Fight the crowds at a fancy gym? Spend money on a spin class? Pssh, not you — you have the entire greater Los Angeles area at your disposal, in all its sun-soaked glory. Whether you’re just beginning your weight loss journey or you’re looking to switch up your workout routine, here are our favorite places to exercise for free in LA:
1. Hike Griffith Park
Located in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, Griffith Park covers more than 4,300 acres — making it the second-largest city park in the state, after San Diego’s Mission Trails Preserve. It’s home to the famed Hollywood sign, the original Batcave (formally known as Bronson Cave) from the ’60s “Batman” TV series, Griffith Observatory and numerous hiking trails for all ability levels. Trails we like include:
For beginners: Berlin Forest
This flat shaded, path is .3 miles round trip and can be walked in about 30 minutes.
For intermediate: Western Canyon
Sycamore trees and laurel sumac shrubs line this 2.1-mile round-trip trail, which carries a 571-foot elevation gain. Hikers in moderately good shape can expect to take about 1.5 hours to complete this trail.
For advanced: Wisdom Tree and Cahuenga Peak
This challenging hike to the Hollywood sign is 3 miles round trip with 875 feet of elevation change. Hikers in good shape will take about 3 hours to finish this trail.
Three final thoughts before we move on: Wear good hiking shoes, always carry water and stay on the trail.
2. Climb the Baldwin Hills Stairs
The Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook is a tiny hilltop park overlooking downtown LA. It features hiking trails and a new visitors center, but it might be best known for its staircase — 282 giant steps leading to the top of the overlook. You can do them once, and then as you build up strength and endurance, try for two, three or even four rounds of stair-climbing. You’re rewarded at the top with spectacular views of Los Angeles.
3. Bike the Ballona Creek Bike Path
No cars, no lights, no traffic — this just might be California’s best-kept cycling secret. The Ballona Creek Bike Path is a 7-mile trek beginning in east Culver City and winding up at Playa Del Rey beach. It’s a flat path for the most part, until you get to the hills between Overland and Sawtelle. Don’t worry if you need to walk your bike up the hills — lots of people do it. There are several entrances and exits along the way, in case 7 miles is a little much for you to begin with.
4. Walk the Santa Monica Pier
The beach, that iconic Ferris wheel, possibly the best people-watching in LA — there’s no better place to get your steps in than the famed Santa Monica Pier. There’s also free ROGA (running + yoga groups) on Saturday mornings during select times of the year (check the ROGA website), and a free historic walking tour every Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m. and noon (meet at the Pier Shop in the historical carousel building).
5. Check out Mural Mile
More than 50 murals adorn city walls in a 1-mile stretch along Van Nuys Boulevard in the Pacoima neighborhood of the San Fernando Valley. This is a great walk for those not up the any of the more strenuous workouts on this list, and you also get to support this community’s efforts to revitalize their city and create a cultural landmark. Take a peek at the artwork you’ll see along the way on the Mural Mile website.
6. Take a donation-only yoga class
Yoga is the perfect practice for people of all ability levels. You’ll improve muscle strength, gain greater tone and flexibility, lose weight, reduce stress and just generally feel better about yourself. Ideally, you’d would give a little something to take one of the following yoga classes, but it’s not required:
- Yogala in Echo Park offers at least one donation-only yoga class every weekday
- Every single class at Long Beach’s Yogalution is donation-based, and they even offer a completely free outdoors class every day of the week on the bluff overlooking the ocean at the corner of E Ocean Boulevard and Junipero Avenue
- Yoga Circle Downtown offers a number of donation-only classes, as does Santa Monica’s Power Yoga
Start where you are with what you can do
Get your doctor’s permission before you start any physical activity, especially if you are recovering from weight loss surgery. Keep in mind that you will have to build up to the more challenging workouts above, but you can do it. Start slow, but start.
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