Want to walk for exercise? We give you some ideas on where

Whether you walk in your neighborhood, on a wooded trail or inside a mall, walking is a low-impact exercise that is free, and suitable for all ages.

There are many benefits from the simple form of exercise. In fact, getting at least 150 minutes a week (2 hours and 30 minutes) of brisk walking or another moderate-intensity aerobic activity can put you at a lower risk for diseases including heart disease and diabetes. Walking is also associated with a higher quality of life.

But only about half of U.S. adults get this much exercise, which is considered the minimum guidelines for aerobic physical activity, according to a new report by the surgeon general. Only a fourth of high school students get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise.

The U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, recently launched a national campaign designed to encourage more people to make walking a priority in their lives, as well as urging communities to do their part to make walking safer and more accessible.

In the campaign, called “Step It Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities,” Murthy calls on community planners and local leaders to create more areas for walking and wheelchair rolling and to develop safe routes for children to get to and from schools.

John Coffee, 68, owner of Coffee’s Gym in Marietta, has incorporated walking as part of his fitness routine and says he can tell the difference in how he feels and his overall health. He walks briskly three times a day for 25 minutes each time.

“It gets your metabolism firing better when you do it in small doses,” Coffee said.

It has improved his flexibility and he has more energy, he said.

Meanwhile, Lynda and Bob Dockery, both in their 70s, from Kennesaw enjoy their walks at Town Center at Cobb

(www.simon.com/mall/town-center-at-cobb) for exercise and talking with friends.

“If you join the gym, you can make up all excuses not to go,” she said. “We just do it.”

There’s no shortage of places to walk including neighborhoods, malls and the extensive park system in Georgia.

On most afternoons and weekends, for instance, Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park in Cobb County (www.nps.gov/kemo/index.htm) is packed with walkers and runners. There’s no parking or entrance fee. The road to the top of Kennesaw Mountain is closed to public vehicles on weekends and holidays.

Here is a look at some more good places to walk:

Mall walking

In a place that’s never too hot or too cold, you can take advantage of many malls opening two hours before normal shopping hours for walkers — the mall nearest you may offer one of the quietest places around town for an early-morning workout. Walkers are also welcome during normal mall hours, though crowds can make it tough to keep a steady pace.

At Phipps Plaza, a full lap around the mall’s Level 1 or Level 2 is equal to a half mile.

Opening time for walkers is 8 a.m. Mondays-Saturdays and 10 a.m. Sundays at the following malls: Mall of Georgia (3333 Buford Drive, Buford, www.simon.com/mall/mall-of-georgia), Lenox Square (3393 Peachtree Road N.E., Atlanta, www.simon.com/mall/lenox-square) and Northlake Mall (4800 Briarcliff Road, Atlanta, www.simon.com/mall/northlake-mall). Phipps Plaza (3500 Peachtree Road, Atlanta,www.simon.com/mall/phipps-plaza) opens the doors located by security on Level P2 of the parking deck at 7 a.m. daily for walkers. Town Center at Cobb opens Monday- Saturday at 8 a.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m.

Sweetwater Creek State Park

Sweetwater Creek State Park, only about a 30-minute drive from downtown Atlanta, is home to 9 miles of walking trails including a 1-mile (each way) Red Trail. The Red Trail will lead you to the five-story New Manchester mill ruins alongside the whitewater rapids of Sweetwater Creek, a good one for first-time visitors. It’s the shortest trail to the mill ruins and best showcases the beauty of the creek valley. The old mill ruins was once the tallest building in the Atlanta area, before being burned by Sherman’s troops during the Civil War.

The park offers guided tours with varying themes, including candlelight hikes to the mill 7-9 p.m. Oct. 17, 7-9 p.m. Nov. 21 and 6-8 p.m. Dec. 12.

It’s $5 per person, plus the regular $5 parking fee.

Candle lanterns will be provided. No children under 6 years old or dogs are permitted on the candlelight hikes. Meet and register at the Interpretive Center. 770-732-5871. Note: While dogs are not permitted on the candlelight hikes, they are generally welcome at the state park. Sweetwater Creek State Park, 1750 Mount Vernon Road, Lithia Springs. http://gastateparks.org/SweetwaterCreek.

Beltline

For a scenic walk in the middle of a bustling metropolis, head to the Atlanta Beltline, a popular destination of parks and trails.

Four trails totaling about 7 miles are now open. All feature at least 1 continuous mile of wide (10 to 14 feet), paved scenic paths with secure footing, where no cars or motorized vehicles are allowed (wheelchairs are OK). One of the offerings is the free Atlanta Beltline Arboretum Walking Tour, led by a Trees Atlanta docent, which explores the Eastside Trail. It’s a great way to learn about trees and find out interesting facts about the Beltline while also getting a workout.

Tour groups meet Fridays and Saturdays behind Parish Restaurant, 240 N. Highland Ave., in Inman Park. Tours from October to May depart at 10 a.m., returning at 11:30 a.m.; from June to September, tours begin at 9 a.m. to beat the heat. Reservations are required. Participants must check in by 9:45 a.m. October-May and 8:45 a.m. June-September.

For a complete schedule of activities, and to register, go to beltline.org.

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