Bored with my usual route, I decided to head to a nearby park to give trail running a try. While a few miles of paved pathways circle the perimeter of the park, I decided I’d keep things exciting by venturing onto the unpaved portions that wind through the woods.
And I must say, adding some fallen logs, limbs, low branches, and steep valleys and gullies to my usual routine was a CHALLENGE! No wonder I kept pausing to admire the scenery and snap some photos with my cell phone!
Running through beautiful scenery was a nice distraction that added an additional meditative component for me, but I am not the only person who has noticed the increased benefits of bringing your exercise routine outdoors. Some research has shown that outdoor activity — whether it is walking and jogging, cycling, gardening, whatever — can provide significant mental and physical health benefits beyond what one might derive from working out indoors exclusively.
This article indicates that being near a body of water is especially beneficial. One would think that in my county, which boasts over four hundred miles of coastline, it would be easy to find a body of water, but the fact is the vast majority of this pristine green space has been developed into subdivisions of McMansions and is privately owned. Though the river I ran along yesterday is literally across the street from me, I had to drive 20 minutes away to gain public access to it. Four hundred miles of coastline, and only a fraction of it open to the public.
Perhaps the waterfront is prime real estate, but my county is also lacking in public spaces in upland areas as well. Very few bike trails and areas designated for hiking, camping, and other outdoor activities exist.
Open access to public green space is such an important component of building healthy communities. It’s not only good for your health to exercise outside, but encouraging bike commuting alleviates traffic, and providing open spaces for citizens to recreate together develops a greater sense of community and connection. Perhaps building a park is not as lucrative as selling the land to a million-dollar home developer, but it is a long-term investment in the success of the city as a whole.
Right now where I live is not terribly friendly to those of us who like to bike, run and play outdoors. But maybe some day, if we continue to pressure those in charge, there will be bike lanes and public beaches for all :).