One distinct advantage of living in a year-round, temperate climate like Southern California is the easy availability to a myriad outdoor pursuits. With scenic beaches, lush, forested trails and mountain hikes readily available anywhere in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego Counties, a native Californian never lacks in outdoor pursuits. Although I have always enjoyed a vigorous, challenging fitness regimen indoors at my favorite San Diego-area gym (La Jolla Sports Club), I have always insisted on achieving balance in my weekly, fitness goals by including a menagerie of outdoor exercise opportunities as well. The following five, outdoor exercise options will enable anyone to focus on your fitness goals while having fun at the same time:
1.) Jogging/Running
One of the most obvious, outdoor fitness choices that never fails to produce results, jogging can significantly improve your cardiovascular health and lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. Easing your way into increasing your time and distance spent running is crucial, however, to prevent too much initial muscle and joint shock to your body. Jogging is a proven, time-tested way to achieve weight loss.
2.) Walking
      If Jogging is not your cup of tea, why not start with walking instead? Nothing is more invigorating and refreshing than taking a 30 minute walk everyday in a scenic, bucolic location of your choice. The impact on your joints is minimal relative to jogging, you can still burn calories, and studies have shown a clear correlation between daily, brisk walks and a lowering of cholesterol, chronic disease, and cardiovascular risk.
3.) Cycling
In every state across our country, bicycling trails provide some of the greatest outdoor thrills and fitness challenges. One distinct advantage with cycling is that not only does it contribute to improved cardiovascular health, but, it allows the cyclist to cover greater ground, enabling one to really have the opportunity to discover a diversity of neighborhoods and parks within your community. Cycling also varies the muscles worked throughout your body vis-a-vis either walking or running with a greater focus on  lower-body muscle growth in the quadriceps region, the largest muscle group of your body.
4.) Swimming
Since our childhoods, swimming has always been a popular, outdoor pastime. Whether in an ocean or lake or at a community pool, swimming affords the practitioner who suffers from muscle or joint problems to exercise without undue pain or discomfort. It is an idyllic toner of all muscle groups of your body and elevates peak, cardiovascular performance. Studies have shown that swimming also lowers the risk of high cholesterol, diabetes, and hypertension.
5.) Hiking
A favorite for my husband and I, hiking affords a soothing, back-to-nature experience that really doesn't feel like "required exercising" at all. Meandering on a rustic trail with trees blowing in the breeze and the occasional call of a wild animal can be exhilarating for the spirit and soul, not just the body. Hiking offers a great, stress relief from the daily hoi polloi and an escape from the congestion of the urban metroplex. The cardiovascular benefits of hiking are obvious and the social benefits of interacting with accompanying friends or family are qualitative.
A conscious balance between indoor exercise at the gym and outdoor fitness is an integral step to take for anyone aspiring to a fit and enlightened body, mind, and soul. These five, outdoor alternatives to the gym will leave you feeling healthier, happier, and stronger than ever before!