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When most people think of fitness, images of treadmills, weight racks, and aerobics classes come to mind. However, at the Kandiyohi County Area Family YMCA, we believe in taking fitness beyond the gym walls. Embracing the great outdoors for exercise can be incredibly beneficial, and in a place like Willmar, Minnesota, the natural beauty makes outdoor workouts a pleasure rather than a chore. Let’s dive into how you can take your workout outdoors and enjoy all that our wonderful region has to offer.


What are the benefits of outdoor exercise?

Exercising outdoors offers numerous benefits that go beyond physical fitness. Here are some reasons why you should consider taking your workout outside:

1. Improved Mental Health

Spending time in nature has been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. The combination of fresh air, natural light, and physical activity can significantly boost your mood and overall mental well-being. Outdoor exercise also provides a sense of freedom and adventure that you might not get from indoor workouts.

2. Increased Vitamin D Levels

Sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D, which is essential for bone health and immune function. Remember to wear sunscreen!

3. Better Sleep

Regular outdoor exercise can help regulate your sleep patterns. The exposure to natural light during the day helps reset your internal clock, making it easier to fall asleep and wake up at the right times. Plus, the physical exertion from outdoor activities can help you sleep more soundly at night.

4. Social Connection

Outdoor group activities, like group bike rides, softball, or family hikes, provide an excellent opportunity to connect with others. Building social connections can enhance your overall well-being and make your exercise routine more enjoyable. The YMCA community is welcoming and supportive, making it easy to find workout buddies and make new friends.


What are some ideas for outdoor exercise?

With so many lakes, parks, and trails, the Kandiyohi County area is like one big wellness center. Let's take a look at some outdoor activities you could try!

1. Paddle Your Way to Fitness

Minnesota's countless lakes and rivers offer the perfect opportunity for a fun and refreshing workout. Kayaking, canoeing, or paddleboarding are fantastic ways to get your heart rate up while enjoying the beauty of the water.

2. Cycling

Take advantage of the numerous bike trails in the area. The Glacial Lakes State Trail is a local favorite, offering a paved, 22-mile trail between Willmar, Spicer, New London, Hawick, and the Kandiyohi/Stearns County line.

3. Hit the Trails

Hiking is another excellent way to enjoy the outdoors while getting a good workout. It helps improve balance, strengthens muscles, and increases cardiovascular endurance. Plus, it’s a wonderful way to immerse yourself in nature and escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The YMCA's Outdoor Adventure Series features 3 guided hikes through some of the area's best trails!

4. Park Workouts

Don't underestimate the power of your local park! With a little creativity, you can transform a park into your own personal outdoor gym. Take your yoga outside and enjoy the view of a lake or perform your pullups on the playground equipment!


Bonus Tips

To make the most of your outdoor workouts, here are some tips to keep in mind:

1. Dress Appropriately

Wear comfortable, weather-appropriate clothing and supportive footwear. Layers are a good idea so you can adjust to changing temperatures.

2. Stay Hydrated

Bring a water bottle and drink plenty of fluids, especially on hot days.

3. Protect Yourself

Use sunscreen, wear a hat, and bring sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun. Insect repellent can also be helpful, depending on where you're exercising.

4. Be Safe

Let someone know where you're going and when you plan to return. Carry a phone in case of emergencies and be aware of your surroundings.

5. Warm Up and Cool Down

Start with a warm-up to prepare your body for exercise and finish with a cool-down to help your muscles recover.


At the Kandiyohi County Area Family YMCA, we believe that fitness should be fun, accessible, and enjoyable for everyone. By taking your workout outdoors, you can experience all the benefits of exercise while enjoying the natural beauty of Minnesota. Whether you join our Outdoor Adventure Series, take your bike out for a ride, or enjoy some time on the water, you'll find plenty of opportunities to stay active and healthy.