By: JAMIE HOM
Edited by: ERINN BOON
Hiking is a great form of exercise. Summer it is a time to get out of the gym and hit the local nature trails and enjoy the time outdoors. Hiking can be a day trip or even for days at a time sleeping under the stars. There are numerous health benefits that come with hiking, but it is important to be prepared with equipment and safety.
As you hike, you sculpt muscles as your body adjusts to the terrain while climbing over boulders and as you pick up the pace while hitting flat terrain. But hiking is so much more than getting a great exercise. You can bond if you hike with friends and family and bond with nature while taking in the surroundings. In addition, hiking improves your core, cardio and balance. Your body can burn up to 500- calories-per-hour, according to fitnessweightloss.com, but this depends on how fast you walk or run and the terrain you are on.
Over the years I have hiked on and off with friends and family, but this summer I have had the opportunity to be outdoors as a camp counselor, embarking in new adventures with my fellow campers. While hiking different trails or even the same ones, I have come to enjoy the tranquility. It is refreshing to be outside after being cooped inside all winter and hitting the books during the academic year.
According to the book, Wilderness Basics: Hiking, Backpacking, Mountain Biking by Kristi Anderson and Arleen Tavernier, “one of the greatest joys of hiking in the wilderness comes with encountering wild animals in their natural habitat”. But more importantly, for novice and experienced hikers, they stress the importance of safety in recognizing dangerous situations and how to avoid or deal effectively. It is about respecting wildlife, planning ahead and being prepared.
Being prepared comes with plotting a course and having the proper equipment. Even if you plan on hiking for an hour or so you never know what can happen. So, always be prepared for emergencies. According to hikingdude.com, a site that provides numerous tips on hiking, it is vital to be smart and drink plenty of water during the duration of the hike. Do not forget to put on sunscreen and bug spray. Also, in your backpack, always include a first-aid kit, sunscreen, rain gear, a map and compass and a GPS or cell phone.
Moreover, wear proper clothing for the weather. Before you head outdoors, check the weather. Once when I headed out, I forgot to put on a rain jacket or even put a poncho in my backpack and while on the trail it started to rain. Lets just say I got soaked and was not a good role model for my campers. Proper clothing also includes proper footwear. Wear closed-cover shoes if you do not want to invest in hiking boots make sure that they have good traction and grip.
For safety, try to buddy up. If you are heading out solo, tell someone where you are going and how long you plan to be out. Trails are usually marked with a symbol or color on trees. As you embark on a trail that is marked you can usually see the next marker in range. To help you stay on the trail, carry a map with you that you pick up at the beginning of the trail or check out americanhiking.org for links to local park’s websites, where you can find trail maps to print out.
As you venture into the woods you will be surprised by what nature has to offer. Every hike is a different experience. Sure it can be challenging and a horrible experience if you are not prepared, but it is a great form of exercise for the summer, providing incredible health benefits for your body and mind.