Hiking outdoors has plenty of perks: nice views, fresh air, and the sounds and smells of nature.
It's good for you, too. Hiking is a powerful cardio workout that can:
You can get more out of your hiking with these fitness-boosting strategies.
Start slow. A short, local hike is best for beginners. Gradually work up to trails with hills or uneven terrain.
Use poles. Digging into the ground and propelling yourself forward pushes your upper body muscles to work harder and gives you a stronger cardio workout.
Head for the hills. Even a small hill will intensify your heart rate and burn extra calories. Miller says a 5% to 10% incline equals a 30% to 40% increase in calorie burn.
Bump it up. Uneven terrain can work muscles while improving balance and stability.
Weigh yourself down. Stock your day pack with extra weight. (Water’s a good option.) According to Miller, a 10- to 15-pound day pack will boost your calorie burn by 10% to 15% while strengthening your lower back muscles.
Get into a groove. On the days you can’t make it to the trails, power-walk on a hilly terrain while carrying various degrees of weight in a backpack -- it will keep your hiking skills and fitness level on track.
Bring a buddy. It’s best not to hike alone at first, especially on unfamiliar or remote trails. A partner or group can help you navigate and assist if you get hurt. As your skill level improves, you’ll feel more comfortable going solo.
Know before you go. Familiarize yourself with the trail map. Check the weather, and dress and pack accordingly. If storms are a possibility, rethink your plan. Follow marked paths and trails.
WebMD Magazine - Feature Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on September 15, 2013
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