by Mary Daniel

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Mary Daniel is a certified nutrition health coach living and working in College Park. To read more about her, go to

So many of us are eager to feel healthier and happier — and especially so, now that we’re emerging from the toughest years of the pandemic. As a holistic health coach, I help my clients set achievable goals, often starting with doable steps to change their sedentary routines. 

Getting up off the couch can be the way to start; you don’t have to take up weight training, running or long-distance bike riding to reap benefits. Once you’re vertical, simply walking is one of the best things you can do for yourself — it’s all about movement, which we can think about separately from exercise. Simple movement can lower blood pressure and cholesterol, reduce stress, support brain and heart health, and improve one’s outlook and sense of accomplishment. 

For those of us who are eager to walk, jog, or bike, the vast trail system here in our area is tailor-made for movement. We have more than 160 miles of interconnected regional trails, including some that we can easily access right here in College Park.

Lake Artemesia Trail (2.4 miles): Circling the lake, this trail attracts walkers and runners — and plenty of birders, too; indeed, the Prince George’s Audubon Society hosts bird walks on the trail on the first and third Thursday of each month. Look forward to catching glimpses of finches, orioles, ibises, ducks and more as you circle this local treasure of a lake adjacent to the city’s historic Lakeland neighborhood.

Paint Branch Trail (3.5 miles): Paint Branch Trail runs between the Cherry Hill Neighborhood Park and Lake Artemesia and connects with the Indian Creek, Lake Artemesia, Northeast Branch and Rhode Island Avenue Trolley trails. Paint Branch has as much variety as one could ask for, including natural history kiosks along the way.

Indian Creek and Northeast Branch Anacostia River trails (6.2 miles): These trails have many access points in College Park and Hyattsville; the northern end of the Indian Creek trail sits at the intersection of Greenbelt Road and 57th Avenue in Berwyn Heights. This trail runs into the much-longer Anacostia River Trail, a flat path which winds through a number of small parks and offers river views much of the way and also boasts the Hand & Owl Tree Carving, by local artist Joe Stebbing and outdoor fitness stations. 

As with any time you take on a  new or expanded activity, you can start small — even 15 minutes of walking, twice a week for the first week, is a great way to plant the seeds of a new habit. Add a third day your second week, and then add five minutes each of your three days. You can keep a fitness journal to chart your progress. And be flexible; you can change your routine to suit your needs, your mood, the weather. Have some fun and change it up by bringing a bag lunch and finding a good spot to sit and eat. Invite a friend; carry binoculars and check out birdlife up close. You could take photos of the same view each season and marvel, like I do, at the beauty of our natural surroundings.

I hope to see you on the trail soon. I’ll be the one — well, likely one of the many — with the dog!