How to spend more time outside

Full length of woman standing on rock by lake against mountains
5 tips from outdoor experts to help you steal more time in nature during your daily life, and reap the mental and physical rewards (Image credit: Kyle Kuhlman / 500px)

If you’re reading this, you love being outdoors, whether that means climbing mountains in hiking boots, racing cross country in trail running shoes or sending routes in your climbing shoes. When you’re not outside, you’re probably thinking about being on the trail or researching the next place you’re going to pitch your tent. But chances are, you probably also have a job. Maybe you have a family. In fact, unless you’re a single, childless mountaineering guide, there are probably all kinds of things that keep you from being in the wild spaces you love, as much as you’d like. In fact, research commissioned by Cotswold Outdoor (opens in new tab) shows that more than half of people (56%) wish they were more outdoorsy. 

So, how to spend more time outside? Sure, you can quit your job and go live off the grid, but what are you going to do when the next season of Succession comes out? Let’s get real here. To help you, Mark Skelton from Cotswold Outdoor has worked together with Christian Allen, product expert at Runners Need (opens in new tab), to suggest some simple tips for spending more time outside in your everyday life. 

cycling versus running

Sure, you can quit your job and go live off the grid, but what are you going to do when the next season of Succession comes out? (Image credit: Getty)

1. Run or walk your commute 

When we say "running to work" we're not talking about sprinting to the office because you're late. This is more about the idea of transforming your commute into an excuse for a run. 

“If you’re heading into the office, you’re going to have to spend some time travelling,” says Allen. “Instead of sitting in your car or cramming yourself in on public transport, why not kill two birds with one stone and run or walk your route instead? Not only is it a great way to get your exercise in, but it will also help to clear your mind too.” 

Ok, but how do you make sure you have everything you need? There are definitely pros and cons to this approach, which we discuss in our article on running to work, and you’ll need to know how to run with a backpack. If you have showers at work, great, but otherwise you can get creative with wet wipes – give it a go and you might be surprised how much better your work day is afterwards.  

should you run every day

Instead of sitting in your car or cramming yourself in on public transport, why not kill two birds with one stone and run or walk your route instead? (Image credit: Getty)

2. Take meetings on the go 

One benefit of the pandemic is that the very idea of meetings taking place online has become the norm, so why not take things one step further and dial in from your phone while you’re out on a walk?

“Instead of staying hunched up at your laptop for another Zoom meeting, or sitting on the sofa on a call to your mum, a better use of your time would be to take these calls outdoors,” says Skelton. “You’re going to be spending the time doing these tasks anyway, so why not benefit from being outside too? In fact, research suggests that if you’re finding it difficult to concentrate, being outside and looking at nature can help. What’s not to like?” 

Get yourself a good pair of headphones for running (or bone conduction headphones if you’re going to be around traffic), make sure you’re on mute, and get outside.

Man adjusting running headphones

Instead of staying hunched up at your laptop for another Zoom meeting, or sitting on the sofa on a call to your mum, a better use of your time would be to take these calls outdoors (Image credit: Getty)

3. Swap the gym for exercise outdoors 

Needless to say, here at Advnture we consider the hills our gym anyway, but if you’re still paying for a monthly membership, consider swapping out the stairmaster for the mountain – or even some outdoor stairs like the Manitou Incline in Colorado Springs?

“You can still get a great bodyweight workout in your local park and utilise the things you have around you, like using a bench for step-ups or tricep dips and even a heavy log or stone for weighted squats. Running outside is also a great way to beat the monotony of a treadmill, so spend some time exploring your local trails”  suggests Allen.

Not only will this approach save you money, you might get more benefit from your exercise. Taking your workout into nature is called green exercise and has been shown to reduce stress and improve mental health, while getting on a treadmill vs outdoor running might actually have less physical benefit. And remember, when you have the right gear, there’s no bad weather. Read up on what to wear when running in the rain, how to go hiking in the rain and also check out our guides for running in the snow and running on ice to make sure you’re prepared for all seasons.

Close up of an athlete doing jump rope

Grab a jump rope and head to the local park or beach (Image credit: Guido Mieth)

4. Make it social

Getting outdoors with others can be a healthy replacement for other social engagements and is a great way to stay motivated, practice team building and strengthen your connections, so consider joining a wild swimming group, running with a partner or hiking with friends.

“Why not head to the park with your pals instead of the pub, spend a day at the beach with the family or go on a date with your loved one in the hills?” asks Skelton. “If you want to get outdoors more, you don’t have to do it at the expense of your social life. You and your friends may also get to try out some new activities or discover new places – so everyone’s a winner.” 

Research shows that hiking is good for your relationships, and of course, hiking safety is improved when you’re out there with others. So, phone a friend!

A group of open water swimmers in a lake

Getting outdoors with others can be a healthy replacement for other social engagements and is a great way to stay motivated, practice team building and strengthen your connections (Image credit: Gary Yeowell)

5. Dine al fresco 

Let’s say you don’t have time to get out on a hike or run – you still have to eat, don’t you? Another upside of the pandemic is that we all got much more inventive about spending time outdoors, and mealtimes can be much better out in nature instead of in front of the television.

“A picnic or BBQ is a great way to get you outside, and you can make it social too. Alternatively, you could always take your usual meal outdoors in the garden to soak up some  fresh air,” says Skelton.

For outdoor cooking, check out our pick of the best double burner grills, then grab a camping blanket, load up the cooler and head out for a cookout. Rain definitely isn’t so fun for dining al fresco, but if it’s just cold, you can work on your campfire building skills, invest in a Dutch oven and get cozy.

Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.