Five Ways Trails Make Us Healthier (and Happier)

Posted 03/06/17 by Ashley Ashworth in Health and Wellness

If you are like most Americans, you probably exercise less during the winter. It is hard to keep those New Year’s resolutions when it’s snowing outside! Nevertheless, warm weather is just around the corner—and what better way to be active outdoors than on your favorite trail? Regardless of your age, fitness level or ability—trails are for everyone.

Need a little motivation? Here are five ways getting out on the trail can improve your health.

1Improving Your Mood

Is the cold, gray weather bringing you down? If you have depression or anxiety, getting outside to exercise may be the last thing you want to do, but can be one of the best things to improve your mood. Regular exercise releases endorphins and neurotransmitters like feel-good serotonin that may ease symptoms of depression. It can also take your mind off your worries and increase opportunities for social interaction.

Researchers at Stanford University found that not only did a walk in nature improve mood—but cognitive functioning and working memory as well.

2Reducing Your Risk of Heart Disease

Heart disease is the top cause of death for people over 65. The good news is that moderate to rigorous physical activity addresses almost all of the risk factors. Exercise can lower blood pressure, raise HDL cholesterol (“good cholesterol”) and help your body manage blood sugar. The heart is a muscle, and the more you use it the stronger it gets. Because trails are off road, they provide the perfect opportunity for prolonged exercise to get your heart rate up through walking, biking or running. When exercising on the trail, you do not have to stop for traffic or wait at crosswalks.

3Boosting Energy

It seems counterintuitive, but expending energy (exercising) generates energy! Regular exercise helps your cardiovascular system work more efficiently, giving you more energy to do the things you love. Getting out on the trail can also improve muscle strength and endurance. Just think of everything you will be able to do with a little more pep in your step.

4Giving You a Better Sleep

One in four Americans struggle to get sufficient sleep. One study found that when people got at least 20 minutes of exercise a day, they saw a 65 percent improvement in their sleep quality. Just remember not to go for your run or bike ride right before bed; you want to give your body some time to relax after a workout.

5Helping You Lose Weight

This one is obvious, but if you are trying to shed some pounds, getting out on the trail is one of the best ways to be physically active. One hour of moderate cycling burns more than 500 calories, and the same amount of time spent walking burns more than 200 calories and running more than 600 calories.

RELATED: RTC's Keith Laughlin "How I Walked 2,000 Miles in 2016"

To lose one pound a week, you need to eliminate about 500 calories per day—and paired with a healthy diet, getting active on the trail can get you on your way. The best way to lose weight is to get your heart pumping.

So now you know some of the health benefits of getting out on the trail for a walk, bike or run, but where can you find the best trail for you?

Head on over to, punch in your address, and browse all the trails close to you. And just like that, you’re on the trail to a healthier life!


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