Take Your Health to New Heights by Hiking

Hiking can happen almost anywhere – from paths in your neighborhood parks to national scenic trails

From the LifeMinute.TV Team

November 17, 2023

National Take a Hike Day is November 17. Check out the many benefits of this whole-body workout and tips for staying safe.

Muscle Strength
Hiking can strengthen nearly every major muscle group in your body. Walking uphill targets the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. Hiking downhill engages the ankles, hips, and core. Arm and back muscles can be intensified using walking poles or sticks or carrying a backpack.

Heart Health
A 30-minute visit to a green space, like hiking in a neighborhood park or trail in a national public garden or along a mountain, can boost heart health and circulation and lower cholesterol, blood glucose, and blood pressure. Your heart pumps harder, especially on a route with an uneven trail or incline.

Weight Maintenance
On average, you can burn about 100 calories for every mile you walk. Combined with a healthy eating program, hiking can be a vital tool for not only losing weight but maintaining that loss.

As part of aging, it’s essential to continue working on balance to prevent falls. When hiking along the terrain of a path or trail, your legs and core muscles are continually engaging and contracting to provide balance and stability. Over time, balance improves as these core-stabilizing muscles strengthen.

Mood Enhancer
Hiking allows us to unplug from our hectic lives (and technology) and spend time outdoors. Research shows spending quality time walking in nature improves anxiety and depression.

You don’t need a gym membership, uniform, or an expensive wardrobe to hike. Choose sturdy, comfortable footwear like trail runners or shoes (for light hikes and easy-moderate terrain) or hiking boots. Moisture-wicking clothing, such as merino wool, nylon, and polyester, repels sweat off the skin and dries fast. Bring a backpack, with items, including water (pack more than you need), a first-aid kit, flashlight, sun protection, snacks, and extra clothing layers.

Have a watch, compass, and a GPS device with you. Check the weather before your hike and be prepared for rain and temperature changes. Stay on marked trails. If you become lost, stop, stay put, and maintain calmness. Get out your compass and determine the directions based on where you are standing. If you have a cell phone signal, call or text 911. You can also try yelling HELP at regular intervals.

Steady Pace
For beginners, consider a hike under 5 miles with little climbing. Hike with a partner and leave your itinerary with a family member or friend. Be aware of your surroundings and where you are walking, especially if you are talking or tired. Remember to soak in the fresh air and environment. It’s not a race. Maintain a steady pace and have fun.

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