Take a Hike
You don't need to go hard-core rugged to net the many benefits of hiking. "Think of hiking as simply taking a longer walk in nature; you can hike at any pace, at any elevation, and for any number of miles, hours, or even days," says Alyson Chun, a senior instructor for the REI Outdoor School, which offers classes and getaways focused on the great outdoors. No matter how tricky (or easy) your trail, every hike has its perks. First, even a moderate one-hour hike can burn around 400 calories, all while sculpting your core and lower body. And as the elevation goes up, so do the benefits. "The more challenging the hike, the more calories—and stress—you'll melt away," Chun says.
Major bonus: It doesn't take a lot to get started. Unlike other outdoor sports that are gear heavy and often require travel and lessons, such as rock climbing and waterskiing, the barrier to entry-level hiking is low. "You really need only two key items: proper footwear and a day bag, " Chun says. Find a trail near you at Hiking Project, which features GPS and elevation data and user-generated tips for almost 14,000 beginner to advanced trails. (Just remember to download your route from the app to have it on hand for when you lose cell reception, as often happens in the wilderness.)
And if you already do quick jaunts on your neighborhood trails, maybe it's time you experienced the next level of this natural high on a daylong trek. "Long-distance hikes open up a whole new world of terrain and boost your sense of accomplishment," Chun says. Plus, fall is the perfect season to get going: fewer bugs! Gorgeous weather! Pretty leaves! Grab a granola bar (and all other hiking essentials) and set out to tap these powerful rewards. (And once you're hooked, you can add hiking these picturesque National Parks to your fitness bucket list.)