Exercise is an essential part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. It improves circulation, heart strength, muscle tone, boosts the metabolism and promotes quality sleep. But why feel limited to working out in gyms? There are plenty of ways to stay fit, naturally.

Golf course stroll
A resident of San Diego takes an early morning stroll around the Bonita Golf Course. The trail around the golf course is three miles long and varies between dirt, pavement and sand. Photo by Anna Conkey

A scenic stroll around a golf course may not seem like a challenging workout, but by the time you hit the third mile, those calves will definitely be feeling it. Be sure to stretch before and after!

Workout station in park
Bonita resident Alejandra Navarro makes use of a workout station in Rohr Park, Bonita. “I’m a runner,” said Navarro, “but I injured my meniscus, so I’m trying to find other ways to work out.” Photo by Anna Conkey

Many parks also have workout stations with pull up bars, balance beams, vault bars, stretching bars and abdominal benches—perfect for parents who want to workout while watching their kids play.

Running round golf course
San Diego residents walk, jog or run around the Bonita Golf Course. The trail around the golf course is three miles long and varies between dirt, pavement and sand. Photo by Anna Conkey

Why run in a stinky gym, when you can feel the fresh air on your face as you burn up that donut from breakfast! Also, running on uneven terrain can quickly add definition to leg muscles.

Cycling outdoors
San Diego residents bicycle down the Father Junipero Serra Trail. The trail is four miles long, one way, and is part of Mission Trails Regional Park. Photo by Anna Conkey

There are plenty of trails in San Diego for those who prefer cycling. Father Junipero, part of Mission Trails Regional Park, is a paved trail for those who want to walk, jog or bicycle on a smooth surface. Plus the landscape is lovely, and the smell of nature so refreshing.

Rugged cycling
San Diego residents bicycle on a trail in Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve. Los Peñasquitos means “little cliffs” and the scenery includes creeks and waterfalls. Photo by Anna Conkey

For the more adventurous, there are dirt trails for rugged biking as well.

Nature hike
A young hiking enthusiast MacKayla Conkey, 3, wanders along the Grinding Rocks Trail in Mission Trails Regional Park. Photo by Anna Conkey

If you really want to embrace nature, try a nature hike. Mission Trails, Cowles Mountain, or any of the nature reserves spread throughout San Diego are excellent options. How can you not delight in sunlight and stumbling across little critters?

Fence lizard
A Western fence lizard sunbathes on a fence railing. Western fence lizards are characterized by their blue underbellies, and are also known as ‘blue-bellies,’ the males are typically darker than females. Photo by Anna Conkey

Lizards are the most predominant animals you’ll likely see. But if you’re lucky, maybe you can spot a red hawk or coyote. If you’re scared of rattle snakes, don’t be—they’re more afraid of you, and tend to stay away from popular hiking trails.

Hiking
A young hiking enthusiast, MacKayla Conkey, 3, hikes the Visitor Center Loop, one of the easier trails in Mission Trails Regional Park. Photo by Anna Conkey

Outdoor exercise also has the benefit of breathtaking beauty, whether you’re surrounded by mountains…

San Diego resident, MacKayla Conkey (3), stoops to look into a pond off the Grinding Rocks Trail in Mission Trails Regional Park. Photo by Anna Conkey
A young hiking enthusiast, MacKayla Conkey, 3, stoops to look into a pond off the Grinding Rocks Trail in Mission Trails Regional Park. Photo by Anna Conkey

Or admiring the wildlife within a pond.

Rock climbing
A young hiking enthusiast, MacKayla Conkey, 3, practices her climbing skills on some small boulders off the Grinding Rocks Trail in Mission Trails Regional Park. Photo by Anna Conkey

Rock climbing is another fun activity—and good for almost any age!

Making friends
San Diego Park Ranger Robert Wheeler guides MacKayla Conkey, 3, to a creek trail in Los Peñasquitos Canyon Preserve, helping her to avoid poison oak. Photo by Anna Conkey

Another benefit is the wild outdoors provides a meeting ground for like-minded people, so you can easily make new friends…

Mother and daughter
A mother and daughter hold hands while hiking Mission Trails Regional Park. Photo by Anna Conkey

Or simply enjoy the company of old ones.

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