St. Mary’s Park: A Well Kept SF Secret

Neighborhood parks are integral to the quality of life in Bernal Heights. Aside from the added benefit of meeting your neighbors, there are other reasons to switch up your regular gym routine and take advantage of exercising outdoors. St. Mary’s park, just north of Hwy 280 and Alemany Boulevard, is definitely off the beaten path. If you want to get outside and change up your workout, here are three unexpected reasons to go there and spend some time outdoors.

Three Tiers

St. Mary’s Park is a three-tiered park and offers a combination of things to do like baseball, basketball, tennis and a recreation center with bathrooms. There are picnic tables, hiking paths and big play structures for kids with great views. Down the hill from the playground is a large, well kept, grass area for dogs. It’s been rated a favorite place for both dogs and owners for years. Another well kept secret in the city.



The Mental Boost

The more connected kids are to nature, the more they care about preserving it and being good stewards of the land. A study published by the Environmental Science and Technology found that exercising in green environments boosted both self-esteem and mood for all ages. Confirming what is common sense to most of us, “Every green environment improved both self-esteem and mood, “ said Jo Barton PhD and, “The greatest change for self-esteem was in the young age group.”



Combine your workout with family time

We’ve established that greenery will boost your mood and self-esteem. Remember the added benefit of getting the kids away from the iPad, while also changing up your usual routine at the gym. Combining your workout with family time shows kids that physical activity can be fun. A long, brisk walk behind St. Mary’s gym can clear your head, elevate your mood and give you a change of scenery. According to a Healthy Living article in Ace Living, walking or running in a strong headwind can help burn calories as you work harder against the resistance, while a good tailwind can help you move a little faster by putting “wind in your sails.”

As the weather warms up and the days get longer, think a little more creatively about your workouts. It’s an opportunity to switch up the monotony you may be feeling at the gym, spend time with the family, and enjoy one of San Francisco’s well kept secrets. With the Alemany Farmers Market right down the hill, you can spend a morning exploring the market, talking with some of the famers, and getting some exercise outdoors.




Link Love:

Environmental Science and Technology: What is the Best Dose of Nature and Green Exercise for Improving Mental Health?

Ace Fit: Healthy Living Article


Jen Baxter is a writer, photographer and San Francisco native. She tells stories encouraging people to be more independent, aware and creative. You can find other interesting articles at or follow her on Instagram @JenBaxterSF