On moving to the Newbury countryside fourteen years ago, and being a staunch advocate of punishing classes at large gyms, I wondered how I was going to stay fit now that I lived miles from a David Lloyd facility.

For the first six months, I thought the smart thing to do would be to leave the house at 6am to get to a 7am class.  This meant missing breakfast with my husband (and the opportunity to use a decent hairdryer) in favour of an instructor shouting at me to, “Hit the boxing pads harder, you wuss!”.

Eventually I came to realise that this was quite frankly a mad way to keep fit.  The tipping point was when I managed to forget my work clothes and had to drive into Reading to buy replacements – by 8.45am I was pressed up against the doors of M&S like a shopper waiting for the Harrods sale.  Despite smiling nicely at the shop assistant as I tried to explain what had happened, she became very pre-occupied with getting as far away from me as possible.  Understandable given the circumstances.

After the expense of that workout, I cancelled the membership and looked for an alternative way to keep fit.  My husband and I often rode our bikes along the Ridgeway at weekends and it struck me that, with a bit of diary reorganisation, I could swap the gym for the countryside. Since then, I’ve found outdoor exercise comes with some unexpected benefits: 

  • There is never anyone else’s sweat on your seat.
  • You might smell manure but you won’t smell someone else’s B.O.
  • People say, “Hello”, not, “How much longer are you going to be on that bike?”
  • You never have to exercise in front of a screen showing music videos of rappers in gigantic t-shirts surrounded by greased up women in bikinis shaking their ‘jelly’.
  • You don’t have to listen to people roaring / huffing / dropping their guts through the effort of lifting weights the size of a family car.
  • Your kids can get involved (even if they don’t want to 😉 ).
  • It’s free and always open.

Exercising outdoors has become part of my life. Something I can simply step out the door and do. Thanks to the addition of a dog, it’s also something I can’t get out of… Alongside improving my physical health, my mental health gets a huge boost from watching the seasons change and connecting with nature (and when the nettles are high, we really do connect – ouch!).

There is the challenge of being out in all weathers but I have found that even if I come back boiling hot, soaking wet or stinging with cold, there has always been something to lift my spirits. There is definitely a case to be made for exercising outside.


I was inspired to re-visit this post (you can find the original here) by Sport in Mind, an organisation that uses sport and exercise to help aid the recovery of people experiencing mental health problems. To find out what sessions are available near you, check out their activity map.

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