Outdoors is a great place to be active. What better way to enjoy the great outdoors and stay healthy than visiting your local parks. Suffolk County Parks include woodlands, beaches, hiking trails and other recreation areas with activities for everyone.
Outdoor Activity and Mental Health
Most people are aware of the physical benefits of exercise, but did you know that being active, specifically outdoors, can improve mental health as well?
Studies have found that exercising in natural environments is associated with more energy and a greater decrease in negative emotions (such as tension, stress, confusion, anxiety, anger, depression, etc.) compared to exercising indoors.20 One explanation for this is that serotonin, a hormone that impacts mood, naturally rises when we are exposed to sunlight.21 This along with endorphins, another “feel-good” hormone that enhances mood, is released when we exercise.22
Other mental health benefits of being active outdoors include:
- More opportunities for social interaction.23
- Improved self-esteem.24
- Enhanced memory, focus and attention.22,25
- Decreased stress and anxiety.21
- Boosts in mood.21
Parks and trails, such as those in Suffolk County, can motivate you to get moving, which has both physical and mental health benefits. Look below for outdoor activity opportunities that everyone can enjoy and benefit from.
Suffolk County Parks and Recreation
There are a wide range of public parks, athletic fields, pools, sports facilities, and nature preserves that are open for residents to enjoy while being active. Look below at some of the amenities your local park may offer.
- Bicycling and walking trails
- Dog Parks
For park locations and a full list of amenities visit: https://www.suffolkcountyny.gov/Departments/Parks/Things-To-Do
New Transit to Trails Program
In 2023, Suffolk County’s Transit to Trails Program was launched. The program was created to support and help hikers and bikers explore outdoor activities in the county using only public transit to get there. Visitors may use the Transit to Trails Map Viewer to direct them to a variety of outdoor recreational activities (parks, hiking trails, etc.) that are all reachable from Long Island Railroad stations
In addition to parks and trails, the following amenities can also be found:
- Historic Sites
- Boat Rentals
- Bike Rentals
- Skate Parks
- Ice Skating
Click here to access the interactive map and preview routes and amenities near stations: https://connectli.org/transittotrails.html
New North Shore Rail Trail
In June 2022, North Shore Rail Trail (formerly known as the Rails to Trails Recreational Path) was opened to the public for hiking and biking. The 10-mile path runs between Mt. Sinai and Wading River and includes quarter-mile markers throughout the trail. The rail trail is one of many trails offered in Suffolk County.
For a map of this trail and others in Suffolk County, visit: https://www.traillink.com/trail/north-shore-rail-trail-/
Having a disability doesn’t have to prevent anyone from getting fresh air. Outdoor activities can be beneficial to the mind and body, even for those with physical disabilities. Fortunately, for park goers who have a physical disability, there are several parks in Suffolk County that have wheelchair-accessible hiking trails and places to fish, as well as benches and picnic tables. Some accessible parks in Suffolk County include:
PLEASE NOTE: You may need to apply for a seasonal access permit to visit some of these parks. The form can be downloaded here.
What About During the Winter Season?
The winter season can be a hard time to stay active. It's colder, there are fewer daylight hours, and it can be too slippery outside for physical activity. Luckily, there are activities that can help improve your mental and physical health during the colder months. Here are a few things you can do to keep yourself on track to reaching your fitness goals during the winter:
- Home workouts
- Active housework like vacuuming and sweeping
- Mall walking
- Roller skating
- Yoga or other fun group classes at your local gym or community center
- Stair climbing
If it is safe and you are comfortable stepping outdoors to do some fitness activities, be sure to dress in layers, watch out for signs of frostbite, drink plenty of fluids, protect your head, hands, ears, and head and apply sunscreen as skin damage can still happen in the winter.
General Reminders for When Exercising Outdoors
❖ Always stay hydrated: Drink before, during and after an activity to prevent heat exhaustion and dehydration.
❖ Practice sun safety: Wear sun protective clothing like hats and sunglasses and apply sunscreen to prevent excess sun exposure and skin damage.
❖ Wear the right shoes and socks: Proper footwear is key for protecting and reducing strain on your joints.
❖ It is important to motivate children and adolescents to be active and establish healthy habits early on.
❖ Be Tick mindful and aware
❖ Be safe: Consider bringing a partner for outdoor activities for company and to stay safe. If you are alone, consider sharing your location with someone you trust. Be aware of your surroundings and keep your eyes and ears open. For example, if listening to music, consider wearing one earphone rather than two.