Take a Hike

Walking is one of the best exercises for people of all ages and it is easy on your joints. Take walking and combine it with nature and you have hiking. So, if walking is your preferred exercise consider trail walking, which improves endurance yet also stirs the mind and spirit as well.

Like walking, hiking is basically free. There may a minimal fee for parking at trailheads, and few places may charge a small fee for a trail permit. But most often hiking can be done without any cost.

For information on where to find hiking trails in your area and which ones are free, contact your local parks or recreation department. Outdoor specialty stores may also have this information, or you may ask them to recommend books for guides. If you are interested in walking with a group you may want to look into joining a local hiking club. While some people enjoy the company and support a group offers, others may prefer the solitude with nature. If you are just starting out you will probably benefit from joining a group until you get to know the trails and become more comfortable with hiking. Once you become more experienced you might want to try hiking by yourself and you can increase the length of your walks. You can look to other trail-smart friends as to where you might find more difficult trails when you feel you are ready for the challenge. Keep in mind that sharing hiking adventures with a friend or a group is always wise when considering safety.

If you are accustomed to walking in your neighborhood or at the mall, you will need to get used to walking on uneven surfaces. A great place to practice is at parks where you can walk in an open area to get a better feel for walking on unpaved surfaces. You might also keep your hikes short when you first start. The muscles in your legs will need some time to get used to your new form of walking and you will need to build your endurance slowly.

A good pair of walking shoes is sufficient footwear until you decide whether you like walking the trails. It is recommended that you wear hiking-specific footwear, which should be lightweight and have a thick, durable sole that will grip. It should have good ankle support with a sturdy upper to prevent the foot from slipping inside the shoe. The wrong selection can result in blisters. The salesperson at your local outdoor specialty store could recommend the shoe to best suit your needs.

Dressing for hiking is basically the same as when you’re walking outdoors. You need to dress appropriate to the weather. If you are walking on trails surrounded by nature, consider the shade the trees will provide. If you are walking on trails out in the open on a sunny hot day, don’t forget to wear a wide-brimmed hat for sun protection. Pay special attention to loose-fitting clothing as it can sometimes get snagged on branches or brush along the trail.

I prefer to combine hiking with my regular walking routine. Although I enjoy the familiarity of my neighborhood, I also enjoy hiking for a challenge and a change of scenery.

Look to hiking as an alternative exercise. It is not for everyone, but no one exercise is. Give it a try and you may be pleasantly surprised. So, lace up your hiking boots, leave your familiar paved road behind and take a hike.

Happy trails!

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