Feeling sluggish? Six ways to kick-start your fitness now spring is here

We’ve got top tips and expert advice on how to be more active now spring has arrived.

Spring has finally sprung and if you’re anything like the Exceptional fitness team, you’ve been longing for for the warmer weather. Whether it’s seeing all the daffodils, the cherry blossom or enjoying lighter evenings, spring always delivers a welcome burst of freshness, heralding new beginnings and (hopefully) sunshine.  

It’s true that January is the month most associated with rejuvenating a fitness regime. But we think that spring presents just as much – if not more – opportunity to get moving, given the brighter, milder days. 

What’s more, a 2021 study found that people who spend more time outdoors in daylight experience better mood and sleep, and feel less tired.

Woman lacing a trainer in a field of daisiesCredit: Shutterstock / Dirima

So, if your get up and go has got up and gone in the winter months, now could well be the time you feel energised to try something new, set some fitness goals, or focus on your wellbeing. 

Maybe your regular exercise routine has fallen by the wayside during winter, or maybe you’re bored with the same activities. You might feel like starting your fitness journey or challenging yourself to take on something completely new.  

If the lighter days have you raring to go, we’ve got six tips to springboard you into enjoying fitness and the great outdoors.  

Couple doing gardening togetherCredit: Shutterstock / Ground Picture
Gardening is a form of exercise

Get fit by gardening

Exercise while tending the garden

Spring weather can be a bit hit-and-miss in the UK, but the mix of sunshine and showers does make for good gardens.  

If you like being outside but the thought of running, cycling or hiking doesn’t hold much appeal, why not focus on gardening as a form of exercise? Not only will you feel healthier and happier as a result, but your garden will look prettier than ever.  

Our gardens expert, Rosanna Spence, has some great advice: “Gardening is great exercise for your body and your mind without having to pop to the gym. For example, pushing a lawn mower for 30 minutes burns around 165 calories, depending on how vigorously you’re working.  

By slotting in three, 30-minute gardening session a week, you’ll find your flexibility increases, weight loss may be aided, and you’ll even raise your heartrate doing certain tasks like digging.  

Gardening has a positive impact on your brain too. Spending time doing jobs in the garden, no matter how strenuously, will boost your mental wellbeing and can help with relieving stress and anxiety in a natural, gentle way.” 

No garden? No problem. Look into allotments in your local area, join a horticultural society, or volunteer for gardening or planting projects.  

Man in wetsuit and swimming hatCredit: Shutterstock / wavebreakmedia
Taking a cold water dip can be exhilarating

Cold-water swimming

Embrace the wild

Wild swimming saw a huge surge in interest during the pandemic, and our love for it shows no signs of slowing, with more and more of us embracing the euphoric high a cold-water dip can bring (a writer in a 2008 medical journal went so far as to suggest that cold water swimming could be a treatment for depression, thanks to it producing an increase in hormones that boost alertness, arousal and attention, and reduce stress). 

 Kate O’Brien runs Black Mountain Swims and is an official Bluetits Chill swim coach. She recommends using social media to connect with other outdoor swimmers. “For someone who is completely new or starting out the best thing is look for a local group or swim guide. Facebook is great for this, especially as outdoor swimming is so popular now.” 

However, cold water swimming isn’t without its risks, so O’Brien stresses that you should never swim alone – even if that means just having a friend or someone with you who can keep an eye on you from dry land. 

There’s no expensive equipment needed to get started, either. “You don’t really need much other than a cossie, towel, and a dash of bonkers!” O’Brien says. That said, if you’re not used to the cold then a wetsuit can provide a welcome layer of warmth. 

“Things like old beach shoes to wear in the water can be handy if you’re squeamish about stepping on squelchy mud,” she adds. It’s nice to have some warm, loose clothing and a woolly hat to pop on afterwards too, along with a flask of hot drink.” 

Water temperatures will gradually begin to increase over the next few months, but the sea won’t reach its warmest until late August or early September. That doesn’t mean you can’t get started, though. You could swim in a heated outdoor pool if you prefer, but if you decide to brave a lake or the sea, keep some important advice in mind. 

