One of the greatest rewards of hiking is the impact it has on health. There are tremendous health benefits for all levels of hikers. Much more than “getting a workout in,” hiking is also a great way to commune with nature, and enjoy the company of friends and family.
Hiking, particularly up and down hills, is a great cardio work out. Some of the physical health benefits include:
- Building and strengthening muscles and your core
- Improving your balance.
- Controlling weight, blood pressure and blood sugar
- Building bone density
- Boosting Energy
- Improving Sleep
Hiking provides great physical benefits but also is great for our mental and spiritual wellbeing. According to Gregory A. Miller, PhD, president of the American Hiking Society “Research shows that hiking has a positive impact on combating the symptoms of stress and anxiety…being in nature is ingrained in our DNA, and we sometimes forget that.” Studies have shown that hiking in nature is a great way to think through issues or problems that are causing stress. Many report that “clearing one’s head” with a refreshing hike can help generate ideas and foster creative problem solving.
The Forest Bathing movement which originated in Japan recognizes the mood boosting effects of being in the forest. Books such as Nature Fix explore the restorative benefits of hiking and the connection between spending time in nature and improved health, happiness and creativity.
Finally, hiking is a great activity to do with friends and family. Enjoying a hike together is a special bonding time and helps us to forge tighter social connections. Hiking is an activity that can be enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities. Hiking poles are great for seniors or others who want extra support
You can get more out of your hiking with these fitness-boosting strategies.
Start slow. A short, local hike is best for beginners. This site shows a variety of trails with varying degrees of difficulty. Gradually work up to trails with hills or uneven terrain.
Use poles. Poles help with balance and also take pressure off of joints.
Head for the hills. Even a small hill will intensify your cardio workout and burn extra calories. Miller says a 5% to 10% incline equals a 30% to 40% increase in calorie burn.
Bump it up. Uneven terrain can work muscles while improving balance and stability.
Bring Plenty of Water & a trail snack. It’s important to stay hydrated.
Bring a buddy. It’s best not to hike alone at first, especially on unfamiliar or remote trails. A partner or group can help you navigate and assist if you get hurt. As your skill level improves, you’ll feel more comfortable going solo.
Know before you go. Familiarize yourself with the trail map. Check the weather, and dress and pack appropriately. Stay on marked paths and trails.
Have fun. Hiking is great for your health and is a fun activity for a group of friends or family. Don’t try and overdo it or make it uncomfortable.
Want to get outside for a walk but don’t know where to start??
Here are great trails for all levels to enjoy
- Lumberland Circle Park, Glen Spey
- Parksville Rails to Trails, Parksville
- Liberty Rails to Trails, Liberty (Trail 1, Trail 2)
- Frick Pond Loop, Livingston Manor
- Sullivan O & W Rail Trails, Fallsburg
- Walnut Mtn (lower trails), Liberty
- Minisink Battleground, Barryville
- Crystal Lake Wild Forest, Fremont
- Turtle Spring Nature Trail, Liberty
- D & H Linear Canal Park, Wurtsboro
- Basha Kill D & H Towpath &
- O & W Hiking Trails, Wurtsboro
Or would you rather hike with a group? Sign up for any of these hikes led by a Trailkeeper Partner organization.