The headline from a Mayo Clinic report says it all: “Walking: Trim your waistline, improve your health.
While this is good advice any time of the year, it is especially great news at the top of the new year when resolutions for health and weight loss usually are high on the to-do list.
And if the above headline is not weighty enough to get one walking, here are a few other arguments from Mayo about this low-impact, high health benefit, and easily accessible activity. It lowers bad cholesterol and raises the good, lowers blood pressure, reduces some forms of diabetes, improves mood, and keeps a person fit.
Yet there’s more than just wishing to make things happen, especially weight loss. Mayo reports say that to make walking-to-weigh-less work the walking needs to be brisk. That means increasing the breathing, producing a slight sweat, and slightly straining the leg muscles.
With reports showing that a 200-pound person can burn 183 calories by briskly walking two miles in one hour, Mayo recommends that to be a real loser a person needs to hit four miles in that same hour.
Not mentioned in the reports is something that can keep you moving: walking connects you to your community and places of natural and human-made beauty.
While several books and websites are great guides to getting you out, the following may help set you on a path that is right for you.
The Mercer County Park Commission has a good number of parks that offer walking trails in just about every community in the area. Admission is free and parking is easy.
Start with one of the area’s gems, Baldpate Mountain Park in Titusville. Formerly known as Kuser Mountain, the park has over 12 miles of trails. Some are short loops along the top. Others are steep and include climbs up rocky hills.
In addition to the beautiful overlook of the Delaware River, on a clear day visitors willing to search will be able to locate the gold dome of the state capitol in Trenton as well as the tips of Philadelphia’s skyscrapers. Picnic areas and restrooms are available.
Baldpate Mountain, open from dawn to dusk, is located off Route 29 North. Turn on Fiddlers Creek Road and look for the entrance on the left.
The Howell Living History Farm is probably the most quaint of all county parks. It is a place that connects visitors to both the natural beauty of the area and this area’s agricultural past. That is because the land was offered to the county as “a living history farm” and accordingly offers farm-related activities maintained by the farmers on site. That makes it a great place to bring children. So while adults can enjoy a leisurely walk to the barns, the children can run ahead to help collect eggs, crack corn, or tap trees for maple syrup. Picnic areas and restrooms are available.
Howell farm is located 1.5 miles east on Valley Road, off Route 29 about two miles south of Lambertville. It is generally open Tuesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., February through November; Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. February through early December; and Sundays, noon to 4 p.m., April through November. For details call 609-737-3299 or visit the historic farm’s website at www.howellfarm.org.
Herrontown Woods became a county park when Princeton University math professor Oswald Veblen donated the property to Mercer County in 1959. With acres of mature trees and rolling grounds, the park offers 1.25 miles of moderate hiking. The park is open seven days a week from dawn until dusk and is located on Snowden Lane near the junction with Herrontown Road.
South River Walk Park is located over the Route 29 tunnel in Trenton and was given to the county by the State of New Jersey in 2004. The 6.5-acre park provides an easy walk that has a wonderful view of the Delaware River. It also offers a history lesson on the region through signage and public art, including a series of arches that represent Trenton’s history from its Native American origins through the American and industrial revolutions and beyond. It is open dawn to dusk, every day of the year. Parking is on the adjacent street.
Mercer County Park encompasses more than 2,500 acres that include portions of West Windsor, Lawrence, and Hamilton townships. Its paved trails around the lake or through groves provide both leisurely or fast-paced walks as well as opportunities for running (even cross country training). This park also has other opportunities for recreation and exercise that include 17 athletic fields, an ice skating center, 24 tennis courts, basketball and volleyball courts, and more. It also offers picnic areas and rest rooms. Next to Mercer County Community College, the park has a main entrance on Hughes Drive in Hamilton.
Mercer Meadows or Pole Farm is a 1,600-acre park located in Hopewell and Lawrence. Nearly half of the park, formerly known as the AT&T tract, was a center for radio and telephone technology (the space was the sole location for trans-Atlantic communication during World War II). The park has paved roads and natural trails that provide easy hiking. It’s open from dawn to dusk every day. A main entry is at the corner of Keefe and Cold Soil roads in Lawrence.