“Cold water shock happens all year round,” O’Brien says. “Once you leave the water you need to get dry and dressed straight away, as your body will continue to cool for about half an hour as the blood goes from your core back out to your hands, feet, arms and legs.” 

Ultimately, the joy of a cold-water dip will stay with you long after you’ve dried off. “For me, it’s my happy place, it’s where I can just be. I don’t have any worries or stress in the water,” O’Brien tells us.  

“I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t have a massive grin on their face after their session. It’s a massive achievement to get into cold water, and it’s wonderful to see the happiness when my swimmers realise that actually yes, they can do it.” 

Couple walking their dog in a parkCredit: Shutterstock / Monkey Business Images
Take a spring walk in the park

Explore your local area

Enjoy the spring sights on a walk

Walking can be a great social activity as well as a good way of keeping fit. It’s easy to underestimate it, but the benefits of walking are widespread.

Michael Hamlin, a personal trainer and founder of Everflex Fitness, told Exceptional: “Walking is a low-impact exercise that can be a great way to improve overall health and fitness. Benefits include improving cardiovascular health, increasing endurance, and reducing the risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.” 

It’s also really invigorating to be outdoors, as our Fitness Passions Editor, Phillipa Cherryson, attests. “I absolutely love walking in springtime. It feels like the world is coming alive again, with wildflowers, new leaves on the trees and baby lambs in the fields. 

“Now the clocks have changed we’ve got longer evenings too, so instead of watching another boxset on telly, it’s a great chance to get some fresh air and exercise,” she says.  

“If the sun is shining, it’s even better. Research has shown that photons from sunlight activate our T-cells, which are a vital part of our immune system. The same study also found that sunlight helps regulate our circadian rhythms and moderates production of melatonin – meaning a walk in the sunshine may help us sleep better too.” 

Cherryson adds: “If you haven’t done any recreational walking before read our guide on how to take your first healthy steps. But otherwise, what’s stopping you?” 

“Why not head to your local park, nearby woodland or take a trip to the hills and make the most of springtime – I’ll be out there too.” 

Taking a walk can quickly become an enjoyable healthy habit. If you want to take it a step further, you could find a walking group to join. Or you could challenge yourself further with a step goal.  

Woman looking at a smartwatchCredit: Shutterstock / PeopleImages.com – Yuri A
Challenge yourself to get more steps each day

Set a step goal

Take on a walking challenge

If you really want to feel the benefits of walking, setting a daily step goal can be a challenge that motivates you to keep going. Many smartwatches and fitness trackers will reward you with badges as you cover more distance and encourage you to keep going, and Cherryson points out that it doesn’t take a lot of walking to rack up a good number of steps: “If you are counting your daily steps, just a mile walk will notch up 2,000 paces and you may not even notice you are exercising.”  

If you’re wanting to challenge yourself, Hamlin has some good tips for getting started: “It’s important to set a step goal that is challenging but achievable. For example, if the goal is to walk more, you might start with a goal of 5,000 steps per day, while a more active individual may aim for 10,000 or more.” 

He adds: “Try to incorporate steps into your daily lifestyle by walking to work or start working on your steps early in the day. By walking for half an hour in the morning, not only does it get your step count up, but it inspires you to walk later in the day as well. You only have so many hours in a day and by starting early and hitting some of your targets you have a better chance of reaching your overall goal.” 

You could tackle a step challenge or walk to raise funds for charity. Not only will you be getting fitter and enjoying the outdoors, you’ll be helping others too.  

Man doing yoga outsideCredit: Shutterstock / Monkey Business Images
Outdoor yoga can help you connect to nature

Outdoor yoga

Connect with your body and the outdoors

Yoga is a great tool for becoming more aware of your body and how it moves. Physically, it helps expand your lung capacity, strengthen muscles, improve posture, and also improve sleep. Yoga is also good for mindfulness, giving us time to focus on ourselves, as Soul Connection Yoga instructor Karen Maidment explains.   

