With all the uncertainty swirling around about COVID-19, one thing is certain – there is a lot of pent-up energy to get moving. Despite the array of fitness apps and free workouts streaming online, nothing takes the place of a walk in the fresh air – be mindful, of course, to observe social distancing.

I’ve been living in St. Petersburg since 2008 and one very pleasant walking area is along Northshore Drive, NE. There you’ll find the beautiful lush palms and winding walkways of the Gizella Kopsick Palm Arboretum, a 2-acre park, with more than 500 palms and cycads from around the world. It was created with a financial gift from the late Gizella Kopsick, who was devoted to St. Petersburg’s beautification.

Ms. Kopsick was born in Austria-Hungary in 1877 and came to St. Petersburg in 1962. She was professional chef who worked for millionaire Gilded Age families, including the Goulds and Vanderbilts. She followed the financial advice of her employers and invested well. In 1977 she gave away some of her wealth to establish the arboretum; a few years earlier she donated several thousand dollars to the Flora Wylie Park, also part of North Shore Park.
Starting out with 60 palms, the arboretum now includes drinking fountains, a gazebo, conversation corners with wooden benches and red brick paving. The arboretum was dedicated on May 16, 1977, Ms. Kopsick’s 100th birthday. She died on July 4, 1980, at the age of 103.

The arboretum is recognized by the Morton Register of Arboreta, an international registry of public gardens with a focus on woody plants.

Benefits of Walking

Walking helps to relieve anxiety
When you are constantly inside without distraction, it can be easy to get in your head and worry about all of the unknowns. For people struggling with anxiety, walking outdoors can have a positive impact on their mental and emotional states. Medically-speaking, walking releases dopamine and endorphins in the brain, which produce feelings of euphoria. In common parlance, being outdoors just feels good!

Walking can help aid in weight loss
With the “stay at home” warnings still in place, many of us could use exercise to counterbalance our consumption of comfort food. If you are looking to lose weight, The ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) recommends 300 minutes or more of moderate-intensity activity. This is the equivalent of about an hour-long brisk walk 5 days a week, or a 45-minute walk daily. Keep in mind if you are new to exercise and/or walking, it’s important to slowly build up how much you’re able to walk each day.

Walking builds stronger bones
As we age, our bones become weaker, but walking regularly can strengthen them. Low-impact walking can also help prevent bone density loss. You can build even better bone mass by race walking, doing some jogging when you walk, or by adding weights such as ankle weights.

Walking improves circulation
At any age, it is important to maintain healthy blood flow. When blood circulation is poor, muscles and tissues in the body don’t get enough oxygen and nutrients to function properly, leading to general fatigue and pain. Walking helps improve blood flow because you take in more oxygen. This gets your heart rate up and improves cardiovascular health, which is crucial for proper circulation.

Bottom Line: Even in the midst of all the rules to stay at home during the COVID-19 outbreak, there is a consistent companion message – it is essential to keep moving!