The Many Benefits of Hiking

Is It OK for Me to Go Hiking?

Though hiking is one of the lowest impact sports, check with your doctor before you hit the trails, especially if you're over 35, have been a couch potato for several years or have high blood pressure. Your physician can offer the best guidance on working up to a 12-hour trek to the bottom of the Grand Canyon, for example. In general, it's best to start with an easy walk and gradually increase the challenge.

More: 9 Florida Hikes for Beginners and Veterans

How Much Time Do I Have?

Hiking isn't just for weekends in the backcountry or your annual two-week road trip. You can sneak in a short 20-minute walk up that hill near your office several times a week. Experts say that being active for just two and a half hours a week can gain you a world of benefit. And if you participate in other activities, such as dancing, swimming or cycling, these all add up to your target of 150 minutes of exercise a week.

Keep a simple record of the amount of time you spend hiking. MapMyHike.com is a great place to track your workouts. You'll be amazed at how much incentive you have when you can watch your progress.

Do I Need Special Equipment?

Never leave your campsite, even for a short hike, without at least one bottle of water. Experts recommend at least 2 quarts of water for a hike lasting up to four hours, as you constantly lose moisture to perspiration. You should drink one-half to one cup of water every half hour, even if you don't feel thirsty. Upon your return, you should have finished both quarts of water and have a need to use the restroom. If you don't, then you lost all that water to sweating so you'll still need to re-hydrate.

Other things to bring include:

  • A comfortable pair of walking or hiking shoes
  • Moisture-absorbing socks
  • Appropriate attire (watch for possible weather changes)
  • A hat or visor
  • Sun block
  • A snack
  • Cell phone or GPS

While the idea of lugging a mobile phone with you while out communing with nature might make you grit your teeth, it doesn't hurt to throw it in your daypack...just in case.

More: Hiking Checklist: What to Pack for the Trail

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