“Spring is such a great time of year to start a new movement practise. Longer daylight hours and warmer temperatures create a harmonious environment for movement. A morning yoga routine is a wonderful way to bring nourishing energy to both mind and body and is my favourite time of day to practise. 

“If you fancy giving yoga a try; you’ll first need to decide if you want to practise in person or online. Consider how you want your practise to leave you feeling, and if you’re starting with any pre-existing injury or illness. This will help you align with the right style and teacher to suit your needs. Don’t be afraid to try several styles of yoga – it can take a while to find the perfect fit.” 

Yoga is something that can be done anytime and virtually anywhere – all you need is a mat (the Exceptional team has picked the best yoga mats to help you find the right one for you). You might like to start out practising at home, or in an indoor class environment. But at this time of year, taking your yoga practise outside can give an extra serotonin boost and promote harmony with nature.  

“After far too much time indoors over winter, I love any reason to spend more time outside,” Maidment says. “The UK countryside is stunning in spring, so what better time to try outdoor yoga, be that in the garden, on a beach, in a woodland or even on a paddleboard! There are many studies showing the positives of exercising outdoors, particularly for mental health.” 

If you’re looking to get started, The British Wheel of Yoga has a list of qualified instructors. Alternatively, InstructorLive is one of the top on-demand fitness channels in the UK, and also provides free videos for the NHS YouTube channel.  

Man rock climbingCredit: Shutterstock / Ground Picture
You could try something completely new

Step outside your comfort zone

New ideas to try

Finally, if you’re a regular exerciser but bored of the same routine, spring is a good time to try something completely different. Take a look at our list of suggestions below.  

Cycling: “Whether you prefer road cycling or mountain biking, spring is a great time to get back on your bike and enjoy the scenic views,” Hamlin says. “One of my favourite activities during spring is to go for a bike ride and grab breakfast with friends on the weekends. It ends up getting us more activity and daylight than we normally would, and you always feel amazing when you’re done.” 

Paddleboarding: An outdoor experience like no other, paddleboarding allows you to explore the outdoors from a unique viewpoint. It’s also a great full body workout, since you have to balance and paddle at the same time. Many SUP (stand-up paddleboard) companies offer sessions tailored to different abilities as well as family, individual or group sessions. Taking place on a river, lake, reservoir or the sea, paddleboarding is a laid-back sport that’s worth a try.  

Kayaking or Canoeing: “If you live near a body of water, kayaking or canoeing can be a fun and challenging way to stay active while enjoying the beauty of nature,” Hamlin says. “Kayaking and canoeing are great cardio and upper-body workouts. A lot of activities require mostly legs, so switch it up every now and then to maintain a strong upper body.” 

Couch to 5K: If you enjoy walking, why not step it up a gear and try running? You don’t need to try and break the land speed record, but a jog around the park or similar can really get your day off to a bright and positive start. Take a look at our couch to 5k guide for all you need to get started.  

Rock climbing: “For the more adventurous, rock climbing can be a thrilling way to stay active and challenge yourself in nature,” Hamlin suggests. “Rock climbing is like a physical puzzle in which your brain needs to be very focused and active to succeed. This level of focus is great for body and mind and will leave you feeling relaxed after you finish your climb.” The British Mountaineering Club (BMC) has a database of climbing clubs across the UK to help you get started.  

Becky Fuller

Written by Becky Fuller she/her


Becky Fuller is a fully qualified Personal Trainer, specialising in strength and conditioning for over 50s. Becky is passionate about Kettlebell training, and runs a regular kettlebell club in the local community. Prior to this, she worked as a Fitness manager in a local gym. Becky’s focus is helping people to become stronger both in body and mind, and to move well without pain.

Becky also has many years’ experience working as a freelance journalist, writing for a wide variety of publications such as Screen Rant, Geek Feed, and Daily Actor. She also regularly reviews theatre productions for UKTW.

Away from work, Becky unsurprisingly enjoys exercise, with a focus on lifting weights, kettlebells, and Olympic rings. She loves watching theatre, swimming, and reading a good book. She has three teenage children and enjoys spending time with them, preferably on a Cornish beach.

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