Olive’s Gym: Benefits of Mountain Hiking
Hiking is more than just an exercise. It’s one of our national pastimes, and our country has some of the best trails in the world. In fact, did you know that New York State alone has more than 1,000 miles of hiking trails?
In addition to the recreational quality to the activity, hiking is also a very efficient exercise for the whole body. Hiking is one of the highest calorie-burning exercises that people enjoy. According to the CDC, an average 154 lb. adult will burn approximately 370 calories per hour! In addition, hiking also improves cardiovascular health, helps build balanced muscles and strong bones.
It can be dangerous to venture up a mountain alone, and so tackling a trail with a partner or two can be a great way to strengthen your bonds with your family, friends, or even co-workers. As a general rule of thumb, here are some group safety tips to follow:
Stay safe! Since many people often look to enjoy the outdoors during the Fall season, spikes in infection rates become more frequent. Make sure to bring masks, plenty of your own water, snacks, and disinfectants, to avoid contact with strangers. As a tradition, when you meet passerby hikers on trails, keep to your right to make plenty of space to let people through.
Note: If you see litter on a trail, let the park managers handle it, just in case. Don’t be a litterbug!
Hiking isn’t a footrace! It’s best to hike at a pace that allows you to breathe comfortably through your nose. Groups should move in single-file, maintaining a six-foot distance between each hiking partner. The fastest hiker should lead and remain aware of the entire group’s progress! Getting used to finding solid footholds can help you improve your balance, as well as increase your willpower and focus.
Trails can also be confusing—it’s easy to mistake one dirt path for another, and getting lost can be especially dangerous! Trails on mountains are often marked for difficulty, with either signs or simple markers like painted squares on trees. From easiest to most difficult, white, red, green, and then blue trail markers should help you from getting lost or winding onto a different trail by mistake.
It’s tempting to wear a t-shirt and shorts while hiking, but it’s highly recommended to wear long sleeves and pants, mainly because of ticks. Found commonly on mountain trails where there’s plenty of animals and brush, ticks can cause Lyme disease, which can be fatal if left untreated. Another good reason is that it’s otherwise easy to scratch or cut yourself on sharp rocks, branches, and bramble.
While it’s tempting to try connecting with wild animals, attracting wildlife towards trails can be distracting and dangerous. While birds may be present on trails, most wildlife will avoid excess human contact. Leaving food around could attract more dangerous animals, such as bears, wolves, or coyotes, depending on where you are. Snakes are also commonly seen on mountain hiking trails, and it’s best to give a wide berth!
Following a medium-difficulty trail on a mountain path can be challenging. Having to focus on form is also a mentally challenging exercise, especially on natural trails and terrain, and that’s partly what makes hiking such a rewarding activity.
Hiking through scenic views can be an adventure, which makes the difference from routine exercise. Being out in nature can greatly improve your sense of freedom and self-determination.
One of the best feelings in the world is reaching the peak and just seeing the horizon meeting a clear blue sky can really help you feel like a whole, new person! Happy hiking!