The benefits of hiking go far beyond the good vistas and are rewarding too! Here is a beginner's guide to the art of hiking.
Things that I crave in no particular order – the beach, rolling hills, and calmness outside the bustle of my normal city life. The great thing about hiking? It enables me to experience all three (though maybe not all at the same time!).
Let us get one thing straight. I am a health and diet coach who helps you heal your relationship with food. I am certainly not a natural athlete. I can not bench press my husband, my car or my dog. And I have as hard a time getting myself to exercise as the next person.
For me, exercise has to be entertaining or I will not do it. Sorry, wish I could offer more encouraging words, but that is the truth. I am kind of like a little kid.
You have got to entertain me with an activity that gets me moving. But, shhhhh…do not tell me it is exercise. Like when I spent 6 months taking aerial hammock class. What? Playing in a bunch of silks is exercise?
I am lucky in that I live in Los Angeles. Here, there are almost as many places to hike as there are Starbucks.
So when you decide you want to go on a hike, you can choose, adventure – mellow, trendy, scenic, historic. You can even hike up to the Hollywood sign!
The Many Benefits Of Hiking
Here is why you will like hiking even if you do not like exercise:
It Gets You Outdoors
You could run in place on a treadmill. Or you can walk up a real hill with pretty views, sniffing dogs and an occasional hummingbird buzzing at your ear.
It Is Social
It is a great way to spend time with people outside of the distractions of the 21st century. Hey, I never get cell reception at the top of a hill so neither will your kids.
It Can Clear Your Head
Many people claim that walking outdoors clears their mind and helps them feel more centered. Maybe it has to do with that whole disconnected from social media thing.
You Have An Instant Sense Of Reward
A lot of times you may feel that you can not measure your results when you start a new exercise routine. But, it is easy when you are hiking. Just look towards the bottom of the hill and see how far you climbed.
You Can Challenge Yourself At Your Own Pace
I once got on a group hike that was almost completely vertical. I was using both my hands and feet to get up this treacherous hill. Yes, I fell behind the group.
But, I knew my own fitness level and I just did it at my own pace. And I learned that leisurely hike means different things to different people.
Note to self: ask specific questions about the terrain before going on a group hike!
Things To Bring With You On A Hike
- Bottled Water
- Suntan lotion
- Bug Spray
- A Fully Charged Phone
- A Compass If Needed (I would not recommend going into the complete wilderness if you are not an experienced hiker. A small hill or a well traveled path is a good place to start)
- Protein Bars (Nothing like having a blood sugar crash in the middle of wilderness!)
Hiking And Weight Loss
A hike will help with weight loss in more than one way. First, it builds muscle which will increase your metabolism. Second, being in nature often brings a sense of calm. And that sense of calm can help combat the stress hormones that pack on extra pounds.
So unlike most types of exercise which only help you lose weight physically, hiking has mental benefits that help take the body out of fat storing mode.
But keep in mind. Do not leave the hiking trail thinking you can now overeat. You will need extra calories after hiking. But make sure they come from lean protein, healthy fats, non-starchy vegetables or whole grains.
Anything more decadent than that will put back on what you just took off!
What To Do If You Do Not Live Near Any Hills
Ok, I am super duper lucky. I live near a bevy of hiking trails. I realize that accessible hiking trails are not a given for everyone. So make hiking a day trip or a weekend trip.
Go explore some place you have always wanted to see. Pick a place on the map, use some vacation time and just go there.
Or if that is just not an option, explore some flatter land. Getting outdoors and moving counts. There does not need to be a mammoth hill involved for your expedition to count.
Wherever you live, there has to be some great outdoor location to explore.
Embrace your fitness level. Know the terrain before you start your hike. And do not push yourself beyond what you can realistically do at this point. You do not want to end up dangling off some cliff, feeling like a cat stuck in a tree.
So Grab Your Walking Shoes And Run To Your Favorite Hill!!
Hiking is great for the body, and great for the mind. And it is the type of exercise that can make you forget the idea that exercise has to be miserable. Like I said, I have to entertain myself or I will not stick to any routine.
And hiking is definitely one of my preferred ways to get out of the house, get moving, have an adventure, all while breaking a sweat in a way that does not feel like torture.