Find a New Fitness Routine
Working out in the fresh air is good for many reasons. “Research shows that using public parks—even small local ones in your neighborhood—contributes to health in many ways, from promoting physical activity to improving mental health and even having the potential to reduce health care costs,” notes Betsy Clayton, communications director at Lee County Government.
She adds, “So whether your happy place is at the dog park with your best friend, hiking at your favorite preserve or reading a good book under the shade of a tree in a park, get outside and reap the health benefits of your natural surroundings.” There are more than 36,000 acres of public lands—parks, beaches, preserves, trails and pathways—offered through Lee County Parks & Recreation. They are free to use; a few require parking fees.
Those who love a good walk might further enjoy a free guided walk at one of the preserves or parks. It’s a great opportunity to learn about plants and animals that can be spotted along the way, such as native salvia plants (sage) or gopher tortoises.
Of course, as any dog owner knows, “man’s best friend” loves a good walk, too—which can be a great motivator to get you off the couch. There are several on-leash dog trails, including at Buckingham Park in Buckingham, Estero Park and Rec Center in Estero, and Pinewood Trails Park in Bokeelia, on Pine Island.
For a different experience, Beach Walks are offered by The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum on Sanibel.
Some area parks take workouts a step further by offering outdoor exercise stations—where you can do calf stretches against a pole, pull-ups on bars or sit-ups on incline boards. In Cape Coral, fitness stations are located at Del Prado Linear Park, Joe Stonis Park, Rotary Park Environmental Center and Saratoga Lake Park.
And fitness stations are at Alva Park and Community Center in Alva, Bowman’s Beach Park on Sanibel, Lehigh Acres Trailhead Park in Lehigh Acres, Matlacha Park and Community Center in Matlacha and Schandler Hall Community Park in Fort Myers.
Lee Health’s Pathway to Discovery, at Cape Coral Hospital, has two exercise stations “along a 1.7-mile dynamic pathway” encircling Reflection Pond. Although physical therapists use the stations with patients, the stations and pathway are also available for public use.
“The paved pathway winds through the trees, called the Bridal Path, around the Cape Coral Hospital campus, the Cape Coral Healthy Life Center and Cape Coral Hospital Child Development Center,” says Scott Kashman, Lee Health chief officer, hospital operations. “The pathway represents the connectivity between patients, caregivers, family and the community.”
Those strolling to the Teaching Garden near Cape Coral Healthy Life Center will find educational plaques with info on healthy lifestyles and diet. Visitors can study plants in the garden or wander to the Healing Garden, near the entrance to the Women’s Care section of the hospital, and enjoy a reflective space.
Area bicycle riders are in luck, too. There are many bicycle trails at local parks, including paved paths at John Yarbrough Linear Park in Fort Myers. The North Side of Caloosahatchee Regional Park in Alva has unpaved trails for mountain biking. Sanibel’s “Shared Use Paths” are for walkers and bikers—26 miles of paved paths meander past shopping districts, along back roads and over small bridges.
With more than 90 miles of interconnected bicycle routes, Cape Coral is another great option for bicyclists. So good are the seven marked trails running along Veterans Parkway and the marked bike lanes on Cape Coral’s streets, that the city received a League of American Bicyclists’ “Bicycle Friendly Community” bronze award.
So whether your favorite outdoor activity is a peaceful stroll, or you’d prefer to work up a sweat, it’s time to get outside in the Sunshine State!
Ann Marie O’Phelan is a Southwest Florida resident and a regular contributor to TOTI Media.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum
3075 Sanibel Captiva Road, Sanibel
Cape Coral Parks and Recreation
Lee County Parks & Recreation
Pathway to Discovery at Cape Coral Hospital
636 Del Prado Blvd., Cape Coral
Sanibel & Captiva Chamber of Commerce
1159 Causeway Road, Sanibel