Get in great shape by taking a hike  

 Friends hiking through the hills of Los Angeles

Get in great shape by taking a hike  

When’s the last time or have you ever considered taking a hike?  How comfortable are you of venturing outside your comfort zone to explore the vast outdoor world surrounding you? Maybe hiking seems intimidating if you’re a beginner. Maybe you envision yourself struggling to walk up a steep incline or carefully maneuvering over slippery rocks as you cross a running stream. Hiking can be challenging but that only depends on how difficult of a trail you choose to follow. And that’s the beauty of taking a hike – you get to decide how easy or how strenuous you favor when lacing up your hiking shoes

That’s why if walking on a treadmill has become boring and jogging has become a chore, hiking is a viable alternative.  Think of hiking sort of like walking briskly but on a different variety of terrain – parts of a hike may be flat or uneven, then there might be hills to make it more challenging, and maybe even a stream or two you have to navigate across.

No matter what your age or athletic ability is there is most likely a hiking trail that will offer the right level of personal challenge with both physical and mental health benefits.

Hiking offers improvements to your body in many ways – it can be a great cardiovascular workout particularly if there are hills to have to climb forcing your heart to work harder.  If the surface of the trail is uneven this actually can be a good thing in terms of engaging the core muscles in the torso and developing better balance skills.  Walking on a treadmill, a track or a level sidewalk will not offer these same opportunities.

Anyone however, who has stability or vision problems is advised to use walking or trekking poles giving more security when hiking on uneven trails. 

Another advantage of using hiking to improve health is the act of being out in nature.  Never underestimate the power of spending time in wide open spaces, in the woods, a nature preserve, or anywhere outdoors – nature has a way of relieving stress and restoring calmness leading to reduced blood pressure and heart disease risk. The sense of peace one experiences when exercising outside clears the mind improving the ability to sort out problems and sparks creativity you may not have thought of otherwise.

Here is a list of other health benefits hiking can lead to:

·      Reduced type 2 diabetes

·      Weight loss or control.  The average hike can burn around 250 calories an hour

·      Better sleep quality

·      Improved bone density

·      Increases muscle strength and endurance

·      Reduces depression

·      Relieves tension and anxiety

·      Tones the entire body

·      Leads to a sense of peace and well-being from being outdoors

Even though hiking is a fun and challenging workout, always stay safe when doing so.  Here are some hiking tips keeping you out of danger:

·      Never hike alone – use the “buddy system”

·      Tell someone where you are going and when you will be back

·      Stay on marked trails

·      Never attempt to climb waterfalls

·      Dress in layers

·      Carry rain gear and turn around in bad weather

·      Always have plenty of water and/or some snacks

·      Wear bright clothing

·      Use bug repellant and sunscreen before hitting a trail

·      Wear appropriate footwear

If hiking is new to you and you’re not sure were the closest trail is to where you live, can help guide you to the nearest trail getting you started on an exciting journey.