American author and animator Dr. Seuss once said – “You’re off to great places, today is your day. Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way.” Hiking is not only taking a walk through the mountains. It is healing, it is therapeutic and most of all it is a great workout. Hiking is an activity that can be enjoyed by those old and young, those with and without an active lifestyle, and can be done anytime and anywhere amidst nature. It not only acts as a low-intensity exercise for the body but also invigorates the soul.
WHAT MAKES HIKING A GREAT ACTIVITY?
1. Reduces risk of cardiovascular disease and helps control diabetes:
Hiking is a great activity that helps reduce triglyceride levels and increase your high-density lipoprotein levels. This, in turn, helps improve cardiovascular health, reduce high blood pressure and reduce the chances of stroke. Hiking also is a great workout for the muscles, which results in the moving of glucose from the bloodstream for energy. This is great for controlling and even preventing diabetes in some cases.
2. Helps burn calories and increase energy levels:
Hiking is a cardiovascular exercise that can be customized to meet the requirements of any fitness level and goal. It is a great workout to work up a sweat and burn more calories during the day. These burnt calories help build a calorie deficit which aids in losing or maintaining a healthy weight. It also results in a healthy flow of oxygen into the muscles, tissues and organs. This added oxygen invigorates the body and leads to better energy levels to tackle the day.
3. Improves the mood and helps reduce insomnia:
All kinds of walks normally help reduce stress levels, but hiking, in particular, is a great opportunity to improve the mood. The beautiful scenery observed while hiking through meandering roadways in the woods soothes frazzled nerves and calms the mind. Walking amongst nature also helps to gain a better perspective as compared to being cooped up indoors. Not to mention the sound sleep that almost always follows a refreshing hike.
4. Improves muscle and bone density:
Hiking is an activity that provides a great workout for especially the lower body muscles such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and glutes. It is also a weight-bearing exercise and thus helps strengthen the core as well as improve bone density.
HIKING TIPS FOR BEGINNERS:
1. Choose a simple trail and hike small:
It is always useful to research and map out trails close to home before a hike. Always choose a trail that is shorter than you think you would be able to manage in the start. Research about the elevations and calculate the time required for you to complete your hike while maintaining a manageable pace.
2. Dress appropriately:
Since hiking is an outdoor activity, it is vital to dress for the weather. One of the most important tips is to invest in a good pair of shoes. Hiking shoes need to be light but durable enough to be used in all kinds of terrains and waterproof if possible. Always wear clothes that are light and breathable (polyester, spandex, nylon) and try to avoid cotton since it may get heavy and also cause chafing. Carry extra socks and also band-aids to prevent blisters while breaking in new shoes.
3. Always check the weather:
It is always a good idea to check the weather before stepping out for a hike. Checking the weather helps to plan not only the hike and the routes, but also the appropriate clothing. Always ensure that the weather is good before going for a hike to avoid being caught off guard mid-hike.
4. Pack carefully:
Hiking not only involves walking on terrains but also involves carrying a considerable weight while doing so. Ensure that your supplies contain only the most important requirements so you don’t get weighed down. A checklist of must-haves for every hike would include –
- An extra jacket (waterproof if the weather is rainy) and cap/hat
- Navigation systems (GPS, maps, compass)
- First aid supplies and sunscreen
- Flashlight, fire items (matches, lighter, candle)
- Extra water bottle with drinking water
- Extra snacks (preferably dry)
- Emergency tools and tent supplies
- Emergency contact information
5. Safety first:
You may have researched your trail thoroughly, have a great GPS system and a map, but always inform someone about your whereabouts before you leave on your hike. Also, carrying tracking services are a great idea in case of emergencies. If possible, also try to hike with a group in the beginning. Groups are not only safer but also extremely fun and motivating!
6. Take your time:
The fresh air and exercise will definitely leave you feeling invigorated and you may be tempted to walk faster and reach your destination quicker. But always ensure that you pace yourself and maintain a steady speed to avoid fatigue later, especially when you need to climb hills and elevations.
7. Be aware of your trace:
Hiking is extremely fun and relaxing, but always consider your trail a gift from nature. It is important to not litter your environment. Ensure you carry trash bags and take home all waste materials, even the bio-gradable ones like fruit and vegetable peels. Also, ensure that you use the washroom before you leave your home to ensure that you do not pollute the environment on your hike.
8. Learn to read a map:
Carrying a combination of both electronic and paper maps is a good idea to maintain accuracy. Ensure that you spend time understanding and reading your map in detail before you leave for your trail and do not plan on make up as you go. Also, download several offline versions of your map on your GPS device and phone and ensure you have sufficient battery at all times.
Finally, hiking is a healthy, rejuvenating and extremely enjoyable activity. Ensure you are prepared with the best supplies and apparel and then simply let go and enjoy the breath-taking scenery around you as you walk through the most beautiful landscapes nature has to offer!