No matter where you live, it's probably not all that far from a park, nature preserve or some other area where you can take a rigorous walk. Head out and call it a "hike!" You don't have to climb every mountain, so to speak. Even the walking paths around the local bird sanctuary give you a chance to get some exercise in a beautiful natural setting that is good for your body and your mind.

Personalize Your Hike

Grab a friend or family member, fill a water bottle, and head out for a good, long walk. If you like solitude, bring your MP3 player, iPod, or smart phone and let the music set your pace. You can sing (aloud or in your head) or experiment with different ways of walking — fast, slow, pumping your arms, etc. If you're into nature, keep track of birds, plants, trees or rocks along the way. It's all about being outdoors, using your muscles, and getting your heart rate up.

Mix It Up

Try visiting the park at different times of year — the view will change with the seasons. Or, if the park or preserve has multiple trails, try a different one each time for a new perspective and workout.

Scientific Gains

Studies show that being out in nature not only helps you relax, it actually helps your brain work better. So the next time you're struggling with your homework, take a quick hike before hitting the books again.