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Your guide to outdoor fitness in Shanghai

Put the “Out” Back in Workout

If the idea of working out in a gym year-round gets you down, outdoor fitness training may be just the thing to bring you out of your funk. The great thing about training outdoors is that there are lots of different options to mix it up, which is a great way to stay motivated. Sure you can go for a run or a walk, or participate in seasonal activities like swimming outside, but it doesn’t have to end there.

The benefits of outdoor exercise extend beyond switching up your routine. There are scientific studies that have shown that many exercises done outside are more effective than doing the same thing at the gym. Running outdoors, for example, uses different movements of the ankle, involves uphill and downhill terrains, and requires more exertion due to wind resistance and environmental factors than running on a treadmill. You can imagine how other activities would result in similar effects, such as biking. There also seems to be something to the advice parents like to dole out: “Get outside and get some fresh air!” Exercising outdoors has shown to be more enjoyable, to produce more feelings of pleasure and to lower feelings of depression and fatigue. Exposing oneself to sunlight, a known vitamin D source, can also improve mood. If your New Year’s Resolution was to have a fit and healthy 2014, you’re in luck, Shanghai! There are more than enough options to get started today.

Outside Recess

Just like back in elementary school, gyms and fitness clubs are beginning to see the benefits to taking exercise outdoors. They realize that, while many people want to join a gym for the motivational and convenience aspects, exercising exclusively indoors can be dull. Because of that, many gyms are beginning to offer fitness classes outside. Gyms such as Eternity Fitness in the Jung An District often offer a number of outdoor bootcamp classes. These allow you to get a great workout with others under the leadership of a trained teacher while escaping the confines of being indoors. Some gyms like One Wellness even have dedicated outdoor fitness spaces as a part of the gym, complete with lots of the equipment you’d expect to see inside.

The Original Bootcamp China, an offshoot of Eternity Fitness, is a very useful resource for lots of outdoor classes in the military bootcamp style. They offer seven different varieties of bootcamps, so there is sure to be something for everyone. Another fun offering at Bootcamp China are their adventure getaways. There are three different options for these two to three day trips: Eco-Adventures for an upbeat, fun trip with fitness games, educational workshops, and tasty meals; Eco Escape for a relaxing trip focused on mind-body balance; and Weekend Warrior for the more extreme military bootcamp experience. All of these trips involve fun and fitness, and are set in a variety of destinations.

If you don’t see what you are looking for on the class schedule, look into personal training. Many trainers will be flexible and incorporate outdoor elements into their training if you want to pay for it. If you prefer a group class and your gym doesn’t have one, suggest it!

Going It Alone

The gym and group fitness classes are not for everyone, but it’s just as feasible to take advantage of the outdoors in your fitness regimen on your own. Plus, by taking your fitness into your own hands you’ll most likely be saving a fair amount of money on a gym. Running, cycling and walking are easily within reach, but be creative with your workouts! Is there playground equipment nearby where you can do pull-ups and leg lifts? Do you live or work near a school or community center with a pool or tennis courts? Once you start looking, fitness opportunities are all around you. It is easy and cheap to start building your own indoor/outdoor home gym. Start with a jump rope, hula-hoop and some weights, and you’re well on your way.

If you’re looking for some help getting started but don’t want to commit to a gym membership, it isn’t too hard to find a class to sign up for, whether through a gym, studio, school or community center. Many offer member and non-member rates for classes. Yuanshen Sports Centre Stadium, Shanghai Stadium Sports Centre and the Luwan Tennis Center all have outdoor sporting facilities that don’t require much commitment to get started. This website has a lot of great ideas for outdoor fitness at night.

Need Some More Motivation?

One of the hardest aspects of a fitness routine is staying committed to it. Make a date with any of the fitness activities in the link above and make it a regular commitment. Running clubs, fitness groups and organizing workouts with fitness-minded friends can all help you stick to a commitment because someone else is expecting you to show up. Check out to see what fitness-oriented “meetups” are in your area. Shanghai has many meetup groups for pilates, tennis, yoga and more.

While weather and environmental factors can be intimidating, it is usually possible to dress for the weather and be prepared, especially with advanced fabrics designed for the elements. Trying a workout in the cooler nighttime or early morning hours, or going for a water workout can help beat the heat. Layering up and getting your heart pumping will warm you up in minutes on a cold day. Shanghai is a great city to for outside exercise, so find your perfect outdoor workout today!