By the time June arrives, I’m ready to get outside whenever and however I can. My usual activities—whether I’m reading a book or fitting in a workout—are exponentially more enjoyable in the fresh summer air, beneath the warm sun (as long as it’s not too hot, of course). All winter long, I trudge through my cardio routine, avoiding the rain and early nightfall by burning calories on the stationary bike and treadmill. But now, it’s summer, and that means not only that we can get our hearts pumping outdoors, but also that we can do so by engaging in a variety of activities beyond the usual gym repertoire.
In search of something beyond the routine slog on the treadmill or the obvious outdoor run, I sought out some pastimes (and even chores) that don’t instantly conjure up visions of exercise but actually offer legitimate calorie-burning opportunities.
In the Water
Sure, we’ve all heard that swimming laps and water aerobics will keep us fit, but there are plenty of less fitness-focused activities that can also count as, well, exercise.
Snorkeling: Burn Factor = 318 calories*
Many of us lucky enough to be hitting a tropical beach this summer will find ourselves strapping on fins and snorkel masks to check out the local marine life. The upside to getting those masks tangled in our hair (along with obtaining some classic holiday-card photos) is that we’ll burn over 100 calories for every hour we’re exploring.
Kayaking: Burn Factor = 318 calories
Many oceanside areas offer kayak tours to check out nearby landmasses and wildlife. While smelling that fresh, salty sea air and figuring out just how to make that canoelike thing turn the way we want, you’ll torch just as many calories as you would on a stationary gym machine—sans sweaty-shorts guy panting next to you.
Waterskiing: Burn Factor = 382 calories
Quit roasting in the boat—strap on those skis and be a part of the action. Whether you’re a practiced pro or a first-timer, skimming across the lake’s surface with the wind on your face is so refreshing (and slightly scary!) that burning calories will be the last thing on your mind (which doesn’t make it count as exercise any less).
Around the House
Summer often adds more outdoor chores to our to-do lists. The good news? Many of these are tiring, because they also count as exercise.
Mowing the Lawn: Burn Factor = 350 calories
We all love two-for-one deals, and when chores can double as exercise—well, that means I can spend more time reading that trashy summer novel I ordered slyly on Amazon.
Gardening: Burn Factor = 255 calories
The good news is that all that digging, raking, pushing, pruning, and weeding is worth a significant amount of calories. Lack a garden? Find a local farm that’ll let you go berry picking.
Washing the Car: Burn Factor = 286 calories
Another summertime double whammy—you can save money and get fit just by sudsing up your own vehicle. All it takes is breaking out the sponges, soap, and towels, and you’ve put in just as much effort as we would have on the StairMaster.
In the Great Outdoors
Without rain in the forecast, we can get outside in the sun (wearing plenty of sunscreen, of course) to try these recreational activities, and spend less time indoors at the gym while we’re at it.
Golfing: Burn Factor = 223 calories (with cart) or 286 (without)
While I haven’t perfected my swing quite enough to move from the driving range to the links, I’ve run across another nugget of motivation—hoofing it from hole to hole during four hours of golf adds up to a week’s worth of work on the elliptical machine.
Playing Tennis: Burn Factor = 445 calories
It doesn’t take very long on the court to break a sweat. Turns out, that’s thanks to the massive amount of calories you’ll burn perfecting that backhand.
Biking for Fun: Burn Factor = 509 calories
That’s right, biking at just a moderate speed burns around 500 calories in an hour. I’ve started riding my bike to work every day—incorporating activity naturally without it really feeling like “exercise time.” Work too far from home to ride there? Just bike to the store when you can, or for fun around your neighborhood.
Horseback Riding: Burn Factor = 255 calories
This is another one of those popular vacation activities that doubles as a sightseeing opportunity and (score!) exercise. Giddyup!
Rollerblading: Burn Factor = 764 calories
It’s a little cheesy, sure, but for 700-plus calories per hour, what more creative (and retro-fabulous) way to get from place to place when the sun is shining than Rollerblading—especially if you’re somewhere with a nice bike path. Pick up some used blades for around forty bucks online or at a local sports retailer.
Dancing: Burn Factor = 414 calories
Spending a steamy summer night learning salsa or grooving to some live music? Yes, please. Calories or no calories, jamming alfresco screams summer for all the senses.
No matter how you decide to get that activity in—by having fun or by doing full-blown workouts—the important part is that you’re moving your body. And what’s summer better for than breaking out of ruts and trying new things? I know I’ll be taking myself out Rollerblading at least once, along with spending a warm night out dancing. Now I’ve just got to figure out how to bypass the bar scene.
* Calories burned are based on a 140-pound woman performing the activity for one hour, according to estimates calculated by MyCalorieCounter.com.