There is one characteristic that all trails have in common: they are outdoors!
Trails and active transportation allow us to connect with nature, even when we may be surrounded by an urban environment. Walking out of a building, one immediately notices the feel of the air and the light (or darkness) of the sky. We can take a walk and admire an urban garden or pot of flowers close up as we pass by. These simple aspects of nature - the weather, the open sky, natural forms both animate and inanimate - have a positive effect on us (barring sunburn, poison ivy and insect bites, of course). And then there are the obvious health benefits of walking and biking.
My regular bike commute takes me on a section of the Metropolitan Branch Trail, a rail-with-trail through the neighborhoods of northeast D.C. The trail is planted with native species, and I just love the wildflowers that are out this time of year. The black-eyed Susans, purple cone-flowers and evening primrose are blossoming now. Another part of my route meanders through a residential neighborhood giving me an opportunity to admire my neighbors' gardens.
These types of experiences enrich us and have health benefits too. A growing body of research shows that spending time outdoors leads to an improved sense of well-being, decreased stress hormones and improved blood pressure. Biophilia - the idea that humans have an innate connection and attraction to Nature - is a popular explanation for this effect. Trail use and active transportation are important opportunities for obtaining these health and well-being benefits acrossour life span, while also serving to get us where we need and want to go.
Working toward our mission to promote "healthy places for healthy people," Rails-to-Trails Conservancy is partnering with the Outdoor Alliance for Kids (OAK) to promote opportunities for America's youngsters to get outdoors.
OAK is celebrating Great Outdoors America Week (GO Week) June 24-27. It's a week-long celebration in the nation's capital to draw attention to the important connection that people from all walks of life have with the great outdoors. We'll be celebrating, too, by tweeting and posting Facebook messages, and we'd like you to celebrate with us! Please share your experiences in the great outdoors this week on Twitter by using #activetranspo. Maybe you're just talking a short walk to the bus stop, or perhaps enjoying a long ride in the wild! Either way, you're outdoors and we'd love to hear about it!