Are hiking trails the answer to dialing back our stress by “taking it outside” more often? With a quarter of Americans spending nearly the entire day indoors, as reported by The Washington Times, we owe it to ourselves to actually start living outside the box, rather than sharing another motivational video about it.
Spending time outdoors in nature can relieve stress and mental fatigue, improve short-term memory, reduce inflammation, and improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. Even simple treks through local green spaces, county recreation areas, or nearby state parks can dispense a good dose of healing nature.
With any fitness activity, preparation is the key to happy trails. The American Hiking Society is a great resource, offering tips like these:
- Invest in a good pair of trail shoes or hiking boots.
- Begin with long walks in your neighborhood, walking every other day so your muscles can rest up. As your stride becomes stronger, go further and walk every day.
- Walk in varied weather conditions and along different types of terrain—mud, rocks, gravel, grass, or sand.
- Snack as you walk to teach your body how to digest food while you’re in motion.
- Get comfortable carrying a full backpack while walking.
When you’re ready for your first hike, fill your backpack with high-energy foods like nuts, dried fruit, and protein bars and a reusable canteen for water. Other handy items include a hat, insect repellant, map, compass, extra food and water, a knife or multi-tool, sunscreen and sunglasses, a trash bag, rain gear, and extra clothing. Be sure to dress in moisture-wicking layers, so you can easily adapt to changing weather and activity levels. Safety items should include a hiker-specific first aid kit, whistle, flashlight, and tools to safely start a fire. For overnight hiking adventures, be ready to accommodate safety and comfort items such as a sleeping bag and pad, tarp, tent, and backpacking stove.
While proper training helps to minimize injuries and muscle pain, NeoRelief for Muscle Cramping and Restlessness is a gentle topical pain relief gel that provides soothing relief for muscle cramps, muscle restlessness, and muscle twitching.
Know the path
Do a bit of research in advance to select a trail that suits your fitness level and exploration interests.
- Introductory trails have no obstacles and low grades.
- Intermediate trails may include 10% grades, small rocks and roots, and some easy scrambling.
- Difficult trails have 15% grades, large obstacles, or possible scrambling and climbing.
- Extremely difficult trails have 20% grade, 15+” obstacles, or many harder sections.
Additionally, find out if ticks, poisonous snakes, or bears have been reported in the area and learn best ways to avoid issues with them. After you’ve mapped out your hiking route, share your itinerary with friends or family members who are not hiking with you, and keep in mind, you should never hike wilderness areas alone.
Once you’re on the trail, stay alert for obstacles, stay hydrated, and maintain a healthy posture and pace. Life is a journey with so much to explore. You may get your next big idea or next favorite moment on the hiking trails … all while getting that big breath of fresh air.
Best hiking trails in the U.S.
Here’s a list of the top hiking trails in the US, according to Yelp:
- Yosemite National Park, California
- Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, California
- Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
- Zion National Park, Utah
- Multnomah Falls, Oregon
- Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
- Glacier National Park, Montana
- Acadia National Park, Maine
- Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
- Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Nevada