A Walk on Florida’s Wild Side
Two nearby state parks for a great hiking workout after weight loss surgery
After Lap Band surgery, one of your most useful exercises for weight management will be walking. Low impact and easy for anyone, walking burns plenty of calories without putting undue stress on your joints or requiring high levels of physical fitness.
But after a few times around the sidewalks of your neighborhood, there’s a good chance you’ll get sick of the local scenery. Fear not—the Bradenton area, like just about everywhere in Florida, has many beautiful state parks that offer great opportunities for hiking. If you’re ready for adventure after recovering from Lap Band surgery, try exploring some of these slices of Florida’s naturally-stunning wilderness for a summer weight loss workout.
Just southeast of Sarasota, Myakka River State Park is one of Florida’s oldest and largest preserves. The park’s namesake river winds through a 58 square mile area that is one of the Sunshine State’s most naturally diverse and composed of prairies, wetlands, hammocks and pinelands. The Myakka Trail is vast, including nearly 40 miles of looping trails that crisscross the park and a 74-foot tower that offers a bird’s eye view of the park. Significant portions of these trails pass through the dry prairie, a rare ecosystem in Florida that has little shade and can become very hot in the summertime, so be sure to bring plenty of water. Unfortunately, the Myakka River and its two lakes offer few opportunities to take a dip and escape the summer heat. Alligators are active in the waterways year round so swimming is not allowed within the park.
Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park
A bit further south, Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park lies about an hour and half from Bradenton and offers a much different environment than Myakka. Preserving about 42,000 acres and 70 miles of Florida shoreline, Charlotte Harbor is primarily composed of shallow water mangrove forests, offering great opportunities to spot wading birds, dolphins, manatees and various other kinds of wildlife.
Though perhaps best accessed by kayak or canoe (which also offer great low-impact workouts after weight loss surgery), hikers can access three marked trails in Charlotte Harbor’s upland areas to experience the beauty of the park’s wildlife on foot. The primary hiking trailhead is located off CR 776, while the other two can be accessed at the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center. These two offer very different views of the park—one winds through mangrove forests and salt marshes while the other provides a look at the region’s pine flatwoods.
Of course, any Florida hike must be preceded by the proper preparation. After Dr. Bunch clears you for physical activity after surgery, be sure you have the proper gear for your excursion: a good pair of hiking shoes, sun protection, insect repellant and lots and lots of water. Though hiking can be a great workout for people at nearly any level of physical fitness, you have to make sure you’re prepared for the demands of the great outdoors.