Want to feel better, have more energy and perhaps even live longer? In the Valley, there are lots of opportunities to get exercise.

The health benefits of regular exercise and physical activity are hard to ignore, and they are available regardless of ageor your current physical ability.

According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise can help prevent excess weight gain or help maintain weight loss. As you burn calories by being active, your metabolism is boosted helping you burn calories throughout the day.

Regular activity can help prevent or manage a wide range of health concerns. It improves mood by stimulating various brain chemicals that can leave you feeling happier and more relaxed. A boost in self-esteem and confidence frequently result as well.

Exercise also promotes better sleep, and it can provide fun in your life. Physical activity can also help you connect with family and friends. As a general goal, aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily. Check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program, the Mayo Clinic suggests.

Varying your activities is one good way to stay motivated to exercise. Here are some close-by Valley options that can be enjoyed at different locations, at different times of the day; many offer a nice outdoor scenery and are family-friendly.

Swimming: The Black Mountain Pool offers adult lap swim daily, weekdays, from 10- 10:45 a.m. until Aug. 21; cost is $1 per swimmer. If you have never tried swimming laps outdoors, if is a very feeling than at an indoor pool. Montreat Pool keeps an adult lap lane open daily from 12-6 p.m. through mid August; cost is $5.

Outdoor aqua-cise: Try water aerobics at the Black Mountain Pool 9-10 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Pay by the class (669-2052 for more).

Tennis: A backboard wall at the lower courts of Lake Tomahawk makes it easy to practice whenever you want. Or grab a partner and visit the Lake Tomahawk courts at no cost or the Montreat courts for minimal cost.

Hiking: There are abundant trails right in the Valley. Pick up a trail map at the Montreat Assembly Inn lobby to see options with various distances and difficulties. Around Warren Wilson College, take the trail on either side of Warren Wilson College Road close to the college’s entrance; park along the road and walk along flat paths beside the river.

Biking: For fairly flat recreational riding, catch the town’s greenway behind Black Mountain Primary School, which lead to the Cotton Creek neighborhood. Also try the town’s Recreation Park, located on Rec Park Drive off U.S. 70. The park connects to another greenway that circles the community garden and the paths of the athletic fields and In the Oaks campus of Montreat College. For group biking and organized distance rides, look into the local Velo Girls organization’s weekly rides (

Walking/running: To keep yourself motivated, try exercising where others are doing the same thing. Visit the Charles Owen Park in Swannanoa, a loop that circles two nice lakes. There are paths at Lake Tomahawk, recreation park and town’s greenway system. If you are a neighborhood exerciser, you might try visiting another neighborhood to add variety. For runners, the Black Mountain Running Co. downtown offers group runs on Wednesdays (669-7186 for more).

Paddle boating and canoeing: Montreat’s Lake Susan offers multiperson rentals that will give you a great leg workout while you enjoy the beautiful mountain scenery around the lake. Daily boat rental ($4 half hour) is 2-6 p.m (669-0593 for more).

Group fitness classes: For a more social experience or to learn a new skill, there are many group fitness opportunities in the area. Check out the Town’s Lakeview Center fitness class schedule, as well as Black Mountain Yoga, Cheshire Fitness, the Swannanoa Valley Museum hiking series and the hikes offered each week through Montreat Conference Center. Some of these have a small participation fee.