I thought today we could discuss the benefits of hiking. We’ve talked about running, bicycling, swimming, and lifting here at Becoming Elli but it occurs to me that we haven’t discussed one of my favorite forms of exercise….hiking.
I really enjoy hiking. I used to love to take my dogs for a hike and it was something my son and I used to do frequently. When he was four, we did the local hiking spree and earned our hiking sticks. Hiking with a four-year-old is a challenge because a mile hike is a lot longer for those little legs. I still remember those hikes with great fondness. Even as he got older, we often hiked together.
Now, my son no longer lives at home and my dogs are gone so it’s just me. I don’t hike as often, especially on the more remote trails because it just feels a bit uncomfortable being by myself. If I can get a friend to go with me, I’m so happy.
I’m lucky to live in an area with a lot of great hiking trails. I have the Cuyahoga Valley National Park just down the road, the county has a fantastic series of metro parks with excellent trails, and my local community has some decent hiking trails in the city parks.
Hiking vs. Walking
What’s the difference between hiking and walking? The consensus seems to be that hiking is walking on trails in nature and walking tends to be on a smoother path or the road or sidewalk. Walking through your neighborhood is probably a walk and not a hike. So a hike tends to be more rugged. It certainly doesn’t have as smooth a path as walking. Hikers are obviously walkers but walkers are not necessarily hikers. Interestingly, my Fitbit Surge has both a walking and a hiking activity on it so apparently even Fitbit considers them to be different activities.
The Benefits of Hiking
Hiking provides a decent workout. For me, it provides hills, both up and down, and some rugged paths. You really have to concentrate on your step when the path is rough. Balance and agility become important.
There’s also the benefits of spending time in nature. I see wild flowers, wild life, and beautiful scenery. I find hiking to be pretty close to meditation. My mind seems to benefit from time away from sidewalks and concrete.
If your hike includes hills, you get a great leg workout. Well, hiking on flat ground also gives you a workout but hiking up a steep hill really gives you a good cardio workout and works those glutes, legs, and hips.
What do you need?
The nice thing about hiking is that I haven’t figured out any compelling need to buy a lot of accessories. I did buy hiking boots after a particularly tough winter. They were expensive but I expect them to last a long time. If you’re going to buy hiking boots, make sure they’re waterproof.
If you’re going to be doing a fair amount of hiking, invest in trail shoes. They’re similar to running shoes but have better traction and might also be waterproof. Starting out, your regular gym shoes would be fine but you might notice that you have a greater tendency to slip.
A hiking stick is often a good idea. This can be as simple as finding a good solid stick on your hike and using it to as fancy as buying expensive hiking sticks.
Finding Hiking Groups
If you are looking for people to hike with, I suggest looking for a local hiking club. I know there are several near me. Check out meetup.com for hiking groups in your area. Read the details carefully because some hiking groups are more into speed than others. I enjoy nature enough that I don’t feel compelled to power walk through the woods so the slower groups are a better fit for me. I think you’ll find that there’s usually a good variety of hikers in these clubs.
I always take my phone with me when I hike, especially if I’m by myself. Of course, if you get to a remote area, you might lose cell connection but I always figure it’s better to have the phone than not. Don’t forget that your phone probably has GPS on it so you can use that to figure out where you are if you get lost.
So, to avoid getting lost, I’d recommend staying on a trail. Cutting across wild terrain or deciding to climb boulders is a good way to encounter trouble. A fall or a stumble can lead to a sprained ankle or worse.
Probably the most basic precaution is to make sure someone knows where you are going to hike. This is easy to forget but at least texting someone what trail you’re going to hike is a good idea. Again, this is especially true if you are hiking alone.
With just a few precautions, you’ll be fine on your hike and can enjoy the beauty of nature.