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Hotels take fitness amenities to the great outdoors

By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK (Reuters) - From sightseeing city runs and nature hikes down country trails to surfing sessions, hotels are luring leisure and business clients outside their climate-controlled rooms for outdoor activities to keep fit while traveling for business or pleasure.

Morning runs, afternoon power walks and bicycle rides are fast becoming standard fare for hotels in urban centers, with the cityscape dictating the route.

"Since most of our hotels are urban, we like our guests to get outside in the neighborhood," said Mike DeFrino, executive vice president of hotel operations at Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants.

In cities with a strong running population, he said, managers or assistant managers at the chain of boutique hotels will lead the morning run.

Many U.S. hotels also offer bicycle borrowing, particularly in cities such as San Diego, California, and Washington, D.C., and New York City.

Studies have shown that exercising outdoors can offer advantages over indoor, gym-based fitness routines. British researchers found that natural environments may increase activity levels with less perceived exertion, reduce stress and improve mood.

The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, in California wine country, offers bike tours to local wineries, walking tours to local purveyors and a hike to a 2,000-year-old Redwood Tree, as well as treks of varying levels of difficulty and water yoga classes in thermal mineral pools.

"The hikes sell out almost every morning," said Michelle Heston of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, which has 60 hotels around the globe.

Business travelers, who make up about half of Fairmont's clientele, work out to a schedule different from the tourist.

"The business traveler has different habits. Early 6 a.m. offerings are popular with them, those on holiday are much later," she said.

Jodi Sullivan, senior director, global fitness, at Hilton Worldwide, said both business and leisure travelers are increasingly aware of the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

"We always want to take advantage of the great outdoors, said Sullivan, adding fitness activity at Hilton, depending on location, may include bike rentals and beach volleyball courts.

Sullivan, a personal trainer, said Hilton created its fitness program in 2006. For its bicycle program city route maps are printed on the backs of water bottles.

For people who prefer not to leave their hotel rooms at some Hilton hotels they can book a Yoga Room, with a king-size bed and a designated area to practice headstands and postures, or a Cardio Room, which comes with a cardio machine that simulates the workout of an elliptical, a treadmill and a bike.

Hotels routinely offer in-room, on-demand yoga and Pilates programming, and most have indoor fitness centers. Kimpton hotels also lend out hula hoops, resistance bands, hand weights and jump ropes.

"The business traveler is on a tighter schedule. They're less apt to use the planned activities and more apt to use the fitness center at 5:00 a.m.," DeFrino explained. "We encourage people who don't want to leave their room to order a yoga bag, and watch a one-hour yoga DVD on TV."

He added that the outdoor fitness activities are specific to the site. In La Jolla, California hotel clients can borrow a golf cart or surfboard and wetsuit.

(Editing by Patricia Reaney and Leslie Gevirtz)

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