We all know that exercise is important. Yet, as a nation we've become pretty darn unhealthy. Just take a look at the number of us who have already ditched our health-related New Year's resolutions! I have the hardest time sticking to my goals because I often try to do too much right out of the gate.Enter: walking.

It's a simple activity that doesn't require much gear and, as studies have shown, walking has numerous physical and psychological benefits. While I don't always get in as much exercise as I'd like, I often trick myself into working out by exploring different places throughout the greater Sacramento region. Hey... whatever works, right?

Here are a few of my favorite places to get my walk on in the Sacramento area:

1.) Effie Yeaw Nature Center - Ancil Hoffman Park {map it}

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The Effie Yeaw Nature Center has been a fantastic place to explore and learn about the natural environment for decades. The 77-arce preserve located in Ancil Hoffman Park consists of interpretive trails, a nature center with educational activities and more. I love walking the trails (pictured), but I also remember taking school field trips to the center when I was young. It's a fun place for people of all ages.

2.) American River Trail {map it}

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While this trail is often referred to as a bike trail, it is full of walkers, joggers and long-distance runners. My favorite access point is William B. Pond Park (pictured). In all, there are over 50 access points along the 30 or so miles of trail stretching from Sacramento to Folsom. The Sacramento Bee published a great interactive map of the trail a few years ago. You can also download a map of the trail right here (pdf).

3.) UC Davis Arboretum {map it}

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I know, it's not actually in Sacramento, but the UC Davis Arboretum is an old favorite and is only a short drive away. My husband and I lived in Davis during college and used to take walks there all the time. The arboretum offers nature lovers beautiful gardens to stroll through, ducks to watch and some very fearless squirrels to fend off. The best part? It's open year-round and it doesn't cost a dime!

4.) Capitol Park {map it}

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As California's capital city, Sacramento has a lot going for it. I love walking around Downtown and Midtown Sacramento (as you'll see below), but when I need a little nature fix in the midst of highrise buildings and bustling streets, I duck into Capitol Park. The park surrounds our stunning State Capitol Building and is meticulously maintained. Also on the grounds, you'll find numerous monuments and memorials and a beautiful rose garden, which is where my husband and I got engaged!

5.) Sacramento's Central City {map it}

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Shops, restaurants, fantastic displays of architecture and public art... who wouldn't want to take a walk in a place with all of that? Look no further than Sacramento's Central City, my friends. The area includes Old Sacramento, Downtown and Midtown (pictured) and is one of the more interesting places to walk in the region. There's so much to see and do! All of you nature lovers out there will also be happy to hear that Sacramento recently garnered attention as one of the "10 best U.S. cities for urban forests." There's nothing better than the shade of a lovely tree canopy on a 100° day. Am I right?

Your turn! Where is your favorite place to walk in your city or town?

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