Walking Your Way To Better Health: How Hiking Can Be a Great Entry Point to Fitness

Establishing a fitness routine can be intimidating, especially if you haven’t exercised regularly in a long time. It can be easy to convince ourselves that it’s too late to get fit, or that we’ll never be able to maintain that healthy, consistent routine. If you feel nervous or self-conscious about jumping into fitness, consider hiking. This form of exercise can certainly be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to begin that way. Taking straightforward hiking routes at your own pace is a wonderful and genuinely joyful form of exercise. It’s a great way to start your fitness journey and, as you continue, you’ll find yourself getting steadily fitter. You’ll be able to take on more challenging routes, complete hikes in a shorter span of time, and eventually feel confident trying out other forms of exercise. 

Why Is Walking So Good for Us?

Physical Health

Walking is a weight-bearing exercise, and it therefore has a lot of benefits for our physical health. It allows us to increase our cardiovascular and pulmonary fitness, which pertains to the heart and lungs. It will also reduce the risk of having heart disease or a stroke. Your bones will get stronger, along with your muscle strength and endurance. Furthermore, you will have better balance, and will be more able to manage conditions such as hypertension, high cholesterol, diabetes, and joint and muscular pain or stiffness. Just by walking briskly for 30 minutes a day most days of the week, you can improve your health immensely.

Mental Health 

Just as hiking will improve your physical health, it will also work wonders for your mental health. A large part of this is that being physically active can help you to feel better about yourself, giving you a sense of self-worth. Furthermore, walking releases endorphins, which can create feelings of happiness and euphoria. Walking can also help you to feel calm and relaxed, and effectively alleviate both stress and anxiety. 

Financial Health

One of the main reasons why people struggle to keep fit is because of the financial cost of fitness. Paying for a gym membership or fitness equipment can be expensive. Even joining a local sports club can sometimes involve costs we can’t afford. Hiking, however, is either free or a lot cheaper than other alternatives, depending on where you’re hiking and what accessories you might need to prepare yourself for the hike. It is therefore one of the most accessible forms of exercise available.

The Benefits of Being in Nature

According to a growing amount of research, spending time in nature is very good for our overall well-being. Taking a break from fast-paced environments and surrounding ourselves with greenery is an excellent technique for lowering stress hormones. It’s also important that we get a sufficient dose of vitamin D, which helps our muscles, bones and general health. Soaking up some sunshine is the easiest and most natural way to get sufficient levels of vitamin D. Being outside can also be good for mixing up your routine and exploring your local area. You’ll feel more at home and develop a better sense of community if you feel comfortable in your local parks and hiking trails. 

How to Start Hiking

Feeling inspired but don’t know where to start? There are a few easy steps you can take to kick-start your hiking journey. 

1. Start Walking

If you’re starting from a fairly low level of fitness, it might be easier for you to start by incorporating more brisk 30 minute walks into your routine. In order to achieve this, make simple, short-term goals that aren’t entirely intimidating. For example, you can plan to get off the bus at an earlier stop so that you walk a bit further to work. It can also be helpful to specifically schedule some time in your week for exercise. This way, you won’t let the opportunity slip by as your week fills up. If you’re walking fairly consistently, your first hike will be a bit easier and more enjoyable.

2. Decide What You Want From Your First Hike

It’s now time to schedule your first hike! Before you jump into it, take a step back and consider your wants and needs. This will help you make the important decisions in regards to your first hike. Figure out how much time you have on the proposed hiking day. Decide whether you want to go solo or with friends. Do some research and choose a location that appeals to you. It is also important to determine your starting level. If you’re unsure about your fitness level, it can be a good idea to hike in a somewhat familiar area. This should mean that if you decide you need to turn around, it won’t be too challenging to find your way back to your car.

3. Prepare Yourself

Once your first hike is all organised, you need to prepare for the walk itself. This means finding comfortable, weather-appropriate clothing to wear. Choose a lightweight, moisture-wicking polyester or wool for your base layer, and add an insulation layer if it’s expected to be cold. You should also bring good shoes, a head cover, and wool or synthetic socks that will not cause blisters. You’ll additionally need to pack a backpack. This should be packed with sunscreen, bug spray, a fully charged phone, a pocket knife and some basic first-aid equipment. Finally, make sure you have plenty of water and high-protein snacks. Some popular hiking foods include fruit, nuts, bread and almond butter, and beef jerky. One final piece of prep you might want to do is make a hiking playlist to ensure you’ll stay entertained throughout the duration of the hike. 

Put On Your Hiking Boots!

Ready to start? The sooner you plan and execute your first hike, the sooner you’ll fall in love with this amazing pastime! Try your best to stick to hiking, even if it takes some time to feel results in your fitness. It also pays to be kind to yourself and not expect that you’ll be able to complete every hike. Any time spent walking through a national park or sitting in the sun is time well spent. It’s never a waste, and any exercise is better than no exercise. So if you feel like you don’t want to walk anymore and would rather rest or turn back around, please feel free to do so. And have fun!

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