BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Devoting time and effort to maintain physical health is just one of many challenges working adults encounter in their daily lives.  For most of us, we spend eight to ten hours a day in an office or traveling from one sales meeting to another.  Afterwards, we come home and have to contend with domestic chores such as grocery shopping, preparing dinner, and then getting ready for work the following day.  We essentially live a sedentary lifestyle that is not always conducive to remaining healthy and fit. 

Vince Gabriele, owner of Gabriele Fitness in Berkeley Heights, notes that our earlier ancestors, who were not confined to a desk all day but were primarily hunter-gatherers, were robust and in excellent health precisely because they were active outdoors everyday as they made their living.  While hunting-gathering is not realistic for people in today’s society, Mr. Gabriele adamantly believes that “Exercising should be a part of everyone’s life.”  He says exercising reduces body fat and minimizes the chances of debilitating illnesses such as heart disease. 

Acknowledging that most adults may lack the time to work out and exercise on a daily basis for forty-five minutes or more, he adds that “Even if one day is devoted to stretching,” it can contribute to staying active and fit.  The foundation of Mr. Gabriele’s fitness protocol is strength training in which employing weights is paramount.  But he says strength training can also include free-weight exercises such as push-ups.  The objective of his clients, he says, is to feel and look better. 

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If one is not interested in using weights but wants, at the least, to stay active, one of the best options is either walking on trails in your nearby community park or better yet, at state parks, which have extensive hiking trails and tend to be more challenging.  According to Edward Goodell, Executive Director of the Mahwah-based New York/New Jersey Trail Conference, a nonprofit organization dedicated to acquiring land for open space and preserving various trail networks in the metropolitan area, “a lot of research [has been] poured” into studying the health benefits of walking and hiking.

In fact, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) states on their website, that “Regular physical activity is essential for a healthy lifestyle.”  Not exercising regularly can pose “…almost as much risk for heart disease as cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, or a high cholesterol level…”

Mr. Goodell understands that “People are very busy,” but in order to entice them to get outside, footpaths and trails need to be made “more accessible.”  He adds that organizations like the Trail Conference and other non-profits throughout the country have “protected a huge amount of open space.”  The goal now says Mr. Goodell is to ensure that open space for recreational activities is located near where people work and live.    

As an example, Mr. Goodell mentions the Lenape Trail, an urban footpath which connects 19 parks in Essex County and is, according to the Trail Conference’s newsletter, Trail Walker, “arguably one of the oldest and most unique urban greenways in the Northeast.”  Within easy driving distance via central New Jersey or New York City is Harriman State Park, located just over the Mahwah state line in Rockland and Orange Counties, New York.  There are over 240 miles of trails for the novice and expert alike to tackle and enjoy, and they offer breathtaking views of the Hudson River Valley.   

Mr. Goodell says that hiking also adds another benefit beyond simply burning calories.  He maintains that because there is “a real need for escape from the mechanized world,” hiking can provide solace, comfort, and “spiritual” well-being.