Chances are if you are living a retired life Up North, you’ve decided to stay here or relocate here at least in part because of the natural beauty. Health experts suggest taking great advantage of that beauty by getting out in it, by weaving outdoor exercise into your life as part of a holistic health strategy.

“Just getting that fresh air and the Vitamin D from the sun—physically it’s great to get outside, but mentally it’s a good reason to get out, too,” says Dena Johnson, an athletic trainer and co-director of Excel Rehabilitation Services in Traverse City.

Benefits of regular exercise and strength training include reduced stressed levels, improved sleep quality, increased energy levels and boosted self esteem. The Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health recommends exercising 30 minutes, five to seven times a week, and the American College of Sports Medicine reported that even just twice-weekly exercise sessions can help maintain your health.

The upshot: “It’s better to be moving,” Johnson says. “The tendency may be to sit and lie around, but it’s better to get that activity.”

Ready to add nature to your workout? A few ideas to make the most of your outdoor activities:

Keep it simple.

“It doesn’t have to be an extreme sport, or strenuous by any means,” says Holly Wise, physical therapy tech at Excel Rehabilitation. A brisk walk on flat terrain or a leisurely bike ride around your neighborhood will get your blood pumping.

Take to the trails.

Northern Michigan is home to trail systems galore, including the popular winding, wooded paths behind The Village at Grand Traverse Commons, right in town. Find a map of the trails at On Traverse City’s east side, explore the Vasa, for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing throughout winter, and hiking and biking during the warmer months. Local trail details, including information about Traverse City’s cross-town bike route and paved paths throughout Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties, are at Also, land conservancies open some of their properties to public hiking and provide maps online; check the website of your local conservancy.

Join a group (or two).

Exercising with others not only helps keep you focused on your fitness goals, it’s also a fun way to meet new people. Check out guided walks and bike rides, or consider signing on for a group activity such as a weekly run (Excel Rehabilitation and Running Fit in Traverse City offer these to anyone interested), bike ride (check group ride calendar at or outdoor workouts offered by EcoTrek Fitness. (Their 75-minute sessions combine strength and aerobic exercise and are held several times a week at various TC locations year-round, no matter the weather,

Stay safe.

Wear reflective clothing if your workouts take you along roads—wear it day or night. Having a friend or family member join you is smart, but if you’re going solo, be sure to take your phone and let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return. Come winter, strapping traction devices like YakTrax on your boots will help prevent falls on icy roads and trails.

Order your copy of MyNorth Senior Living 2012 for more ways to lead an active and healthy Northern Michigan life.