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Walk your way to fitness with short walks and hikes around Seattle—get your walk on

Most of us know by now that one of the best things we can do for our physical and mental well-being is get regular exercise. And still, it’s hard for some of us to fit in, or find something we like to do.

Did you know that simply walking is one of the best exercises out there? Almost anyone can do it, it requires no special gear (although good shoes can help), doesn’t cost anything to join, and if we do it consistently, it rewards us well.

Just a few months into a wellness challenge, Seattle Credit Union staff are already experiencing good results as they compete by department. Wearing their fitness trackers, our teams see how much they really move; wearing a fitness tracker may motivate some to move even more.

Medical professionals recommend 30 minutes of walking most days of the week to maintain health, or 10,000 steps per day (16,000 if you want to lose weight by walking), but if all you can do is squeeze in 10 minutes here, 5 minutes there, you’ll still see benefits. Beyond weight management, some of the gains from walking include improved mood and memory, reduced risk of chronic disease, and stronger muscles and bones.

Sculpture Park
Sculpture Park

Looking to get more exercise? Check out these options, in some cases, staff tested:

Getting Started: Urban Strolls

If strolling or sauntering is your current speed, Seattle has an extensive network of urban walks and trails, and wandering around your neighborhood has the added benefit of getting to know your neighbors. Neighborhoods to check out? Try these:

  • Georgetown: Wander the business district for a taste of old Seattle, and while you’re there, stroll through the Georgetown Trailer Park Mall any weekend for something completely different. Get your steps in by walking a few more blocks to Oxbow Park, home of the infamous 1950s roadside attraction, Hat n’ Boots.
  • West Seattle / Downtown: Follow a shoreline path for great views of Puget Sound, Elliott Bay, the Olympic Mountains or downtown Seattle. Alki Beach Park is just over two miles long, but you can meander farther in either direction if you’re so inclined. And if a view keeps you motivated, the views from Myrtle Edwards Park along the Elliott Bay’s west shoreline are spectacular, bordered to the north by Magnolia’s Elliott Bay Marina and the south by Seattle Art Museum’s Sculpture Park.
  • Ballard / Fremont: Walk the westerly end of the Burke Gilman trail from Golden Gardens Park to Hiram M Chittenden Locks and watch the boats go from fresh to salt water. The trail picks up again east of the Ballard Bridge. From there, you can walk along the ship canal through the tech enclave skirting Fremont.
  • Northgate: For those who don’t want to walk outside, for reasons of inclement weather or greater safety, Northgate Mall opens at 7:30 a.m. Monday – Saturday for those who want to get their steps. Southcenter and Alderwood Malls also open early for mall walkers.

Just Add Trees: Walk with Purpose

Increase your stride or improve your balance with a walk through an urban forest. There’s even scientific evidence that hugging (well, at least touching, or even looking at) a tree contributes to greater health.

  • West Seattle: Several West Seattle parks have walking trails nestled under old growth forest. You can get your steps and hug some trees at Camp Long, Schmitz Preserve Park, and Lincoln Park.
  • Mid-city: Bordering the University of Washington, the Washington Park Arboretum has a trail network that includes themed gardens, wetlands, and wooded areas. A former Army base, Discovery Park’s 534 acres has trails for any type of walker, hiker, runner, or wheeled exerciser. The views from the bluff overlooking Puget Sound are spectacular, and for the more adventurous, the trail to the lighthouse and beach are a good workout.
  • Eastside: The gateway to the Cascade foothills lies just east of Seattle with no end to wilderness trails, but you can stay urban and feel like you’re in the woods at Bridal Trails State Park between Kirkland and Redmond. You’ll share the 28 miles of trails with hikers and horses. This is the only state park on the list and requires a Discover Pass to visit.
Discovery Park
Discovery Park

Step It Up: Take the Stairs

Burn more calories, increase your heart rate, and strengthen bones and muscles by adding stairs to your walking routine. Because Seattle has so many hills (old-timers may recall it once was called the city of seven hills), there are numerous staircases around the city. Depending on your fitness level and the amount of time you have, here are a few to choose from.

  • Burien: At 289 steps, the Eagle Landing Park staircase leads to a beach by way of an ecologically sensitive area. The park got its name from its resident eagle, but other birds of prey and wildlife can be seen here, too.
  • Capitol Hill / Eastlake: Two parallel staircases, Howe Street and Blaine Street, are two of Seattle’s longest stair treks. While originally built to connect two trolley lines, now you’ll meet like-minded others who are there for a workout.
  • Queen Anne: While Queen Anne Avenue’s counterbalance is infamous for winter skiing (and sliding) on rare snow days, the hill offers many stairway choices. For ambitious types, a four-mile walking tour put together by university faculty covers many, but not all, of them.
Randolph Place
Randolph Place

Most of the above locations are accessible by public transit. For those interested in mapping your walks, you can do that. Seattle’s Feet First is another good resource for urban walkers, and for those who want to make stairs are regular part of their workout, check out Seattle Stairway Walks for maps and stair counts.

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