No gym membership needed outdoors


The Licking River Greenway and Trails (one path pictured) is one of many local outdoor options for exercising. Two professors are conducting research on the benefits of outdoor exercise.

Exercising outside invigorates students, engaging them to do it for longer periods and more often.

The psychology department wanted to know more about exercising inside versus exercising outside, so Kathleen Fuegen, director of graduate industrial and organizational psychology program, and Kimberly Breitenbecher, associate professor in psychology, are conducting a research experiment about the effects of inside versus outside exercising.

There are plenty of options for recreation and exercise around campus; one is a wooded path behind the Woodcrest Apartments. Additional trails include the trail that was previously used by NKU’s biology and botany departments in the 1970s. This trail is in Wilder, Ky. and goes from Highland Heights City Building to the nature preserve nearby.

There is also a trail that Kristy Hopfensperger, assistant professor of biological sciences, talked about on Meadow Trail Drive. This gravel road that Hopfensperger and other faculty run on, is gated to restrict vehicles, within walking distance of NKU and open to the public.

Other green spaces include woods behind the Honors House and a grassy hill near the dorms. NKU also collaborates with AJ Jolly Park’s Nature Center in Alexandria, Ky., as well as the Campbell County, Boone County and Kenton County Conservation Districts that have conservation easements, Hopfensperger said.

Hopfensperger went on to talk about NKU’s footprint, “One of the things that I think is actually a positive environmental impact about NKU, even though it’s a lot of concrete, it’s very compact.”

The campus, Hopfensperger said, is looking into property near NKU to improve green space. These areas would most likely be used for research or for classes, and would be set aside with a conservation easement so they could never be developed. Hopfensperger is part of the Regional Ecological Stewardship Initiative (RESI) that is considering purchasing properties through assistance of The Center for Applied Ecology at NKU from state funds.

Hopfensperger is also faculty adviser for Environmentally Concerned Organization of Students (ECOS) at NKU which participated in building The Licking River Greenway and Trails on Saturdays.

Parks like The Licking River Greenway and Trails in Covington, Ky. provide more green space and exercise opportunities. Started by Vision 2015, which tries to improve the community through the community’s growth, this is a project that they and Northern Kentucky are working on to improve the state’s parks and trails.

According to The Licking River Greenway and Trails website this is an effort to create an urban greenway and trail system connecting Covington, Newport, Wilder and Taylor Mill. Located at the mouth of the Licking River, 5.2 miles south of I-275, this project broke ground with the first mile being completed May 5, 2012. An additional 1.5 miles have been completed since then from Holmes High School to Randolph Park in Covington, Ky.

This project encompasses a nature trail for biking, walking, jogging; a multi-use paved trail; and murals. They also hope to have a “blueway” for safe access for paddlers along the Licking River.

Bill Scheyer, president of Vision 2015, and Kristine Frech, manager of Strategic Initiatives, discussed what they hope this project will ensue for Northern Kentucky.

According to Scheyer, The Licking River Greenway and Trails is part of a 20-year $12-16 million initiative to better Kentucky parks and trails, as well as add green space in a family-friendly urban environment.

It is free for all ages and invites any pets on leashes. While there is not a full-time official monitoring these trails the Covington Police bicycle force has expressed great interest in using this as their route and monitoring the trails. However, the trails are only open dawn until dusk to ensure safety.

A later initiative, Scheyer and Frech hope, is that as NKU’s construction furthers, there be a potential trail that allows for entrance and exit at NKU along Three Mile Creek. The city of Wilder, Ky. is working on this project, and Scheyer and Frech feel optimistic that this will help further the project’s completion.

All of these trails, park areas and green spaces offer a way to exercise off-campus, while getting into nature, without paying a gym membership.