4 Reasons Rail-trails are Better than the Gym

Losing weight, getting more exercise, or improving health are goals shared by many people. While it’s not always easy to stick to a fitness routine, the next time you’re looking for a little exercise, consider heading to your local rail-trail for a walk. If you’re fortunate, you can easily access a trail from your house, but even if it takes more of an effort to reach, a trail walk can be a great alternative to other walking routes. Maybe you already know your local trail well from bike excursions, but walking can help you see the route through an entirely different lens. Who knows what you might be missing as you whizz past on your bike? If you need further convincing, consider these additional reasons to head out for a rail-trail walk.


Different Scenery

The biggest problem for people sticking to an exercise routine is that it can be monotonous or just plain boring. But it doesn’t have to be. Rich in history and often lined by greenery, rail-trails have a fascinating past. Before you head out, spend time learning about the railway history of your route and, while out on the trail, look for remnants of the corridor’s former use. Bring along binoculars to spot wildlife, plan an outing to take advantage of trailside attractions, or just log some steps on your Fitbit. Whatever you do, rail-trails provide a much more scenic alternative to walking on a treadmill.

Kokosing Gap Trail, OH | Exercising on rail-trails can provide scenic tours of history. | Photo by: Tom Bilcze


Work Different Muscles

If you normally only work out at the gym, walk the same predictable paths, or follow any fitness regime that doesn’t include long walks, add trail-walking to your routine. Trails with inclines and declines and a gravel surface can challenge your muscles in a potentially new way (and offer more cushioning for joints if you are accustomed to walking on asphalt). Being outside surrounded by trees can provide a much needed stress reliever, and walking in the sunshine versus a sterile gym can improve mental health. The change of scenery (or the addition of it) can make a humdrum walk an exciting excursion, making every trail outing a new experience.

Macomb Orchard Trail, MI | Walking on the trail can help prevent chronic diseases. | Photo by: Amy Henschen


Walking is Great Exercise

The American Journal of Preventative Medicine studies have shown that regular walking helps prevent chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, colon cancer, and diabetes, among others. Try to walk for at least 30 minutes a day to get your heart rate up for improved cardiovascular health. Fitbits are a popular tool for monitoring heart rate, tracking distance, calories burned, and more, and can be a great incentive to incorporate regular walking into your fitness routine. But really, all you need is a good pair of comfortable shoes or sneakers for a low-cost but highly beneficial outing.

Kinnickinnic River Trail, WI | Exercising on the trail can be all fun and games. | Photo: Courtesy Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers


Take the Kids on an Exploration

When you’re looking for an activity with a house full of rambunctious kids, take them out on a rail-trail. Delve in to the history of the trail, create a game of searching for any signs of the former railway, spot wildlife, and explore the surroundings. This is a great, low-cost family activity that will help kids appreciate the value of rail-trails, enjoy nature, and learn that exercise can be a fun adventure.

These are only a few of the many reasons to head to your local rail-trail for regular walks. The key to a successful exercise regime is to keep it interesting and new, so use TrailLink.com to find trails near you and plot new adventures.

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