has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. The combination of fresh air, natural light, and physical activity can significantly boost your mood and overall mental well-being. Outdoor exercise also provides a sense of freedom and adventure that you might not get from indoor workouts.

2. Increased Vitamin D Levels

Sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D, which is essential for bone health and immune function. Remember to wear sunscreen!

3. Better Sleep

Regular outdoor exercise can help regulate your sleep patterns. The exposure to natural light during the day helps reset your internal clock, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up at the right times. Plus, the physical exertion from outdoor activities can help you sleep more soundly at night.

4. Social Connection

Outdoor group activities, like our bike riding group or family hikes, provide an excellent opportunity to connect with others. Building social connections can enhance your overall well-being and make your exercise routine more enjoyable. The YMCA community is welcoming and supportive, making it easy to find workout buddies and make new friends.


What are some ideas for outdoor exercise?

With so many lakes, parks, and trails, the Alexandria area is like one big wellness center. Let's take a look at some outdoor activities you could try!

1. Paddle Your Way to Fitness

Minnesota's countless lakes and rivers offer the perfect opportunity for a fun and refreshing workout. Kayaking, canoeing, or paddleboarding are fantastic ways to get your heart rate up while enjoying the beauty of the water.

2. Outdoor Bike Riding Group

One of our most popular outdoor activities is the YMCA's outdoor bike riding group. Whether you're an experienced cyclist or a beginner, this group is a fantastic way to explore the trails of Alexandria while staying active. Our bike riding group meets the first and third Saturday of the month, June 1st - September 7th. You don't need to be a Y member to join the ride.

Riding a bike is not only great for your cardiovascular health but also helps build muscle strength and improve joint mobility. Plus, it's a low-impact exercise, making it suitable for people of all ages. So grab your helmet, hop on your bike, and join us for a ride!

3. Hit the Trails

Hiking is another excellent way to enjoy the outdoors while getting a good workout. It helps improve balance, strengthens muscles, and increases cardiovascular endurance. Plus, it’s a wonderful way to immerse yourself in nature and escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Explore some of the Alexandria Area's best trails here.

4. Park Workouts

Don't underestimate the power of your local park! With a little creativity, you can transform a park into your own personal outdoor gym. Take your yoga outside and enjoy the view of a lake or perform your pullups on the playground equipment!


Bonus Tips

To make the most of your outdoor workouts, here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. Dress Appropriately

Wear comfortable, weather-appropriate clothing and supportive footwear. Layers are a good idea so you can adjust to changing temperatures.

2. Stay Hydrated

Bring a water bottle and drink plenty of fluids, especially on hot days.

3. Protect Yourself

Use sunscreen, wear a hat, and bring sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun. Insect repellent can also be helpful, depending on where you're exercising.

4. Be Safe

Let someone know where you're going and when you plan to return. Carry a phone in case of emergencies and be aware of your surroundings.

5. Warm Up and Cool Down

Start with a warm-up to prepare your body for exercise and finish with a cool-down to help your muscles recover.


At the Alexandria Area YMCA, we believe that fitness should be fun, accessible, and enjoyable for everyone. By taking your workout outdoors, you can experience all the benefits of exercise while enjoying the natural beauty of Minnesota. Whether you join our bike riding group, participate in a family hike, or enjoy a sunset canoe ride, you'll find plenty of opportunities to stay active and healthy.

Category: Health Education