Nature offers numerous health benefits including improving short-term memory, helping to destress, reducing inflammation, fighting depression & anxiety, and much more. With all these benefits, why not add another level to it by exercising outdoors? Embrace all that nature has to offer for your mental state while improving your physical form.

Michigan has so many beautiful locations for a workout. Here are a few on our list:

  1. Chapel Basin, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Munising: From the trailhead, you can take a three-mile hike to Lake Superior and reach Chapel Rock and Beach. You will find beautiful views of Chapel Lake and Chapel Falls along the way.
  2. Dunes Trail, Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes, Empire: Round trip from the Dune Climb to Lake Michigan is roughly 3.5 miles and may take 2-4 hours depending on weather and your physical abilities. While this one is tough, the views at the end are worth it – just be sure to bring enough water and sun protection!
  3. Kal-Haven Trail State Park, Kalamazoo: This 33-mile trail will take you from Kalamazoo to South Haven, passing through small towns and various points of historical interest. Channel your inner explorer while reaping the health benefits.
  4. Waterloo Recreation Area, Jackson: This is the largest park in the Lower Peninsula with over 20,000 acres of land that offers over 50 miles of various trails. Check out the DTE Energy Foundation Trail specially designed for mountain biking.
  5. Paint Creek Trail, Rochester: The former Penn Central Railroad was transformed into a trail in 1983 and spans 8.9 miles long and 8 feet wide from Rochester to Lake Orion. Along the trail you can find reminders of the old railway and feel the history dating back to 1871.

An outdoor workout doesn’t have to be limited to running or walking either! You can mix in different types of workouts you would do in the gym and use your body weight & objects around you to make it more challenging. For example:

  • Park bench push-ups: Place your hands on the seat, shoulder-width apart. Extend your legs out into a push-up position. Bend your arms to do a traditional push-up or keep your arms straight to hold a plank. Make it more challenging by flipping the other way, with your feet on the bench and hands flat on the ground.
  • Sandy shuffles: Perfect for when you’re at the Dunes Trail in Sleeping Bear, you can pick two points about five feet apart and shuffle laterally. Shuffling in the sand adds an extra level of resistance to your work out.
  • Bench climbers: That same bench you used for your push-ups earlier can also be used to do a form of mountain-climbers. Place your hands on the seat of the bench in a push-up position and bring your knees to your chest like you’re running up a mountain.
  • Uphill sprints: Most trails offer various elevations, which are great for sprints. Find a hill suited for your abilities, run up it as fast as you can, and walk your way down to repeat.
  • Branch pull-ups: Identify a sturdy, low-hanging branch that can support your body weight. Use the branch as a pull-up bar or use bursts of energy to jump to touch it with your fingertips repeatedly.

When you’re exercising outdoors, always be aware of your surroundings especially those passing by to ensure you don’t hurt yourself or other patrons on the trail. For other ways to stay active this summer, check out the Your Neighborhood tab on Empowering Michigan.

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