The above photo is courtesy of Getty Images.
This is a guest blog post by Suzanne Matyas of Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is a lead organization for March’s #Walk2Connect monthly theme. This blog was originally published in Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Trailblog on March 13, 2019.
It’s enjoyable. It’s a form of eco-friendly transportation. It’s exercise (and even an Olympic sport). It’s inexpensive—awesome entertainment. And it’s an unparalleled way to experience a place and to connect with your community.
With many parts of the country drinking in more daylight and waving goodbye to winter, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy team thought it was a prime time to let walking step into the spotlight and to share a few suggestions to spice up your walks. Plus, with Opening Day for Trails just around the corner on Saturday, April 13—there’s no better time to spring onto the trail for a walk solo, with friends or at a special Opening Day event.
So, lace up your sneakers … and let’s get ready to ramble!
1. Mix Up Your Meetups
Having your 2 p.m. meeting in the same conference room can get a bit dull week after week. Or, perhaps you’re searching for some new and creative ways to fit in a little fun with your friends and family members?
Luckily, walking is your solution to mixing up your meetups!
Rather than slouch through that afternoon brainstorm, consider changing the location of your meeting to a local walking path or another outdoor spot near the office. Research has shown that it can actually help spark creative thinking, plus there’s the bonus of breaking up your 9-to-5 with a bit of exercise.
And when it comes to hanging out with your pals or loved ones, heading outdoors together to connect over a stroll can strengthen your relationship as well as your bodies! Check out these clever ways to add a bit of kid-friendly pizzazz into your ambles.
2. Take a Hike
You might be wondering, does a hike technically count as a form of walking? Is a hike a walk, but a walk not a hike?
Whether distinguished by terrain, distance, geography, topography, speed or even footwear, we couldn’t definitively tell you what causes them to be categorized differently. But we can tell you it’s what they have in common that’s far more important: They’re both excellent mediums for exercise, connection and exploration. Going for a hike can take you thru thousands of miles, from the mountains of Maine all the way to Georgia, or on a short-but-sweet trek through a wildlife refuge while still within the footprint of a major city. Wherever your hiking adventure takes you, you can expect it to leave behind roughly 500 calories per hour! And its benefits don’t stop there; hiking can also improve cardiovascular health; strengthen those calves, glutes, core and other muscles; and leave you in a better mood.
With its numerous perks, we hope you’ll try out all types of hikes—and invite your friends and family to join you! To point you in the right direction, we’ve developed a list of great hiking (and walking) trails that are perfect for getting outdoors and discovering interesting destinations along the way.
3. Make a Walking Goal
Sticking to those New Year’s health and exercise resolutions can be tough, especially when the darker, cooler months are weighing you down. But with the promise of spring and the spirit of renewal in the air, now is the ideal time to set, keep and achieve a walking goal to improve your health and fitness!
As people across the country will be hitting the trail on April 13 to celebrate Opening Day for Trails, why not use this kickoff celebration for the spring trail season to kick off your walking goal. You can set a walking goal to complete by Opening Day, use it to launch a new one—or create a combination of the two! Either way, you can use April 13 as a milestone for your commitment to a healthier, happier you.
By the way—if you pledge to walk the trail on Opening Day, you’ll be automatically entered to win awesome trail gear courtesy of Wheel & Sprocket, Hydro Flask, KEEN, Adidas, Patagonia, Topo Designs and Rails-to-Trails Conservancy!
4. Join the Club
Searching for a fun activity with a friend, or want to add a few more pals to your roster? Join or start a walking club! Not only is it a way for social butterflies to spread their wings, but research shows that working out with a group can help you jumpstart and maintain a healthier lifestyle. By joining a club, you benefit from the positive peer pressure that comes with keeping a regular commitment. It might even inspire some good-hearted competition between you and your fellow walkers.
And what’s more—these get-togethers are a great way for you to get outside and explore your community. To plan a scenic route with greenery and without the constant whir of passing cars, try going by trail! (Note: Your local trails may even host a walking program already—such as the health-based Prescribe-a-Trail series on the Circuit Trails in the Greater Philly/Camden area.)
5. Walk Smart
Whether you’re a student yourself, the guardian of one and/or an educator of many—walking to and from school is a smart way to start and end your days of learning. It doesn’t take an Einstein to know that letting students stretch their legs during a day filled with exercising their minds is a bright idea—but Ph.D.s across the country have done the research, tested the hypothesis and made a strong case.
Studies reveal that walk-to-school initiatives can help improve academic performance, lower the overall number of asthma attacks, and form healthy habits that carry forward into adulthood. Additionally, by having programs in place that make it safer and easier for students to walk and bike to school—such as Safe Routes to School, for example—communities can help lower school transportation costs and reduce traffic congestion.
As car-free routes surrounded by nature, trails can be a safe and mentally stimulating way for students to access schools; and it presents them with important outdoor time, which has been shown to also improve health and wellness. If you’re interested in guiding the bright minds of tomorrow on their walks to school, learn how you can launch and get involved in a Walking Bus program!
6. Go for a W-A-L-K
Quiz time: Who’s got puppy-dog eyes, a tilted head and slightly pricked ears—and wants to take a walk with you? Your puppy dog—that’s who! And if the eyes weren’t quite enough to get you moving, Fido’s need to get regular exercise to live a long and healthy life (and to avoid an “accident” on the rug) will surely motivate you.
And just as it’s good for your furry friend—a walk is good for you too! From stress management to lowering blood pressure and the good-feels that pair with companionship, there are a whole pack of health benefits associated with spending time with your dog.
Beyond prompting you to take those regular exercise breaks, your dog is both your best friend and biggest cheerleader while you’re walking—providing the support and tail wags you need to conquer that last half-mile! Trails are terrific places for you and your furry friend to walk together, but when you go, please be mindful of the trail’s rules and other trail users.
7. Find a Trail
With more than 34,000 miles of multiuse trails across the country, there are—literally— thousands of opportunities for you to get out and get walking! If you’re searching for a local jaunt or long-distance wander, you can use TrailLink.com—our free trail-finder website and app filled with helpful maps, descriptions, user reviews and photos—to discover new pathways and re-discover old favorites.