It’s National Fitness Day on Wednesday 26th Sept and - given the recent change in the weather - I’d forgive anyone for not being that keen to take part in an all-day, outdoor, plankathon. But what the day sets out to achieve is pretty good – the aim is to ‘highlight the role physical activity plays across the UK, helping us raise awareness of its importance in helping us lead healthier and active lifestyles.’ This obviously isn’t limited to outdoor exercise – they want people to go to the gym, or try swimming, or do anything physical on that day, just to set something in motion. A random Wednesday in autumn may not feel like the most natural time to start, but why not?

It’s definitely easier to motivate yourself to get outside in the spring and summer - sometimes we get a lovely autumn, but the fact that it’s dark early is pretty prohibitive for those of us who live in the countryside. But as much as it’s a pain that there aren’t many streetlights, the benefits of being able to exercise in the countryside are huge. According to research, people (in the Netherlands and Japan specifically) are more likely to want to walk or cycle to work the more trees there are on their way. The air is cleaner, you get to walk/run on varying gradients which generally strengthens muscle and – psychologically - exercising in nature just feels so much nicer than being inside, probably because trees are a way better backdrop than buildings.

Left: a man jogs in the Millennium Country Park, Right: Conquest Wood pathway

Left: Millennium Country Park, Right: Conquest Wood


Since the 1990s, we’ve planted 1.5 million trees and created 11 woodland sites that are literally perfect for exercising on so – assuming the weather is ok - here are some of our recommendations for where to visit on National Fitness Day:

  • If you live locally to the Forest Centre & Millennium Country Park(Marston Moretaine), that’s a great place to start as it has 8km of surfaced track (perfect for cycling, jogging or walking). As it’s in a loop, you can split it and do 4km instead, if you’d prefer.
  • For something a bit shorter, try the 1km trail at Conquest Wood (Houghton Conquest) or the marked 3km distance trail at Shocott Spring (between Shortstown and Cotton End), with posts every 10m so you can easily measure your progress.
  • For a bit of a challenge, Folly Wood (Lidlington), or Rectory Wood (Cranfield) are perfect as they both sit on hills, but still have surfaced tracks so you won’t get hideously muddy.

All of our sites are great for locals to exercise on so make the most of them this autumn – check out the full list here or check out our list of walks and routes across the whole Forest for more inspiration. 

National Fitness Day was founded back in 2011 by the énergie Group, the largest and fastest growing fitness franchise company in the UK. Visit their website to find out more.

If you're interested in other ways to keep fit in the Forest area, whether you're into nordic walking, or trail runs, send us an email and we can point you in the right direction.