South Sound is the right place for anyone who loves an active lifestyle. Where else would you find a gorgeous backdrop of mountains and water, dozens of recreational opportunities, and a mild climate to boot?

Add to that the abundant number of fitness studios, sports leagues, exercise classes and wellness programs, and there’s really no excuse for not finding ways to stay healthy and fit.

“We are really blessed here to have all these opportunities to be outdoors year-round,” says Mary Getchell, division director of communications for CHI Franciscan Health. “Plus we have the mountain in our back yard. You’d be hard-pressed to find a person who hasn’t hiked on Mount Rainier.”

Besides the vistas, this outdoor lifestyle has a much greater benefit. Francis Mercado, MD, an internal medicine physician with CHI Franciscan,Dr. Francis Mercado, a physician with Franciscan Health, says that daily physical activity is the best medicine for staying healthy and happy.

“Daily exercise gives you a chance to unwind, be outside and spend time with friends and family,” he says. “I know that when my family is active together, it brings us closer together and keeps us Northwest healthy.”

The stunning scenery itself is a great way to motivate South Sounders of all ages to get outside — whether to explore the local beaches in the summer or go sledding in the winter. And they don’t have to go far to find a park, national forest, lake or sports field.

Hiking, walking, biking

Walking is an accessible activity that can reduce stress and improve lifelong health, which is why doctors recommend it as one of the best ways to exercise. The American Heart Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day for at least five days a week, and vigorous walking can fulfill that minimum.

South Sound is the perfect place to stretch your legs, featuring plenty of urban trails with scenic views as well as serene trails in numerous state, county and local parks.

The 760-acre Point Defiance Park, considered by many the crown jewel of South Sound, offers more than 10 miles of spectacular walking trails among old-growth trees. Several acres filled with nine gardens, including the Rose Garden with 1,500 bushes and the Dahlia Trial Garden — one of the largest trial gardens in the country — add to the list of gorgeous places to walk.

Another unique experience for cyclists, inline skaters and hikers is the 25-mile Foothills Trail, which winds through farms, across streams, over abandoned train tracks and through sections with unobstructed views of Mount Rainier.

For a more urban experience — walking, jogging or even rollerblading — nothing beats the two-mile Ruston Way waterfront stretch, with panoramic views of Commencement Bay and Olympic Mountains.

Other popular destinations include the Scott Pierson Trail, which crosses from Tacoma into Gig Harbor across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, and the Grandview Trail, which is located on a 200-foot bluff and has sweeping views of Puget Sound, surrounding islands and the nationally acclaimed, award-winning Chambers Bay Golf Course.

Fun on the water

There are many vantage points of Puget Sound but there’s no better way to enjoy the views than from the water — and explore those best-kept secret scenic spots that can’t be accessed from land.

South Sound is part of Cascadia Marine Trail, a national recreation trail that is one of only 16 National Millennium Trails designated by the White House. Stretching from the Capitol area in Olympia to the Canadian border, it is considered one of the premier water trails in the country for nonmotorized boats. About 50 campsites are available along the Cascadia Marine Trail, including eight on the South Sound side.

For those who prefer to stay closer to the shore, South Sound has numerous saltwater and freshwater swimming beaches accessible to the public. Many are popular for other activities as well, from kitesurfing to fishing.

“From swimming and diving to outboarding and kayaking, we have it all here in South Sound,” Getchell says. “Not to mention all the activities and sports for youth and all ages — and a focus on body, mind and spirit.”

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