Take a Hike!

A great way to stay active on a weekend or on vacation is by embarking on a hike!  Even better: hiking isn't just fun, it's good for you, too.  



Personally, I never really hiked growing up, except a few times while away at camp.  Then, in Israel, I learned how fun hiking can be!  I loved the rocks, the risk, and the reward.

Discovering how fun hiking can be

Since then, I've enjoyed hiking in other settings and even planned a whole trip around it!  Check out my old post on hiking the Sedona Red Rocks to see the awesome views that Arizona hiking can provide.


So let's get to it:

Health Benefits of Hikes: Hiking is a fun way to explore a new area, but it still comes with all the benefits of regular physical activity!
"We came from up there!"
  • Improved cardio-respiratory fitness
  • Improved muscular fitness and muscle tone (hiking engages many muscle groups) 
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Stress relief  
  • Reduced depression
  • Better quality sleep
  • Weight loss and maintenance
  • Healthy bone structure/reduced chance of osteoporosis
  • Increased levels of vitamin D 

Risks: Of course, all these benefits must be weighed against the risks.  Please make sure you are at the proper fitness level for the hike you plan on doing, wear appropriate shoes and attire, and know what to expect from this hike.  Do your research to know if there will be steep cliffs, dangerous animals, or other situations you might need to prepare or receive training for.   See safety tips below!! 



My reasons Hikes are Awesome: 
    Fake Reason #1: Great photo ops
  • Excitement: It can be exciting to take a little risk, to walk on the edge, to look down!  Just, you know... don't fall.
  • Beautiful views. 
  • Social exercise: Hiking is a fun group activity!!  It can be romantic if done with one partner, or a hilarious adventure with a group of friends. 
Hi ho, Hi ho... It's on a hike we go!
  • Reward: Nothing like reaching the top and taking in a breathtaking view.  You may be seeing a whole new place, or perhaps just getting a new perspective on your own home town.  Either way, the reward is great. 
Peace and Quiet
  • Animals: If you're lucky, you can discover some animals (not bugs. yuck) in their natural habitats!
  • Variety: No two trails are the same!  The path, the climb, the ambiance, the sounds (or lack thereof), the views, the nature... by doing hikes, you'll get an idea of what you like: flat or steep? rocks or woods? wet or dry?  Go on out and find your happy hike!
 <-- So many options! -->
  • Challenge: Each hike has its own challenges, but whatever your fitness level or hiking experience, you can find a hike to meet your needs and give you a real yet attainable challenge.  A hike can be flat and leisurely, or a hike can require careful stepping/climbing and cardio endurance.  One man's easy is another's challenge, and there's a hike out there for every mood and level.
    Weeeee are the Champions!

A few extra words on that last point: The diversity of difficulty! This is one of the best things about hiking as an outdoor activity.  Whether you're a pro or a beginner, there's a hike for you.

This past 4th of July, my friends and I hiked near a lake, and it was just about a 2-mile hike that kept mostly flat.  I wouldn't have known everyone's fitness levels or hiking experience, because it was a nice leisurely hike through nature.  Even near my family's suburban town, there are hikes through reservations and ponds to explore.  They may not heart-pumping cliff climbs, but they can be a beautiful, fun way to get active on a weekend.  So hey, why not?

Discovering the lake throughout our hike

Earlier this month, I visited Lake George, NY, which was, for the most part, a relaxing time away.  Eric and I stayed active by hiking up Prospect Mountain.  The hike was woodsier than I'd like (I prefer the rocks of Sedona to the woods--spiders! Ah!), but it was a fairly vigorous uphill climb (2,050 ft) to the peak, where we were rewarded with a 100-mile view of the trees and mountains.


Tips for New Hikers:
Snacking on a Questbar
  • Start with an "easy" or "beginner" hike.  Don't try to rush into climbing a mountain.  Find a flat, local hike you can begin with and gradually work your way up from there.  
  • Start early in the morning.  The earlier, the cooler, and the cooler, the better!  It'll be bright enough and you'll have all day, but won't have to deal with afternoon heat or the sun beating down on you. 
  • Drink water before, during, and after your hike. Hydration is key!
  • Pack wisely: Bring water, rain gear, a map/compass, GPS (your phone may do), sunscreen, and snacks as needed.
  • Use hills and/or uneven terrain to boost the intensity of your workout.  Get that heart rate up! 
  • Use poles: This one I haven't tried yet, but I read that propelling yourself forward can engage your upper body muscles and give a stronger cardio workout. 
  • Add weight: For extra burn, pack a backpack with some extra weight.  
  • SAFETY:
  • Be careful!
    • As I said above, know what you're getting into.  Google the hike you plan on doing and see what other hikers--beginners and experts--have to say about it.  Know the map and terrain. 
    • Be sure you're properly conditioned for the physical demands of this hike. 
    • Dress appropriately. For some hikes this will mean layers, for others you'll be hot.  Some hikes may require you to keep your legs and arms covered to avoid certain plants or animals/ticks. Do your research to know what to wear.
    • Check the weather forecast, not only for rain, but also for extreme heat
    • Be aware of altitude changes, as these can cause lightheadedness, fatigue, and nausea if you live in an area at a very different altitude than your hike. 
    • Bring a friend or two!  Don't go it alone.  Always make sure someone knows where you're going and when you should be expected back. 

Hikes are better with friends :)

Where can you find a good hike near you?  The easiest way is to simply Google: "Hikes near..." your location, but you can also head over to... EveryTrail.com's trail finder, LocalHikes.com for hikes near US Metropolitan areas, and Trails.com for outdoor hiking, biking, and backpacking trails.  You can also track your hikes at MapMyHike.com to track your routes, hikes, activity, and food, as well as to find great hikes and to connect with other hikers.


What are you waiting for?  Dare you to round up a group of friends and plan a hike!  Summer may too soon be on its way out, but fall weather is perfect for a hike.  Get planning!

I want to know:
Do you enjoy hiking?  
What is your favorite type of hike? 
If you're a veteran hiker, what tips would you share with newbies?

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