Health & Wellness

Five Ways to Help the Environment While Getting Exercise

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It’s a win-win: Help the environment while getting fit.

And, knowing that you’re doing your bit for the planet might also be the incentive you need to get moving if walking on a treadmill seems kind of pointless. Here are five ways to be eco-fit:

  1. Go on a trash walk. Kim Evans, a fitness specialist who lives along the shores of beautiful Lake Michigan, plans an annual pick-up walkathon each spring when the winter ice melts and all the trash that was blown onto the beach is revealed. “Walking on the beach is a real treat, and I love to encourage people to bring along a garbage bag or two to fill up while they walk,” she says. “You’re getting a good walking workout, plus you bend and reach to pick things up, so it helps flexibility, too.” Don’t live near a beach? Take a trash bag on your walks through your neighborhood, park or hiking trail and pick up discarded beer or soda cans and other litter as you tally up steps toward your daily goal.
  2. Ditch the car. Bike, walk or use public transportation. All these methods of getting around will save energy while keeping you energized. And with ridesharing you don’t need to make a commitment to round trips. Walk to the mall or to the restaurant where you’re meeting a friend for lunch; then when you’re ready to head home, order a pickup.
  3. Plant a tree. Opportunities for planting trees abound. Search “plant trees” at VolunteerMatch.org, a site that pairs volunteers with nonprofit organizations. If tree planting sounds too strenuous, visit the volunteer center at the Arbor Day Foundation for other ways you can get involved, including taking photographs of street trees and helping out with tree inventory.
  4. Restore a bird habitat. The National Audubon Society has 450 local chapters in 23 states and each offers many ways to volunteer. Typical shifts run two or three hours and activities include everything from refilling hummingbird feeders or helping in the children’s vegetable garden to documenting coastal bird species.
  5. Preserve a forest.  Help realign hiking trails; staff a picnic area visitor station; clear trash from a river; pull weeds; water seedlings; assist with archeological restoration. The National Forest Foundation is the nonprofit partner of the U.S. Forest Service, and has hundreds of volunteer opportunities across the country to promote the health of the 193-acre National Forest System. Visit their website to find ways you can keep your local forest in tip-top shape while getting exercise.

1. Tree and impervious cover in the United States, Landscape and Urban Planning, Volume 107, Issue 1, July 2012, Pages 21–30, David J. Nowak, Eric J. Greenfield.

2. Corporation for National & Community Service, “Plant Trees in your Neighborhood: The Challenge.”

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