Play In The Leaves! These 4 Outdoor Workouts Are Perfect For Fall

Enjoy the splendors of fall by taking your exercise time outdoors this season!

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This past weekend, my toddler and two buddies had an all-out jumping, laughing, rolling around, slugs-in-their-hair play fest in a giant yellow pile of leaves. Besides being the cutest thing ever, it got me feeling a bit jealous…maybe not about the slugs, but still, I wanted that carefree fall feeling! While not all of us are prepared to actually get down and dirty rolling around in the leaves, we can still take our exercise time outside and enjoy the spectacular autumn weather while experimenting with these workout ideas.

Multi-tasking for the win!

Inspired by my 2-year-old (and an increasing demand for clean sidewalks before trick or treaters arrived) I took to the street…right in front of my house. You see, according to WebMD, an hour of raking leaves can burn between 350 and 450 calories. The number of calories you’ll burn raking depends on lots of things—including your size, age, and fitness level— so I tested WebMD’s assertion with my Fitbit, raking and hauling leaves in my yard for about 90 minutes.

Here’s what my leaf-conquering workout looked like:

  • 5-minute warm-up of walking up and down the block swinging my arms and breathing
  • Six 10-minute sessions of all-out speed raking leaves into neat piles, switching arm positions on the rake to keep balanced
  • A short break after each power-raking session
  • 25 minutes of slower—but more demanding—bending and scooping to bag the raked leaves
  • 5 minutes slow walking (surveying my clean empire) to cool down

My calorie burn ended up slightly lower than WebMD’s claim (according to my fitness tracker, anyway), but I definitely felt a bit of burn in my torso, shoulders, and hips. As trainer Joshua Margolis told WebMD, “Raking and bagging leaves is particularly good because you also do a lot of bending, twisting, lifting, and carrying—all things that can build strength and engage a lot of muscle fibers.”

Celebrate fall sports (and unleash your inner badass).

If you get pumped up watching all the baseball and football on TV this time of year, why not combine that fervor with the fall temps in your favor to get into a heart-pumping stair routine?

Here’s a 20-minute stadium stair routine to try:

  • Minutes 1 to 3: Walk or jog up and down the stairs for a light warm-up
  • Minutes 4 to 7: Sprint up the stairs (taking each individual step) and jog down, resting 30 seconds at the bottom
  • Minute 8: Set your timer and rest 1 minute
  • Minutes 9 to 15: Sprint up the stairs (skipping every other step) and jog down, resting 30 seconds at the bottom
  • Minute 16: Rest for 1 minute
  • Minutes 17 to 19: Set an interval timer for 30 seconds of work and 30 seconds of rest for a total of 2 minutes. Standing at the base of the steps, hop with both feet onto the first step. Hop back down and repeat.
  • Minute 20: Walk up and down the steps for a cool-down

Combine your leaf peeping with a killer workout.

Trail running is hands down my favorite outdoor fall workout. During the winter, outdoor runs can be foiled by snow and ice, while in the summer, high temps often keep me resigned to running on a basement treadmill. But in the fall, temperatures tend to be perfect for beautiful outdoor runs on your city’s scenic paths and trails.

Design a fall trail run with the following components recommended by longtime running coach Jenny Hadfield:

  • A 10- to 15-minute warm-up
  • Running for your desired amount of time instead of planning according to distance, because trails can be way more demanding than flat road
  • Modification of your pace based on the terrain, for example, walking up or down steep or rocky inclines if you need to

Unless you’ve already been trail running, plan for no more than one outing per week to start, then add more runs based on your availablility and physical preparedness.

Give back and get outside.

Although charity fun runs can definitely get you out and moving, it’s possible to realize your fitness goals while giving back to your community in other ways, too. Maybe you’re not able to adopt a rescue dog right now, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get your snuggly pooch fix while working out in the crisp air. Animal shelters all over the country need volunteer dog walkers and runners—a perfect opportunity for doing good and feeling good at the same time (with an adorable companion!). The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) recommends visiting’s shelters and rescues page to find a center near you that needs help.

Cammy Pedroja
Cammy is a freelance writer and journalist living in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and daughter. Cammy specializes in lifestyle, women’s issues, wellness, and pop culture topics. A background in academia in publishing has made her a skilled researcher, with experience working in the editorial departments of such places as The New Yorker and Narrative Magazine. With an MFA from Columbia University and a nearly finished PhD, her work has appeared widely across publications like HuffPost, USA Today, Parent, The List, FIELD, and New England Review.