Though no longer a country 'girl,' I prefer to get my exercise outdoors

I know that at some point I will have to quit my resistance to indoor exercise routines, but so far,  I’ve managed to come up with some ways to help keep me physically active outdoors. 

Casey and Nova, two golden retrievers, look at the camera and the ground is covered in snow.
Ann Bailey likes walking the family dogs, Casey, left, and Nova, even on cold and windy days, better than getting exercise indoors on the treadmill.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

Growing up, to paraphrase the lyrics of a popular John Denver song, I thanked God I was a country girl, but unlike the first line of the lyrics, life on the farm was not “kinda laid back.”

Besides grain and row crops, we raised cattle and owned horses, so my siblings and I were busy year round doing a variety of chores. As a result, the farmstead and our fields were a giant gymnasium where I got a variety of exercise to keep me in shape.

In the summer, for example, throwing bales was my weightlifting and roguing edible bean fields for weeds was my cardio. When the weather turned cold, cleaning calf pens and feeding cows and horses kept me off the couch and physically fit.

My active lifestyle continued after I moved away from home and started raising a family of my own. Besides playing wiffle ball, football and basketball with our sons and daughter, my husband and I took care of horses, chickens and a big garden during the summer. In the winter we went sledding, played in the snow with our children and took care of horses, all which required physical activity.

The last year few years it's been harder to find ways to get my exercise from outdoor activities in the winter. While gardening, landscaping and trimming lawns with a push mower keep me active in the summer, there aren't as many to things to do in the winter because our children are adults and we sold my horses a year and a half ago.


I know that at some point I will have to quit my resistance to indoor exercise routines, but so far, I’ve managed to come up with some ways to help keep me physically active outdoors.

For example, while I cringe every time that the weather forecast is for more snow because I know it likely will block our roads, I am glad that it will give me the chance to shovel our sidewalks and the upper deck of our outdoor porch.

A shovel stuck in the snow.
Ann Bailey would rather shovel snow then lift weights.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

It probably seems odd to others that I would rather be outside in biting winds moving shovelfuls of snow to ever-growing piles along our sidewalks than indoors lifting weights in a climate-controlled exercise facility, but that’s my preference.

Meanwhile, instead of walking on the treadmill, even on the coldest days, I prefer bundling up like an Arctic explorer and heading down our gravel roads with our dogs. The extra weight from my winter gear and the heavy boots I’m wearing makes walking more difficult, which I view as a positive because it speeds up my heart rate a bit and burns off a few more calories.

Besides enjoying being outside I think the reason I prefer getting exercise from outdoor activities instead of at the gym is because doing chores allows me immediately to see some results.

When I shovel snow, for example, I can view the amount on the sidewalk diminishing, and the piles on the sides growing larger. Walking down the road with the dogs, meanwhile, not only can be measured with a pedometer, but also in the landmarks I pass by.

Snow covered road
Sometimes in the winter, the road isn't easy to see, but Ann Bailey finds it, and takes her dogs for walks on it.
Ann Bailey / Agweek

Even little outdoor chores like filling the bird feeder with sunflower seeds gives me a two-fold sense of accomplishment. I get exercise from trudging through the snow to get to the barrel where we store the seeds and then filling the bird feeder. Later I am rewarded when I look out the kitchen window and see the birds pecking at the feeder and the squirrels and rabbits eating the seeds that fall.

During my journalistic career, I always enjoyed writing about “older” people who still lived on the farm and did chores. The other day when I was shoveling snow, I realized I am one of them. I pray that I remain healthy so I can keep on keepin' on in the outdoors.

Ann is a journalism veteran with nearly 40 years of reporting and editing experiences on a variety of topics including agriculture and business. Story ideas or questions can be sent to Ann by email at: or phone at: 218-779-8093.
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