Ask UConn Extension: Can Walking Trails Improve Your Health and Fitness?

A UConn Extension expert weighs in on the health benefits of trail walking

An early morning view of wetlands near UConn.

(Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

There are several types of trails that you can check out on your health journey, whether you are just beginning or experienced. Although it seems so basic, walking is the best exercise. Walking engages all of your muscles and helps tone your muscles. Walking outside on hard surface in comparison to treadmills is beneficial to strengthening your bones because of the impact with a hard surface.

Choose a trail that can fit with your style, personality, and goals. Change your routine, pace, and routes to keep your exercise fun and challenging. Start slowly as a warmup, then slowly increase your walking pace and your arm movements as you adjust your speed. Remember to engage all of your core muscles and lungs by breathing out and breathing in with sustained and full breaths, breathing in through your nose and breathing out through your mouth.

Various types of terrain will also challenge you and keep your trail exercise inspiring. There are flat surface trails, winding trails, hilly trails, and off the beaten path trails. Bring an exercise band or light hand weights to gently flex your arms. Music can be inspiring but may also distract you from paying attention to surfaces and other trail users. If you use earphones, turn the volume low or keep the earphone in one ear. There are guided walking audio tracks that may also help vary your routine and offer challenges.

Establish your baseline by measuring your breathing and heart rate before you start. If you have a fitness watch, or health tracking device on your cell phone, you can keep track of your progress as well as other measures. Pay attention to more than your weight for progress. Use a measuring tape to record your waist, hip, and abdomen circumferences.

You may prefer the peacefulness of a solo walk or making it an exploratory adventure with family and friends. Check out CT Trail Finder

/Public Release. This material comes from the originating organization/author(s)and may be of a point-in-time nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s).View in full here.