Belfast Telegraph

10 free NI hotspots to up your fitness levels and boost your step count

The benefits of exercise can never be underestimated and because the physical and mental perks of being on the move are priceless it shouldn’t mean it comes at a cost.

In association with the Lidl Community Works Sport for Good programme, we look at 10 ways to get fit in Northern Ireland, for free…

The Lidl Community Works Sport for Good programme is a new chapter in the retailer’s Lidl Community Works programme which was set up in 2014. It was created with the aim to to provide support and resources to local communities in NI.

Since its launch it has engaged with over 750 community groups and has donated over well over hundreds of thousands of pounds to local Northern Irish community groups. It has been involved in everything from working with local communities to helping organise bake sales, painting walls and fundraising. And in 2017 it donated £228,000 to 115 local groups.

More recently the retailer has engaged with the community to promote the benefits of exercise and how it can boost wellbeing by enhancing the body and mind.

No matter what your ability, experience, age or shape there’s a world of activity at every turn in Northern Ireland. Here, we pick our favourite to get your endorphins going…

1.) Park Run

A free weekly 5k run taking in parks around the world, Park Run is the ideal starting point for those who want to get their heart pounding. At present there are around 30 Park Runs in NI covering everywhere from the Waterworks in Belfast to Palace Demesne in Armagh and what is the only Park Run on sand on Portrush’ East Strand. Visit the website, register and print off your barcode to become part of a community that will help you achieve a PB on this social running circuit.

2.) Hill Walking Slieve Gullion

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Walking is a sure fire way to increase cardiovascular and pulmonary fitness. It also promotes stronger bones, improves balance and can help manage conditions like high cholesterol and high blood pressure. The stunning Slieve Gullion is a great place to start your walk. It provides scenery, exploration and exercise with a trail to suit every ability. Walks here range from one mile woodland treks to the 36-mile Ring of Gullion Waymarked Way.

3.) Cycling in the Sperrins

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Pack up the bike and take on the historical, mythical and stunning Sperrins off foot. Sperrin Gold route, which takes in Glenelly, Sawelbeg and Glenhull is a largely traffic-free trail that will open you up to the longest and most beautiful valley in the mountains. Not for the inexperienced cyclist this route is one to remember.

4.) Walk the Derry Walls

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A one mile walk in and around Derry’s famous walls is a great way to combine history with light exercise. The Walls are one of the best and finest examples in Europe and arguably the largest collection of cannon. And while it might be better known that intense exercise will increase your fitness, the lighter stuff can still go a long way say researchers. According to a study published in the Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, participants in a study who traded time on the sofa for a total of 30 minutes of walking during the day reduced their risk of dying over a three-year period by 33 percent! What’s more is an outdoor walk of any length can provide you with a vitamin D hit, which will keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy!

5.) Free indoor museums

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And when the sun isn’t shining, why not look at the multitude of museums and free indoor attractions that can up your step count. Among our favourites are Bagenal’s Castle in Newry where a restoration has given way to original features and new exhibitions. Belfast’s Ulster Museum is another top spot for whiling away hours while keeping joints and bones moving. Belfast City Hall is another area of interest in which to combine history with steps.

6.) Walk your way to the best seat in the house at Black Mountain

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The, now, National Trust site, Black Mountain offers unrivalled views of Belfast and beyond with the benefit of a mind and body cleansing walk. With four trails to avail of, every ability has a route to favour. Ranging from just under one-mile in length to almost five be sure to wrap up for the breeze.

7.) Crawfordsburn Park

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Woodland and a beach in a dog-friendly setting, this Co.Down spot offers the best backdrop for some family activity. Make a day of it and soak up the 1.9 mile coastal walk or up your game with the beautiful eight-mile Clandeboye Way trail.

8.) Murlough National Nature Reserve

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Blow off the cobwebs and take in the awe-inducing Mourne Mountains in this stunning walk. The Murlough North Point Nature Trail is around three miles long and demands a moderate ability but the views are worth the effort.

9.) Outdoor gyms

Dotted in various locations around NI, outdoor gyms are giving their paid-for indoor counterparts a run for their money. With leg presses to air walkers and cross skiers, a series of reps on these resistance pieces will help tone all key areas of the body. Some of the best include Wallace Park, Lisburn, Musgrave Park, Belfast, Victoria Park, Belfast and Stormont. Contact your local council to find out where your nearest outdoor gym is located.

10.) Stormont

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Why not take the glorious walk up to Stormont Parliament Buildings and meander off into the woodland and parkland to discover the nooks and crannies of this gorgeous free attraction. Stormont Woodland Walk and Fitness Trail is a great place to walk, run and relax. Take the hilly hike to the top of the hill or embark on the Woodland Walks and Fitness Trail, a circular route covering some 2.5 miles.

To find out more about the Lidl Community Works Sport for Good programme and see how your local youth sports club could
WIN £4000 worth of sporting equipment visit www.lidl-ni.co.uk/communityworks

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