Did you know that spending time in nature can improve your health?
Research has shown just how good nature is for us, and the benefits include lowering blood pressure, increasing brain activity, improving mental and physical well-being and even improving sleep quality.
It doesn’t take much to experience the health benefits that nature has to offer. Take part in the mostly free opportunities available in the Forest Preserves of Cook County to be active, playful and restful!
Whether it’s biking or hiking one of our many trails, spending time with family at one of our Nature Centers or just enjoying the peace and calm of being in the great outdoors, there are plenty of ways to improve your health and wellbeing:
Download a checklist of activities to discover the health benefits of nature by being active, playful or restful in the Forest Preserves of Cook County.
Made possible with funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the Healthy Hotspot initiative led by the Cook County Department of Public Health. Learn more at healthyhotspot.org.
The Forest Preserves of Cook County are your answer to getting active. Whether you are a fitness enthusiast or just want to take an occasional hike through the woods, there are plenty of active outdoor recreation opportunities available.
- Test your stamina at Swallow Cliff by climbing 293 stone steps.
- Improve your health as well as the health of our native habitats during an Ecological Stewardship Day.
- Hike, bike or run along more than 350 miles of paved and unpaved trails.
- Paddle one of our many lakes or local waterways. Rent a canoe or kayak or use your own.
- Improve your backswing at one of ten golf courses throughout Cook County.
- Bring your dog on a long walk in the woods or enjoy one of our off-leash dog areas.
Having fun and spending time in nature are one in the same. Whether you are looking for a family-friendly activity or are an outdoor adventure seeker, there are many ways to enjoy and play in the Forest Preserves of Cook County.
- Enjoy the thrill of Tarzan swings and zip lines at the Go Ape Treetop Adventure Course at Bemis Woods.
- Make a splash by going swimming at one of our three aquatic centers.
- Discover one of our six Nature Centers that offer free programs year-round.
- Experience unstructured playtime at our nature play locations.
- Learn about nature at one of our many free events.
- Beat the winter blues and have fun in the snow by visiting one of our many sledding hills.
Experiencing the health benefits of nature doesn’t have to mean breaking a sweat. Whether you are seeking a relaxing way to spend some time outdoors or are just looking for a low-impact activity, there are a lot of options for being restful in the Forest Preserves of Cook County.
- Explore your artistic side and join a photography event or art program.
- Be one with nature through outdoor yoga, meditation or by enjoying the shade of a tree.
- Learn about Cook County wildlife and go birdwatching on your own or on an organized bird walk.
- Enjoy time outdoors with friends, family and loved ones at one of more than 300 picnic groves.
- Enjoy fishing at one of our 40 fishing lakes or accessible piers.
- Sleep under the stars at one of our five campgrounds located throughout Cook County.
Did You Know?
- Just one hour of hiking can burn over 500 calories. (link)
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages adults to get at least 2.5 hours per week of moderate intensity physical activity, including hiking and biking. (link)
- Trees filter airborne pollutants and reduce condition that cause asthma. (link)
- A 20 minute walk in nature can help children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder focus better. (link)
- Free unstructured play aids in emotional, cognitive and social development of a child. (link)
- Research shows that spending time outdoors increases attention spans and creative problem-solving skills by as much as 50%. (link)
- Studies indicate that being active in nature protects brain functioning in the elderly and delays onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. (link)
- Hiking and walking help reverse the negative effects of osteoporosis by increasing bone density and slowing the rate of calcium loss. (PDF link)
- Being active in nature substantially reduces the risk of coronary heart disease and decreases the risk for colon cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure. (PDF link)