Fitness · Health

The Hiking Advantage

For those new to hiking, here are some important guidelines:

  • Do not head head out to the longest or hardest trails right away. If you go to a state or national park or forest, the trails are usually marked with a difficulty rating scale from 1-5, with classes 1 and 2 being easier, and 3 meaning you may have to use your hands here or there for balance. Classes 4 and 5 would be more for experts and rock climbers. Well-marked trails will also tell you how long it generally takes to complete a round-trip. Since elevation can tire you out faster, you should estimate your “energy miles” as being 1 1/2 to 2 times the actual distance of the trail. Start with a distance you know you can do, and let yourself become familiar with the area.
  • Be very mindful of your steps. Lookout for rocks, branches, leaves, loose dirt, etc., as any of these can trip you. I like to find a good long hiking stick that I use to help keep my balance. Hiking experts will often use a pair of hiking poles (see image below), which are like ski poles and have the added benefit of allowing the use your arms for more calorie burning. They are helpful for both uphill and downhill hiking.

hiking poles

  • It’s a good idea to wear a hat and some sunglasses, and pack smartly, including a map, water, sunscreen, and some first aid items in case of scrapes and scratches.
  • Lastly, if you are going on an advanced trail then it is a good idea to invest in some good hiking shoes. Hiking on trails will challenge your ankles and feet, so I recommend you get a pair that have support for your ankles, as opposed to low tops (see image below).


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Ideally, hiking is done out in a forest, but the truth is any hilly road will also work. Your heart and lungs will enjoy the fresh air and your behind will be better off too! Stay active and be well.

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  • Deborah Robinson May 3, 2016 at 10:21 am

    Love the article on hiking! I really enjoy not only the exercise,but also communing
    with nature.

  • Cheryl Fleming April 9, 2016 at 11:07 am

    So close to Central Park I am.. I love hiking in the park.. I have many of my patients hike, and run.. And come to me after that to get a massage.. Perfect for any lactic acid that may build up! Thanks for the reminder to get out there and “just do it”.