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Anytime is a great time to enjoy the outdoors

Group of hikers on trail with mountain in the background

On a recent Sunday afternoon at my local pharmacy, a couple commented on my joint Buffalo Bills/Buffalo Sabres fan t-shirt. After some small talk about the teams, they noted they recently moved to Arizona from the Buffalo area, and were really enjoying the 80 degree weather, as it was currently cold and rainy in Buffalo (but no snow there yet).

December 18, 2019

Having moved here from Western New York over 20 years ago, this brief conversation gave me time to reflect on exactly why I love Arizona so much: the fall and winter weather. Sure, I miss the snow a little bit, and I miss several of the fall rituals like the trips to the cider mill to pick apples and have cider and cinnamon doughnuts. But as an outdoor enthusiast, I appreciate the opportunity to be outside in some capacity every day in the fall and winter, without the need to wait for the “next nice day,” a frequent occurrence where I grew up and attended college.

Although it is often still dark when I leave for work, and getting dark when I arrive home, I relish the opportunity to not have to get up at sunrise to exercise, and the chance to be active during lunch. Even a 30-minute or 45-minute activity outside is enough the recharge you for the rest of the day, and to keep (or start) a healthy habit of regular exercise.

According to an article in Environmental Science & Technology, there are numerous benefits to exercising outside, including improving self-esteem and mood. The California Outdoor Recreation Planning Program noted that multiple studies have found that people’s stress levels were lowered during activities that took place in either “the wilderness or urban nature areas.”

For Oro Valley residents, lunch exercise at this time of the year can be exploring the Linda Vista Trail, located close to Oracle Road. It may also be getting on a bicycle or strolling along the town’s section of the Loop trail, or along the town’s many shared use paths. Further afield, free time on a weekend may mean a trip up Mount Lemmon to enjoy both the fall and winter foliage as well as my favorite thing—listening to the gentle noise of the quaking aspens.

Whether or not you are an avid stroller, walker or competitive athlete, the town has some upcoming events in which to participate this winter. On Jan. 1, join several hundred friends and neighbors for a New Year’s Day run on the Cañada del Oro shared use path for the sixth annual Hot Cocoa 5k Run/Walk. It’s a great way to continue (or to start) a healthy habit with your family for the New Year. It begins at the civilized hour of 11:20 a.m. at Steam Pump Ranch. In conjunction with the Town of Marana, the two jurisdictions are again offering a “Cheers Challenge” prize (special t-shirts) for motivated residents who complete both Marana’s Egg Nog Jog 5k/10k (on Dec. 31) and the town’s Hot Cocoa 5k (on Jan. 1).

The Oro Valley Parks and Recreation Department will continue to offer opportunities to keep moving throughout the winter. Upcoming activities include the BEYOND hike (Jan. 11) and the annual Move Across 2 Ranges Hiking Challenge (Feb. 28), both with the Town of Marana, in addition to Oro Valley’s new and regular program offerings. Investigate ongoing and new special events throughout the area, such as the Arizona Distance Classic (March 15) and the many hiking opportunities offered at Catalina State Park and Honeybee Canyon Park through print and online calendars.

So what happens on those rare Arizona days where the weather isn’t cooperative? There are always indoor gym facilities, or be brave and get out to enjoy the rain (or rare snow) on your face. Just try to enjoy these crisp fall and winter days, as the (all too short) spring and summer heat will be here soon enough.

By Nancy Ellis, Multimodal Planner, Parks and Recreation - Explorer Newspaper, 12/18/19