When was the last time you went on a hike? If you’re like most city dwellers, it’s been a while since you got up close and personal with Mother Nature. For some, hiking is an exercise that may not even feel like exercise. Walking in the beautiful outdoors engages your senses, and it doesn’t matter how fit you are. If you can put one foot in front of the other, you can hike!
Whether you’re wandering through tall redwoods or strolling across flowered fields, hiking comes with a few mental and physical perks:
- Hiking strengthens your heart and lungs. Going on a hike will improve your cardiovascular fitness, especially if hills are involved. The change in elevation forces your heart and lungs to work harder so they can supply you with fresh oxygen.
- Hiking works out your muscles. Navigating through the rough terrain (think: rocks, sand, boulders) you encounter on hiking trails can give the core and lower body a good workout. You build your balance when you engage the core muscles, which can help you be surefooted in other activities.
- Hiking helps reduce stress. A combination of sunshine and green space can ease the stress and anxiety built up from a hectic schedule. This is important since stress may be linked to poorer heart health.
3 Steps to Enjoying a Good Local Hike
Good hiking trails are found across the country! There are so many that you might have to create a bucket list to get through all of the ones you want to try. Here are three steps to get you out and about on your next hiking adventure:
Step 1: Pick a hiking trail that’s right for you. You can visit American Trails to see a state-by-state comprehensive list of resources that’ll help you pick the right path. Our personal favorite is American Hiking Society, where you get an interactive map to locate nearby hikes and difficulty ratings based on terrain and elevation. You can even read reviews from fellow hikers.
Technology Tip: Depending on the trail, your phone may not be able to get much service, so don’t rely on your GPS. Instead, locate and print out a physical copy of the trail.
Step 2: Dress for the occasion. The first priority is to put on a well-fitting, comfortable pair of hiking shoes. Then, check the weather ahead of schedule to know if you should go light or layer up. Barring extreme weather conditions, a light, moisture-wicking shirt and free flowing pants will work.
Step 3: Pack all the right gear. Always carry a water bottle so you can stay hydrated. Then, stash some trail mix, jerky or snack bars in case you get hungry. Sunscreen and bug spray are optional, but good items to have.