By Lilly Saunders
Sunday, August 8, 2010.
The popularity of walking as a summer fitness activity has grown by leaps and bounds. Low risk and easy to start, walking has proved its health benefits in numerous studies. It is one of the easiest, most cost-effective and enjoyable forms of exercise. The following are some of the best and most unusual places to keep you inspired to continue walking this summer season:
• Walking trails - Many towns have walking paths that are used in combination with a circuit of stations for you to do additional exercises along the way. Plaques are strategically placed about the walking path with a picture and description of the activity to perform when you get to it. For example, you may walk across a field and then stop to do some stretching. This added activity will not only give you the cardiovascular benefits of walking, but will also incorporate some strengthening and stretching exercises as well.
• Parks - You may have lived in the same town for a majority of your life and never explored its local, county or national parks. There are treasures of hidden beauty to be found along every route. Most parks have maps and well marked trails so you don’t need to be concerned about getting lost. Take in the beauty of the rocks, flowers, rivers, meadows and wild life. You can walk the same path repeatedly and have a renewed experience each time.
• Rail trails - Spend a little time with Mother Nature looking for treasures along an old railroad bed. Many have trail markers to track your mileage and converted station houses for rest stops, snacks and historic information. These trails are typically flat and good for beginners. Not only can you get a great workout, but it is also a fantastic way to forget your worries and reduce your stress.
• Head for the hills - The essentials of hiking are similar to walking - they are simply taken off road. The best way to get started is to find a safe, cleared path - many parks have paths marked out with distances and the approximate time it takes to go from point A to point B. For added safety, take a friend or your dog along, and never go hiking after dark.
• City tours - There’s no better way to explore a city than on foot. The architecture, landscape and city smells will keep you occupied as you pass each street. Watching for pedestrians, vehicles and construction will keep you on your toes. If you are in an unfamiliar city, you may want to sign up for a walking tour so that you can get an education while you get fit.
• Golf courses - The average walking distance for 18 holes of golf is approximately five miles, and burns approximately 420 calories without carrying clubs. Playing 2 ½ rounds of golf per week significantly improves aerobic performance and favorably affects fat reduction. Even if you don’t golf, offer to caddy.
• The beach - There’s nothing like the serenity of crashing waves and sand between your toes to take your mind off your worries and bring you back to your favourite times at the beach. As you are watching the seagulls and sailboats, you may walk further than you thought possible. Besides walking in the sand takes more energy and will burn a few extra calories. Don’t forget your sunscreen.
• College campus - Most universities are open to the public and are abundant with miles of walking paths, acres of rolling terrain and panoramic views. Don’t forget to stop by the training fields for a stroll or sprint on the rubberised track and for a few laps up and down the stairs.
• Bridges - Depending on where you live, your area may have pedestrian bridges that will allow you a tranquil walk across a peaceful body of water, as well as access to a new town to stroll through.
• Walk-a-thons - Sign up for a walk-a-thon for your favourite charity. Choose a distance that is more than you are walking now, but something that is attainable by event day. The feeling of accomplishment for participating in a walking event for your favourite charity is indescribable. Picture yourself crossing that finish line with the greatest sense of triumph.
• Walk with a purpose - Volunteer to train a dog for blind people, walk pets at a shelter, push people in their wheelchairs on the grounds of a nursing home or walk babies in their prams at a crèche facility. If you get creative, there are ways you can walk not just to get yourself fit, but help out your community.
• Gardens, zoos, country clubs and more - Your walking options are truly unlimited. Look around your community for opportunities to have a unique walking journey. If you keep your options open, you may just be pleasantly surprised at what you may experience on a walk.
Be sure to choose a safe environment to walk in as you continue to explore new areas. You may want to purchase a pedometer and keep track of your miles logged as you discover unique areas to walk. The world is your gym, so get out and get moving.
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