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Fall is the perfect season for outdoor fun here in North Carolina. Temperatures are finally comfortable. The air is fresh and crisp with low humidity. The scenery is stunning, from the colorful mountains to the sunny shore. Plus, with every fall weekend chock-full of events there’s never a shortage of things to do and see in our state.

The athletic types among us love fall because it means playing football or running marathons. But you don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to enjoy the exercise potential that autumn has to offer.

Let’s explore five easy and enjoyable ways you and your family can get your fitness on this fall. You’ll have so much fun, you won’t even realize you’re exercising!

Get lost in a corn maze

McKee’s 12- acre Cornfield Maze features a different design each year. Photo: facebook.com/McKeeCornFieldMaze.

My family has enjoyed visiting McKee’s Cornfield Maze, at a family farm in rural Orange County, about 10 miles north of Hillsborough. It is one of largest cornfield mazes in North Carolina and features a 12-acre elaborate maze and a two-acre children’s maze. Each year the McKee family creates a different design in their cornfield, and visiting the farm has become a fall tradition for many local families.

As you can imagine, it’s not hard to get totally lost in a 12-acre corn maze, even with a map. It’s massive! But the time flew by, and we were kept busy with a fun scavenger hunt that was included.

A corn maze is an activity the whole family can enjoy. Many farms also have a pumpkin patch, hay rides and other fun things to do. Several even offer special “haunted” themed nights for Halloween.

 

Here are some other large mazes in North Carolina:

Fit Facts: A 90 minute moderately paced walk in a corn maze = 4.5 miles walked / 9,000 steps / 392 calories burned (180 lb. person)

Stroll downtown on a historic ghost tour

A costumed guide leads a walking tour in historic Southport, N.C

I absolutely love historic walking tours. If it’s a ghost tour, all the better! Walking tours are a wonderful way to learn a town’s history, as well as to get a few thousand steps in. It’s so interesting, that an hour will be gone in a flash.

Most ghost tours are family-friendly and are more about an area’s history than the supernatural. Ghost tours are led by engaging guides, usually longtime residents or historians, who relay stories and interesting tidbits about the places and the people who lived there long ago.

One of the best tours I’ve been on is the annual Spirits of Hillsborough Haunted Walking Tour. On this one-hour adventure, you’ll enjoy learning about Hillsborough’s Revolutionary and Civil War history from the ghosts of its famous citizens, portrayed by actors from the Orange Community Players.

A guide led us to each house or building on the evening tour, where a costumed character would welcome us and deliver a monologue on their experience. We loved it. Learn more at visithillsboroughnc.com.

At the coast, I’ve been on a walking ghost tour at dusk in downtown Southport. It was led by a lantern-carrying guide dressed in antebellum costume, complete with a hoop skirt. Her stories were fascinating and gave us a true appreciation for the town’s history and previous residents. Find out more at Old South Tour Company.

Both of those towns offer historic walking tours year-round. Here are some others around the state:  

Fit Facts: An 85 minute leisurely paced walk downtown = 2 miles walked / 4,000 steps / 243 calories burned.

Hop on a bike

Cycling on the American Tobacco Trail in Durham, N.C

North Carolina has many trails, parks and other areas perfect for bike riding. Whether you’re looking for a flat, easy ride or a challenging climb in the mountains, our state has it all. A great choice for an easy, fun ride is The American Tobacco Trail. It’s a mostly flat, paved trail suitable for all levels. Built on a former railroad corridor, this 22-mile trail crosses through Durham, Chatham, and Wake counties. It’s an ideal place to bike, walk, run or horseback ride. Entry points are located throughout the trail.

The State of North Carolina has published a guide to all the trails in state parks, with information on which ones offer biking, hiking, horseback riding, and kayaking. Download the booklet here.

Self-service bike rentals are popping up in cities around the state. One is Lime, with bikes available in Charlotte, Durham, Greensboro, and Raleigh. To use, download their app, and use it to view nearby bikes. When you’re done riding, you simply park it where you are. It’s a great way to see the town while you get some exercise.

Fit Facts: A 60 minute leisurely paced bike ride = 6 miles / equivalent of 4,000 steps/ 346 calories burned.

Explore fall festivals  

There’s no shortage of opportunities to get outdoors and walk this time of year. All across the state, there are multiple events every fall weekend, both large and small. Some of the biggest ones include the North Carolina State Fair in Raleigh, the Hot Air Balloon Festival in Statesville, the Barbeque Festival in Lexington, and the Carolina Renaissance Festival near Charlotte. 

 

Fit Facts: A 180-minute slow-paced walk at a festival = 3 miles walked / 6,000 steps / 514 calories burned.

Take a hike

At Hanging Rock State Park, you can get close to the beautiful waterfalls.

I’ve saved the best for last. My #1 favorite fall activity in North Carolina is to hit one of our beautiful trails for a scenic hike with family or friends. Fall is the perfect time to go hiking and enjoy the gorgeous changing leaves, while you soak in all the benefits of walking outdoors. Walking in the forest is refreshing for your body and soul. Studies have shown it’s good for your physical and mental health.

Two of my favorite places for a doable fall hike with stunning views are Hanging Rock State Park (with waterfalls!) and Pilot Mountain State Park, both near Winston-Salem. If you visit during the fall, I advise arriving early before the crowds. Check out our Explore NC section for great ideas on places to go.

Fit Facts: 180 minute moderately paced walk = 6 miles walked / 12,000 steps / 784 calories burned.

 

Just get out there and go

Now is the perfect time to enjoy the gorgeous autumn weather and views while you get some exercise at the same time. What a perfect way to spend a fall day!

 

 

About Michelle Rogers, CPT

Michelle Rogers is a Certified Personal Trainer who specializes in helping women over 40 accomplish their fitness and weight loss goals, and improve their health and quality of life. Visit her blog at www.michellerogers.fit and connect on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at @MRhealthyliving. Michelle is a Blue Cross NC member and is compensated for this blog post

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