John A. Roebling Memorial Park in Hamilton is a 257-acre natural park and part of the 1,250-acre Hamilton/Trenton Marsh. Once operated by the Broad Street Park Civic Association, it was sold to the county for a dollar in 1958. A mixture of the urban and the natural minutes away from Trenton and I-295 yet filled with woods that boast eight miles of walking trails, the park features a spring-fed lake circled by a near mile walking path.
Of all the county parks, this is the most historical. In addition to the 300-year-old Watson House (which is open the second Sunday of spring and fall months), the site is also part of the Abbott Farm Historic Landmark where Indian artifacts dating back from 8,000-10,000 years have been discovered. Picnic tables and benches are available, as are restrooms. To visit head to Broad Street (also Route 206) on the stretch between the White Horse Circle and the city of Trenton, turn onto West Park Avenue and follow to the intersection of Park and Wescott Avenues and turn left. The park entrance is to the right. Maps that show various trails are easy to find.
For more information visit nj.gov/counties/mercer/commissions/park or call 609-303-0700.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection maintains three area state parks that have moderate walking trails. Two are also connected to the Revolutionary War and the crucial battles at Trenton and Princeton.
Washington Crossing State Park is the place where the Revolutionary forces crossed the Delaware River on December 25, 1776, and turned the tides of the American Revolution with victories in Trenton and Princeton. In addition to housing the colonial era Johnson Ferry House, the 140-acre natural area features a nature center and 15 miles of moderate trails through forests and fields. It also includes picnic areas, restrooms, and a museum. Open daily from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., the park is free from Labor Day through Memorial Day. It is located on Route 29 and Washington Crossing-Pennington Road in Titusville.
Princeton Battlefield State Park was the site of the January 3, 1777, battle that started in Trenton after the 1776 Christmas crossing by Washington. It includes the 1772 Clarke House, where General Hugh Mercer died, and connects to the Institute for Advanced Study Woods. Comprising 588 acres, the park has slightly graded trails that lead through woods, wetlands, and agricultural land. Open sunrise to sunset every day at 500 Mercer Road.
The Delaware and Raritan Canal State Park runs 70 miles from the upper north feeder canal near Frenchtown down through Trenton. From there access can be made to either continue to Bordentown or to New Brunswick. The latter provides trails through Lawrence, Princeton, Kingston, and Griggstown. Groups such as the Delaware and Raritan Canal Watch and the Kingston Greenway Association provide tours and hikes. The park is open sunrise to sunset and parking lots are found along the route.
For more information, go to www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests or call 800-843-6420 or 609-984-0370.
The Princeton-based D&R Greenway Land Trust has preserved thousands of acres of natural and open spaces.
The organization says that it has helped to create approximately 20 miles of trails, including the 55 acres surrounding its headquarters at the Johnson Education Center on Rosedale Road, Greenway Meadows.
Walking areas there include the Princeton-run Greenway Meadows Park. The site features natural landscape and native plants as well as walking paths, picnic areas, and public restrooms.
The Scott and Hella McVay Poetry Trail is also a feature of Greenway Meadows and is the only park of its kind in the region. Along the mile-long trail, there are 48 poetry stations that provide the opportunity to have a personal dialogue with writers from around the world about nature and art. The park is named in honor of Hella, a long-time member of the D&R Greenway, and Scott, who as director of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation guided the establishment of the largest poetry event of its kind in the nation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival. The trail is easily accessed from the lower parking lot at Greenway Meadows.
For more information go to www.drgreenway.org or call 609-924-4646.
For those looking to expand their walking opportunities, the New Jersey Trails Association is a great resource. Their easy-to-navigate website (www.njtrails.org) divides hiking sites into counties and then municipalities. Each location has simple and clear information about miles or length of time to devote, usage, elevation, directions, and expert trail maps.
It also has some non-park walks, such as the Two Bridges Trail in Trenton. That is the approximately three-mile walk along the New Jersey and Pennsylvania sides of the Delaware River and between the Calhoun Street and Trenton Makes bridges. It is a site used daily by many Trenton residents and state workers, and contributed to Prevention Magazine’s naming Trenton as one of the most walkable cities in the United States in 2008.
With the above walking locations and the advice from the Mayo Clinic, a New Year’s resolution for getting healthy is really just a step away.