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20-5-3 The Three-Number Formula for a Healthier You!

The beginning of each calendar year gives us the opportunity to set some goals: and many of us do a mental run-through of various ways we might be exercising and moving differently in the new year. According to Rachel Hopman, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Northeastern University, Americans today spend 92 percent of their time indoors, and their physical and mental health is suffering.

Dr. Hopman subscribes to something she calls the 20-5-3 rule. If you think of it as the food pyramid, except instead of recommending that you eat this many servings of vegetables and this many of meat, use the visual to determine the amount of time you should spend in nature to reduce stress and be healthier.

Here's How it Works:

20 Minutes

That’s the amount of time you should spend outside in nature like a park, the boardwalk, a hiking trail – 3 to 4 days a week. That’s it, 20 minutes outside is the dose of nature that has the greatest effect on reducing stress and producing a mental state of peace. But turn off your phone—alerts from it can be disruptive and negate your efforts.

5 Hours

This is the middle of the pyramid and reflects the minimum length of time each month you should spend outdoors in a designated activity aligning with nature.

Which we know affects both the mind and body - stimulating and soothing us in unusual and unique ways.

3 Days

This is the top of the pyramid. Three is the number of days you should spend each year off the grid in nature, camping or renting a cabin (with friends or solo). Think places characterized by spotty cell reception and wild animals (but don’t forget the bear spray), away from your desk and the hustle and bustle. Think of it as an extended meditation retreat - except talking is allowed, you don’t have to sit crossed-legged, and you can bring your own! This step can reset your thinking, boost creativity, tame burnout, and just make you feel better.

Between the pandemic, working from home, the economy, or other factors of busy lives, you may be feeling over-stressed. As a result, making time to focus on reducing stress levels using the simple 20-5-3 in the coming year is an easy way to make this happen. Use this three-number formula to make yourself stronger and happier.

Hiking in New Jersey- The Shore Book's Top Hiking Spots!

Just about everyone knows that New Jersey is famous for its beautiful farmland and gorgeous beaches. But what you may not know is that our State has some of the best hiking, walking and biking trails on the east coast. We have highlighted just a few of the trails with various skill level (yellow, green, red & blue) in our State. For full list of trails and information on sites listed below visit

Apshawa Preserve - West Milford

Scenic hike around Butler Reservoir that includes a waterfall, dam, and ruins.

5.3 or 2.2 miles. Roots and rocks, steep sections and some seasonal rock hops over wet areas or streams.

Shorter – 2.2 miles. To the reservoir viewpoint and back.

Variation – 3.2 miles. Direct to dam, ruins, waterfall, see “Apshawa Waterfall“.

Hike from the old Cooper Mill through the Black River Gorge and a pine forest, with

a side trip to the ruins of Kay’s Cottage.

7.2 miles, or variations below. Roots, minor rocks, and some moderately steep sections.

1.4 miles – Just to the spillway and back (noted below).

4.0 miles – Shorter version of this hike, only to Kay’s Cottage and back.

3.8 miles – Black River Trail to Kay Environmental Center and back.

Cheesequake State Park – Green Trail in Old Bridge, Middlesex County

Pleasant hike over rolling hills and through beautiful marshlands with the assistance of numerous boardwalks.

3.2 Miles. Easy to moderate, some minor elevation change, steps.

Shorter: Just YELLOW or RED loops.

Longer: 4.0 miles – Add YELLOW to the GREEN.

Longer, variation: 4.3 miles – YELLOW, BLUE & GREEN loop

High Point State Park – Monument Trail in Wantage Township and Montague Township

Hike the Appalachian Trail to the highest elevation in NJ, climb an obelisk, enjoy vast views

of NJ, PA, and NY, plus explore an Atlantic cedar swamp.

7.9 or 4.0 miles. Varies between very rocky and smoother trail. Some uphill to get to the monument.

Shorter: 4.0 miles – from the AT lot to the monument and back.

Short: 3.0 miles – from the AT lot to the viewing platform and back.

Shorter, variation: 3.7 miles. Start at the Monument parking and just follow the RED/GREEN blazes for nice views along the ridge then loop around to Lake Marcia and back.

Mt. Tammany – Delaware Water Gap

Climb steeply uphill to a fantastic overlook of the Delaware Water Gap and

Mt. Minsi across the way.

3.5 miles. Rocky, steep. Short in length, but strenuous due to steepness. Rock scrambling.

The return trail is less steep but still very rocky. This loop goes up the RED DOT trail

and returns down the BLUE trail. We recommend this way as the rock scrambles on RED DOT are a bit harder to negotiate going down.

Easier variation: Up/down on BLUE. Miss a view on the RED trail and it’s a less interesting hike – but it’s easier and arrives at the same viewpoint.

Shorter but still steep: 1.0 mile, to the first viewpoint and return.

