Why Walk or Hike?
To Stay Fit: Millions of Americans get their daily exercise by walking or hiking. It’s a great way to stay in shape and reduce stress. Walking for 20 minutes a day at a moderate pace of three miles per hour (a leisurely 20-minute mile) can:
• burn an extra 120-150 calories a day
• promote fat loss and preserve lean body mass
• reduce the risk of heart disease
• increase mental alertness and memory
• increase energy levels throughout the day enhance one’s motor skills
Hiking with a 10-15 pound pack provides all the benefits of walking, but also increases the calories burned by ten to fifteen percent.
To Take In the World Around You: It’s only by getting out and experiencing the natural environment that one truly appreciates its wonders. Walking and hiking both have numerous built-in educational and entertainment possibilities:
• wildlife watching
• learning about and experiencing beautiful foliage and fauna
• historic, tourist walks
• themed day hikes with outdoor or singles groups
To Help Preserve the Environment: Walking and hiking on trails help millions appreciate the need to preserve our remaining open spaces and greenways. The less we drive, the better off we all are.
Just Your Speed
Whether you are walking to lose weight, walking around a tourist attraction, or hiking to enjoy a beautiful, scenic trail, the following guidelines can help you understand the appropriate pace or activity level for you.
Walking is divided into three main speeds:
• strolling – 20 minutes per mile, low intensity, physical exercise
• brisk walking – 15 minutes per mile, the pace of most exercise walkers
• aerobic walking – 12 minutes per mile, generally for the advanced walker
Hiking usually refers to extended walks in the natural world – in the mountains or wilderness. But with a growing system of trails more and more Americans can hike near their homes. The two basic categories are:
• day hikes – usually easy, close to home and require little equipment
• extended overnight hikes – often referred to as backpacking, require more experience, preparation and specialized equipment for camping, cooking, etc.
Can You Go the Distance?
• Always consult you physician before beginning any fitness program.
• Start out with short distances and build up to two-to three-mile walks.
• Try extending your walking to weekend day hikes that include greater physical challenges.
• After building up your confidence and experience on day hikes, try overnight backpacking for the ultimate experience.
Putting the Right Foot Forward
• Keep your breathing at a natural pace with your heart rate.
• Always maintain good posture, with your lower back flat and pelvis tucked directly under your spine.
• If you plan to walk or hike at a pace above strolling, it is important for your body temperature to rise gradually, so warm up for at least 5 to 10 minutes before increasing your speed.
• Stretch out after your walk, when your muscles are warm and flexible.
• Walking with modified ski poles helps you reach your target heart rate at a slower walking speed.
• Relax. Control, rather than tense your muscles.
• Take quick steps, not long strides, for the most natural stride.
• To determine your target heart rate: walk fast enough to notice your breathing, but not so fast you are out of breath or gasping; if conversing, you should have to pause regularly to breathe.
• Avoid blisters by choosing a properly sized and fitted shoe. Also try wearing synthetic fiber socks because they reduce friction and draw moisture away from the skin.
Walking and Hiking with Kids
• Take time to learn. Children have their own perspective, insights and ideas.
• Try incorporating games into the outing, like looking for loose change on sidewalks or different types of trees and leaves on trails.
• Take frequent breaks. Remember, kids do not always speak up. You need to keep asking them how the are doing.
• Caution children not to wander away. Have a plan in case you get separated.
• Involve the kids in planning the walk or hike. Go over checklists together and review trail guides and maps.
• Get them their own backpack and let them be in charge of certain items, like snacks or like the flashlight.
What Gear Are You In?
Footwear – The proper shoe is vital to any walking or hiking activity.
When walking remember to:
• find the proper fit – plenty of room for the toes with a snug, comfortable heel
• look for a solid support and good cushioning inside the shoe
• look for a firm, resistant heel counter outside the shoe
When hiking remember to:
• choose boots about 1/2 size larger than your regular size; there should be plenty of toe room; the heels should fit snugly
• wear two pairs of socks for trying on boots and for hiking
• look for boots with a thin polypropylene liner to keep your feet dry and use thick wool or acrylic socks for warmth
Outerwear – Always try to dress for the weather and be prepared for the worst. Some tips to help guide you:
• In the winter, dress your upper body in layers to keep you warm and to prevent overheating; you should take layers off as you heat up (and store the extra clothing in your backpack.)
• Get yourself one reliable jacket that is appropriate for the climate, then wear different layers based on the day’s weather.
• Always take along a waterproof jacket and hat in your backpack just in case it rains or snows.
Backpacks – The right waistpack, daypack or backpack is essential. Packs vary in size and fit; buy one that is suitable for the type of walk or hike you’ll be doing.
Waistpacks, or fannypacks, are belted around the wearer’s waist and come in varying sizes and shapes. Depending on what you are carrying, these versatile packs can be used for shopping, traveling/sightseeing, fitness activities or a day at an amusement park.
Look for those that feature a separate pouch designed to carry a waterbottle – no matter how short the outing, you should always drink plenty of fluids.
Daypacks, sometimes called knapsacks, are the most commonly seen and used backpack. Worn on one’s back with two shoulder straps or simply carried by the top handle, these serve the widest range of activities, including as a book bag, for picnicking, day hikes, as an overnight bag, or as briefcase for work.
Important features to look for in a daypack include:
• a padded back and padded shoulder straps for added wearer comfort
• durable, weatherproof fabric
• thermoplastic buckles, zippers, etc. to avoid rust
• stormflaps over zippers to keep contents dry and the right size and number of pockets or compartments to suit your activity
• one-piece body construction so there are no major seams that could tear
Internal and External Frame Packs are much larger than daypacks and generally are used for more serious hiking and overnight camping, when you need to carry a large load including a sleeping bag, tent, cooking equipment, etc.
Some internal frame packs are designed to be used as luggage that can be worn on the back or carried by a handle.
These are very convenient for the traveler that is always on the go.
How to Enjoy Your Stride!
The Essentials – If hiking for even just one day, always take: food, water, maps or guides, a compass. A small first aid kit, a pocketknife, matches, toilet paper, a flashlight, sunglasses, sunscreen and appropriate clothing for all weather possibilities..
Don’t Litter! – Take a zipper locking plastic bag along to carry any wrappers, empty bottles or miscellaneous garbage to a waste receptacle.
Snack Break – It’s very important to keep you energy level up no matter how moderate the outing. Always take along water and food for recharging and drink plenty of fluids before and after. Ideas: apples, granola or trail mix.
Safety – If you choose not to use a trail and are walking where there are no sidewalks, always walk facing oncoming traffic, no matter what time of the day.
For Bookworms – If the scenery on your route doesn’t thrill you, try listening to music or a book that has been recorded on tape.
Lost and Found – Pay attention to your surroundings so you can retrace your steps if you get lost.
Wildlife Watchers – If you’re interested in seeing creatures in their natural habitat, you’ll increase your chances if you:
• wear clothing that blends in with the surroundings
• avoid wearing perfume or using flowery soaps or lotions
• remain quiet, so as not to frighten them away.