If you are struggling to find the motivation to commit to a fitness program, you may be exercising in the wrong environment. Physical activity is vital to protecting your health, and improving your fitness can be done in a variety of ways that have nothing to do with lifting dumbbells in an overcrowded gym with poor lighting and even worse music. If you are among the 80 percent of the population living in an urban city, you may have dismissed the idea of outdoor exercise long ago (KFF, 2012). However, numerous studies have begun to identify the health benefits of outdoor exercise, which may be the solution for you.

Currently, more than one third of the U.S. is obese, and the rate of obesity-related health conditions are on the rise (CDC, 2011). One of the disadvantages of modern living is that we are outdoors less often, and our activity levels have dramatically declined. It has never been more important to adopt healthy habits that suit your lifestyle. People who exercise outdoors are more likely to exercise longer than they would in a gym, as well as enjoy the activity more. They show greater improvements in enthusiasm, pleasure and self-esteem, and may increase their total amount of activity time by thirty minutes or more each week, just by exercising outside (Thompson, 2011)!

Living in a busy city puts many shopping, dining, and entertainment options within easy walking or driving distance, but managing an effective workout outdoors may seem like a challenge. Below are three tips on navigating your way through the hustle and bustle of urban life.

The most obvious location for an outdoor workout is a local park. City parks offer plenty of open space, fresh air, and opportunities to walk, run, pick up a co-ed sport, or perform body weight exercises. Most cities will have a parks and recreation website that lists all of their parks with hours and features, such as walking trails, tennis courts, or children’s playgrounds. You could also check a local sports equipment store for information on bootcamps and running clubs that meet in your area.

Whether you commute to work by car or on foot, there are ways to incorporate a workout into your travel time. If you live within a reasonable distance, consider biking to work instead of using your car. Even a couple of times each week will help you conserve gas as well as provide a great cardio session to start and end your day. If you take the subway or walk to work, swap your dress shoes for a pair of cross trainers, and increase the distance you walk by getting off the subway a few stops early. Speed walk where possible, and take advantage of nearby flights of stairs for an added intensity boost.

Outdoor workouts are a great way to incorporate more running into your exercise routine. If you are a beginner, speed walking or easy jogging are also effective. Pick an area of the city that you have always wanted to explore on foot, and play tourist for an afternoon. While waiting at stoplights, you can perform bodyweight squats or use a nearby bench for incline push ups or assisted planks. The great thing about exercising outdoors is there is no time limit – do as you please, and enjoy the time spent outdoors.

Sarah Dalton is the founder of Able Mind Able Body, a Las Vegas based company offering motivational lifestyle coaching and personal training services. She takes a holistic approach to healthy living, and educates others on the benefits of nutrition, exercise, and emotional health. Visit www.ablemindablebody.com for more info.