Health, wellness and fitness seem to take over social media and the news some days. There’s a whole slew of get-thin-quick diets, countless photos of lean and mean people doing Crossfit, and reality shows where obese people lose an incredible amount of weight and rediscover their true selves somewhere around minute 45 on the treadmill.

If you’re not a selfie-at-the-gym type of person and don’t have three hours a day to lift weights, don’t worry. It really is possible to lose weight without extreme workouts. In fact, walking for fitness can be one of the easiest habits to form and has been proven to be beneficial for your overall mental well-being and physical health.

Benefits of Walking

In the now-famous YouTube video with nearly five million views, Dr. Mike Evans describes an intervention that helps to reduce arthritis pain, prevent dementia, slow the progression of diabetes, lower the risk of hip fracture and reduce anxiety and depression. Can you guess what that intervention is?

Exercise. Mostly walking. For 30 minutes a day.

If you’ve decided to use walking to lose weight, that’s great. If you walk for fitness regularly, you’ll begin to feel and see the other benefits of walking, such as:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Preventing or managing diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease
  • Improving mood

The calories burned by walking depend on your weight, your walking pace and the amount of time you walk. For example, a 150-pound person walking at an average pace of 3.5 miles per hour will burn 129 calories in 30 minutes. You can use this calculator from myFitnessPal to determine how  many calories you can burn while walking, or get yourself one of the new Fitness trackers to help you.

A fitness tracker will help you realize your exercise goals.

Walking in the Triangle: Indoor Options

Walking for fitness absolutely can be done indoors. Feeling chilly, or hot and humid? Not a problem. Torrential downpours? That no longer interferes with your walking routine. Here are some great places to walk indoors in the Triangle:

  • Southwind Health and Wellness – In Durham and near the I-85, you can get unlimited access to an indoor track for an incredibly affordable cost: $14 per month, or $12 if you’re a senior citizen. If you’re looking for more of a fitness center where you can walk safely and comfortably, and less for a variety of machines or classes, this is a great option.
  • Walltown Park Recreation Center – Also in Durham, the Walltown Park Recreation Center includes an “elevated track” – an indoor track on its second floor, overlooking the basketball courts. The location is included in the Durham Parks and Recreation package, which is under $30 per month. The hours are great: 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. most days, and even until 10 p.m. on Fridays if you’re looking to host a healthy happy hour with your friends.
  • Triangle Town Center – Located in Raleigh, this shopping mall is a great location to walk indoors because it’s huge, with more than 170 stores, and there’s plenty to see between window shopping and people watching. Plus, the mall is open until 9 p.m. most days, so if you’re looking for weight loss support in Raleigh, you can go after dinner for a solid hour or two of walking.

Walking in the Triangle: Outdoor Options

Living in the Research Triangle has some incredible lifestyle benefits, like great weather and being near both the mountains and the beach. Here are some ideas for walking for fitness outdoors:

  • William B. Umstead State Park – Located about halfway between Durham and Raleigh and accessible from Interstate 40 and U.S. 70, this park features trails that are perfect for walking or The routes are scenic and include bridges, forest and bubbling creeks. Check out the different walking and hiking trails here.
  • RTP Walking and Nature Trails – There are more than 18 miles of trails in Research Triangle Park as part of the RTP Fit initiative. The trails are open to the public with one rule: respect the land.
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – Have you ever taken the time to explore this campus and its buildings? Whether you’re an alum or new to the area, walking on this campus is a great way to fit in some exercise and get a scenic view. A walking tour takes about an hour; a self-guided tour can take as long as you want. It’s a beautiful, safe campus that includes a student union, libraries, quads and even a planetarium.
  • Mountains-to-Sea Trail – Known as “MST” for short, this trail spans more than 1,000 miles and weaves through 37 counties. You can pick it up at the Eno State Park or at any of the locations as it runs along the southwest side of Falls Lake. You can find a full map of the trail here.

Other Options

Another option for walking outdoors: If you’re up for it, take a drive to the beach and go for a hike or long walk. From the heart of the Triangle, there are numerous beaches with miles of shoreline within a three hour drive.