Easy/short variation: 1.2 miles, instructions below. Waterfall only, no summit.

Stairway to Heaven - Sussex County

A short but very steep hike to Pinwheel’s Vista.

Hike the “Stairway to Heaven” up a series of steep rock slab steps to a panoramic view f

rom Pinwheel’s Vista.

Miles: 2.6 total, round trip. Trail surface is dirt and roots with extremely rocky sections. Very steep.

Walking: The Shore Book's Top Walking Spots!

Ramapo Reservation Loop -Mahwah

Trail is a 7.2 mile heavily trafficked loop trail that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail is primarily used for hiking, walking, and nature trips and is best used from March until November. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Length:7.2 mi Elevation gain:1,033 ft

Route type: Loop

Watchung Reservation History Trail - near Mountainside

A 6.3-mile loop trail located near that features a lake and is rated as moderate. The trail offers several activity options and is best used from March until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Length: 6.3 mi Elevation: gain442 ft Route type: Loop

Manasquan Reservoir Loop - near Howell Township

Is a 5-mile loop trail that features a lake and is good for all skill levels. The trail offers a number

of activity options and is best used from April until November.

Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Length:5.0 mi Elevation gain:127 ft Route type: Loop

Doctor's Creek and Old Forge Trail - near Cream Ridge

It is a 4-mile loop trail that features beautiful wildflowers and is rated as moderate. The trail offers several activity options and is best used from March until October.

Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on a leash.

Length: 4.0 mi Elevation gain: 341 ft. Route type: Loop

Allaire Orange Trail - near Allenwood

And features a great forest setting rated as moderate. The trail offers several activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs and horses are also able to use this trail.

Length:5.7 mi Elevation gain:347 ft. Route type: Loop

Biking: The Shore Book's Top Biking Spots!

According to, The best places to run, walk, or bike at the Jersey Shore are: Allaire State Park – 4265 Atlantic Ave., Farmingdale; Brick Reservoir – Herbertsville Rd, Allenwood; Cattus Island County Park – 1170 Cattus Island Blvd, Toms River; Cheesequake State Park – 300 Gordon Road, Matawan.

While there are numerous locations to bike around the State, we’d like to feature

days & times biking by self-propelled wheels on the boardwalks from Asbury Park to Bay Head.

Rollerblades, skates, and skateboards are not permitted on the boardwalk at any time of the year. Bicycles may be locked only to a bicycle rack, and not to any light fixture, railing, or other parts of the boardwalk. Motorized vehicles are not permitted at any time on the boardwalk or beach.

Biking on the Boardwalk
looks like this:

*Asbury Park Boardwalk - allowed between midnight and 10 a.m. year-round

*Ocean Grove Boardwalk - allowed between 10 p.m. and 10 a.m.

*Bradley Beach Boardwalk - allowed from midnight to 10 a.m.

*Avon-by-the-Sea Boardwalk: allowed between midnight and 9:00 a.m.

*Belmar Boardwalk - any time between October 1 and April 30.

*Spring Lake - allowed between the hours of 10:00 pm and 8:00 am

*Sea Girt - from May 15 to September 15 biking is restricted is to the hours of 5:00 am to 9:00 am.

*Manasquan - restricted between the Friday preceding Memorial Day and Labor Day of each year, except during the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. Bicycle riding is permitted on the public walk and dedicated beachfront during the remainder of the year.

*Point Pleasant – allowed May 1 thru September 30 between hours of 5:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. daily and between October 1st until April 30th from 6:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.

*Bay Head – has no boardwalk but plenty of wonderful shopping, eating and drinking both coffee and cocktails. We will get to all of Bay Head’s specific wonders in a future article. Stay Tuned!

Tips for Winter Warmth While Hiking, Biking, and Walking

Hike through the winter months and enjoy the crowd and bug-free trails, crisp fresh air to ward off the winter blahs... plus there's no need to "get back into hiking shape" when spring rolls around.

*Dress in layers

This is really the key to being outside in cold weather; add and remove pieces as needed.

*Don't overlook packing a hat and gloves even in shoulder seasons...

They offer an easy way to control temperature. Depending on the conditions, use these layers: Bottom: Moisture-wicking breathable shirt or thermal layer.

  • Mid: Insulating layer like a hoody, fleece jacket, or softshell

  • Outer: Water/windproof layer

  • Hat and gloves

  • Good socks; waterproof boots

*Resist the temptation to dress too warmly!

When you are shivering at the trailhead, you may think you need heavier stuff than you really do. You may be chilly for the first 15 minutes, but once you get moving you will warm up quickly. And if you will be doing a lot of uphill, you will heat up more than level hiking. Only wear a heavier coat when it's very frigid or snowing, or it's cold and you're on an easier hike where you're not exerting as much.

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