As the temperatures start to climb, more and more people head outdoors to enjoy the sunshine and get some exercise. One of the most popular activities among older adults is hiking.

Not only does hiking get you out of the house, when done regularly it helps reduce arthritis, eases joint and knee pain, boosts bone density, and improves cardiovascular health. Some studies have also shown that hiking can also decrease depression, isolation, and loneliness.

Follow these tips to get the most out of the good weather.

Build Endurance

While not all hikes are long, uphill struggles, if the most exercise you get every day is walking to your mailbox, you’ll need to build up your muscles and cardio if you want your hike to last more than 10 minutes.

When building up your endurance, the best thing to do is take it slow. For the first few weeks, walk around your neighborhood (if possible) or go to a hike that has paved trails and few inclines/declines.

Start off at 15 minutes and then work your way up from there. Make sure you bring water with you as seniors need extra hydration.

If you want to spice up your training, you can try other cardio workouts like walking in the morning and biking or swimming in the afternoon. You can also change up your route so you’re not walking the same paths every day.

You want to work your way up to walking 5–10 miles easily. From there, you can start incorporating small hills and then move on to somewhat easy rock scrambles.

Get Good Equipment

Equipment is essential for hiking. Even if you don’t plan on doing a very hard trail, you’ll still want some good gear to minimize injuries and falls. A few things you’ll need include:

Good Shoes

You’ll want to invest in hiking shoes or, at the very least, sneakers with good grip and cushioning. 

Trekking Poles

When on a hike, trekking poles can help you keep your balance and also help you detect potential tripping hazards like rocks or tree roots.

Water Bottle

You need to stay hydrated on the trail so make sure you bring a good size water bottle.

Snacks

Hiking burns a lot of calories. Bring some trail mix or other easy to carry snacks like dried fruit and nuts.

Listen to Your Body

If you’re on a popular trail, you might notice a lot of other hikers breezing past you. It can be tempting to increase your pace and try to keep up, but there’s no reason to. Hiking isn’t a competition.

If you push yourself too far, at best you might have to turn around and go home early, at worst you could get seriously injured. There’s no shame in taking breaks to catch your breath if you’re feeling winded. Besides, a break is a great opportunity to enjoy nature and practice some mindfulness. 

Whether you take breaks every 15 minutes or 30 minutes, you’ll inevitably get a good workout. Yes, it might be disappointing if you can’t get the best views, but the more you train your endurance and core, the further you’ll go.

Address Foot Issues

If you’re dealing with foot issues like plantar fasciitis, arch pain, or ankle problems, you’ll need to get these sorted out before you start hiking.

This might mean spending some time in physical therapy to build up your muscles and targeting specific problem areas. To prevent these issues from reoccurring, you can do the following:

  • Wear compression socks.
  • Find better shoes and use insoles that support your arch.
  • Do some stretches to loosen the muscles in your feet.
  • Perform strengthening exercises.
  • Practice some self-massage techniques to relieve the pain.

Plan and Research

Before you head off to the trail, you should take the time to dig up information on it. The more you know the better as you don’t want to run into any surprises while you’re out.

Many trails have a page you can check out for updates such as trail closures, warnings, and other information. For more informal trials, you might need to read user reviews to get a sense of the difficulty. 

If it’s your first time hiking the trail, you should try to do it in a group setting. Check to see if there’s a local hiking group in your area, and ask if they are planning to hike a trail that you’re interested in. There’s safety in numbers, plus you can make some new friends.

Look for groups that are more on the casual side or see if there’s one specifically geared for seniors. More serious groups require all hikers to keep up with the group and some tend to go very fast.

Once you have found your trail, it’s time to make some plans. Before choosing the location and trail, decide how long you want to be out. This will affect how much you need to pack, what time you should arrive, and what trails you choose. 

Hiking is a great activity as it helps get you moving and gets you out in nature.

What are your favorite outside activities? What are some tips you have for hikers? Have you gone on a hike recently? How did you prepare for it? We’d love to get your input!

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