With school out for the summer and warmer weather finally here, it’s a great time to get outdoors and take advantage of parks near Birmingham. Why not pack a healthy picnic and hike along a trail at Oak Mountain State Park or check out a free yoga class at Railroad Park after work? It turns out that what is good for the body is also good for the soul. According to the Centers for Disease Control, physical activity can help you control blood glucose, weight, and blood pressure, as well as raise “good” cholesterol and lower “bad” cholesterol. These play an important role in taking a proactive approach to managing diabetes as well as taking steps to prevent it.Here are just a few of our area’s parks and trails that are free and open to the public:
· Red Mountain Park
Red Mountain Park is located in the southwest corner of Birmingham. The park is situated on 1,200 acres, extending approximately 4.5 miles east-to-west along Red Mountain. Red Mountain Park offers free trail hiking from 7 a.m. until dusk every day of the week, and other interactive outdoor activities like zip-lining and biking.
· Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve
Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve is a 1,011 acre natural oasis located on one of the last undeveloped stretches of the Red Mountain ridge known as Ruffner Mountain. Enjoy a short stroll or explore the mountain for an all day hiking adventure. With miles of peaceful forested trails and several overlooks, Ruffner Mountain provides one of the most spectacular views of the city.
· Oak Mountain State Park
The day-use activities at Oak Mountain State Park set it apart from the rest. With the oldest continuously operating BMX Track in the nation, more than 50 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails and a marina for fishing and canoeing, at the picturesque 9,940-acre park, there is something for people of all ages to enjoy.
· Railroad Park
Railroad Park, Birmingham’s newest park, is located in the heart of downtown Birmingham, across from Regions Field and UAB. It is open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., 7 days per week. There is no cost for park entrance. Participants may choose to walk, jog or bike the 3/4 mile loop around the park, or join one of several free fitness classes from spring to fall during on weeknights. There is also outdoor gym equipment and two play areas for children with modern playground equipment and a climbing dome.
· Birmingham Botanical Gardens
Birmingham Botanical Gardens is Alabama’s largest living museum with more than 10,000 different plants in its living collections. The Gardens’ 67.5 acres contains 25+ unique gardens, 30+ works of original outdoor sculpture, guided by miles of serene paths for leisurely walking.
If you are interested in joining a free local walking group, MyDiabetesConnect offers a free walking group that meets every Wednesday at 7:30 a.m. at the Railroad Park Pavilion located on 17th Street Plaza. All are welcome to attend, so visit mydiabetesconnect.com for more information about how to get involved.
MyDiabetesConnect.com is an online Birmingham-based resource guide that helps identify low-cost and free opportunities for physical activity like local parks and trails. This local searchable website is helping Birmingham communities promote healthy lifestyles, reduce the risk of diabetes and encourage diabetes management by promoting a variety of local, free, and low-cost programs and services. The site provides the location, contact information, directions and other key information. You can also customize your search to locate resources in or near your neighborhood.