Take a Hike

Take a Hike
Hitting the trails for a hike through nature is better for your heart, for weight loss, and for your peace of mind.

There are many reasons why going for a hike is good for you. It’s a great way to explore new places and get a good workout. Hiking is also a mind-body exercise, during which you’ll experience a kind of calm when you breathe fresh air and get a rush of relaxation when you reach the top of a climb and look out over the breathtaking vistas.

According to a 2015 study from Stanford University, people who took a 90-minute walk in a natural environment experienced fewer negative thoughts and lower neural activity in a part of the brain linked to mental illness.

Because of uneven surfaces, you are using different leg muscles that you don’t typically use when walking. You will also be engaging your core muscles and improving your sense of balance.

According to an article in Huffington Post, “one hour of trekking can burn well over 500 calories, depending on the level of incline and the weight of the pack you’re carrying.”

The Gear

My wool hiking socks are some of my most favorite items of clothing. Yes, you wear these in the summer, too. Wool socks keep your feet warm and dry because they wick away moisture.

Get a good pair of boots. Go to a store that has a fake mini mountain to climb, so you can test out the boots.

Using hiking poles can help you if you’re not used to moving around on uneven terrain and if your hike down is going to be especially rocky. I suggest getting a pair of collapsible poles if you’re going to invest in your new hiking habit. When hiking down a steeper climb, use your heel first as though you’re marching. You may slide a bit if the ground is very loose, but try not to slide down the mountain intentionally.

 Safety Tips

Make sure you know how to read trail signs, so that you stay on the trail. Some parks may issue you a GPS device for your safety and can be invaluable if you get lost.

Stay hydrated—bring plenty of water. I recommend drinking about 1.5 liters for every four hours of hiking. I also recommend bringing a sports drink, especially for longer hikes.

Go with a friend, so that you have safety in numbers. If you’re going alone, let someone know where you’re going and when you anticipate being back. Also, pad the timing a bit. Hiking can take longer when you’re starting out. And remember to take some breaks to enjoy the views.

Illustration by Andriy Yankovskyy.

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