|By Ivan Raconteur, Staff Writer
Much attention has been focussed on the benefits of physical activity recently, and trails offer a variety of options for people to get out and get active.
Trails create healthy recreation and transportation opportunities by providing people of all ages with attractive, safe, accessible places to bike, walk, hike, jog, skate, or ski.
And, unlike expensive indoor health clubs, trails offer convenient places for people to exercise inexpensively. People can use most trails for free.
A report titled “Why parks and trails are important,” created by a working group made up of representatives from the Minnesota Department of Health, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota State University, Mankato, and Three Rivers Park District, describes many of the benefits of trails.
One of the key personal benefits of trails is the physical activity provided by outdoor recreation.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who are generally not active can improve their health through physical activity.
Physical activity can help to:
• control weight;
• control high blood pressure;
• reduce risk for type 2 diabetes, heart attack, and colon cancer;
• reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety;
• reduce arthritis pain and disability; and
• prevent osteoporosis and falls.
Trails offer convenient ways to increase physical activity.
According to the Trails and Greenways Clearinghouse:
• Trails connect people with places, enabling them to walk or cycle to run errands or commute to work . . . providing an opportunity for physical activity that can be built into the daily routine.
• Trails and greenways provide natural, scenic areas that cause people to actually want to be outside and be physically active.
• Trails connect neighborhoods and schools so children can cycle or walk to their friends home’s or to school.
How much is enough?
According to the CDC, physical activity does not need to be hard to provide benefits.
Adults should get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (such as brisk walking) five or more days per week.
The CDC recommends starting slowly, by doing 10 minutes of physical activity per day and gradually working up to 30 minutes.
Planning ahead or exercising with a friend are ways to overcome a lack of motivation.
The CDC notes that trails can be convenient places to increase physical activity, and people do not need to be athletic to be active. Activities such as walking provide health benefits without requiring any new skills.
Regional trails offer recreation
• The Luce Line Trail is a state-established trail maintained by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. It stretches 63 miles from Plymouth to Cosmos.
The trail runs on a former railroad line and is available for biking, hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, snowmobiling, and skiing.
From Plymouth west about 30 miles to Winsted, the surface is limestone. There is also a parallel treadway for horseback riding. Snowmobiles are allowed on the trail west of Stubb’s Bay Road.
From Winsted west to Cosmos, the trail has a natural surface.
• The Dakota Rail Regional Trail is a 44-mile former railroad corridor in Hennepin, Carver, and McLeod counties.
A portion of the trail in Hennepin County at the city of Wayzata to the city of St. Bonifacius was constructed in 2009.
In Carver County, the Dakota Rail Regional Trail is 12 miles in length, extending from the east Carver/Hennepin county line near Lake Waconia to the Carver/McLeod county line between New Germany and Lester Prairie.
Construction of the portion of the trail in Carver County has been extended to Mayer, and a groundbreaking took place in July 2012 for completion of the final portion of the trail in the county from Mayer through New Germany to the west county line.
The McLeod County Regional Rail Authority has applied for funding, but so far, the portion of the trail in McLeod County has not been developed.
• Lake Minnewashta and Baylor regional parks each have several miles of traditional groomed trails that meander through settings of woodland, prairie, and lakeshore.
Lake Minnewashta Regional Park also has several miles of trails that are groomed for traditional and skate skiing. For updated trail conditions, call the winter trails hotline at (952) 466-5237.