The Nature Lover's Workout: City Steps and Fruit Foraging

Regardless of season, getting out into nature is one of the healthiest things we can do for our bodies. The fresh air can revitalize and energize us, and being out among trees and grass, birds and butterflies—no matter how few or how many—is always a good thing. It can also provide us with a healthy and free workout any day of the year (read no more excuses!); and if you've got a taste for fruits, you just may be able to find a free and yummy snack along the way too.

Whether or not your town is home to city stairs (typically built in mountainous or hilly towns to access homes built up into the hills before the family car became our main mode of transportation, or to get down to beaches), finding a nearby staircase is one of the best-kept exercise secrets. Stepping works your thighs and buttocks, calf muscles and feet. Jogging or running up several flights of stairs can boost your heart rate and burn fat. Adding arm weights can help to tone and strengthen your arms and shoulders as well. In lieu of an expensive gym membership—and the cost of gas to get there—you can stay healthy and fit while getting to know your neighborhood better and saving your money.

If you have access to outdoor city steps, you know they can often wind up through beautiful neighborhoods bursting with wildlife and nature. If you don't have access to city steps, seek out a nearby building (perhaps a local hospital, parking lot, city building or college campus) where access is free and stairs are many is a great option. You can also skip the steps altogether and opt instead for a hike through a local park, neighborhood or college campus. While hiking on a flat route may not give you as much of a workout as stairs, it can burn calories, provide you with an aerobic activity, and did you know that walking actually works every muscle in the body? (It's recommended by health experts that we all walk at least 5 miles every day!) You may also find a flat terrain provides you with the ability to walk farther than on hilly surfaces or steps, and if you add weights here too, you can increase the workout's impact on arms and legs.

Of course, an incredible added benefit of outdoor exercise activity, especially during the warmer months, is the opportunity to forage for free fruits! Apples, plums, peaches, lemons, pears, berries—all grow in a number of climates, and often in your neighbor's yards. You may find them bursting in public parks too. And you can reference maps, like the ones on that highlight the types of fruits available for picking throughout various U.S. neighborhoods, perfect for a mid-workout snack, or to save for later. Getting to know your local neighborhood and the food growing there further connects you to the region, and that’s always healthy.

Image: By Alan Light

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