Step Out and Hit the Trail

By on June 1, 2011

By Alice Burton –

Want all the ease and enjoyment walking has to offer, plus a boost of fitness benefits, a change of scenery, and maybe even a little adventure? If so, then head out for a hike! A longer weekend hike can burn more calories than walking alone, and can provide a fresh setting, new challenge, and welcome change from your regular exercise routine.

Chances are there’s a nature preserve or trail system close to you, but if you’re not sure where to hike, talk with outdoor or running store staff for suggestions. You might want to find a trail that has a destination with a payoff, such as summit, lookout point, waterfall, or bird refuge.

Wherever you go, here are a few suggestions that will help keep a hike enjoyable, and leave you excited to do it again and again.

• Gear up with the right shoes. Your feet will need a little more support for the rugged terrain, so visit an outdoor store that sells footgear near you and get a professional to measure your feet. Go with the size of the larger foot and purchase a shoe that’s suitable for the type of trail you’re intending to hike the most. Don’t expect hiking shoes to “break in” and feel better after a few wears—if they don’t feel great at the store, they won’t feel great on the trail. A soft insert is also worth the price if you plan on hiking more than a couple of times a week, or for more than one hour at a time.

• Bring water and snacks. Drink water often, up to every 15 minutes if it’s hot, and snack midway to keep your energy up if you’re on a hike for an hour or more. Hydration backpacks have become popular for hikers, and can provide extra storage for keys, and other items, such as the ones below. They can get a little hot and heavy, though, so find a pack that fits comfortably while holding just enough water.

• Other gear worth bringing. Each hike will have its picture moment, so be ready with the camera (and make sure your batteries are charged)! Small binoculars often come in handy, too. Strap on your pedometer so you can measure your steps so you can then convert steps into miles—a general estimate is that about 2,000 steps equals a mile. To estimate how many calories you burned for each mile walked use this formula (although keep in mind that varied terrain will increase your total burned calories, as will walking poles):

Calories per mile = Miles Walked X (Body Weight (lbs) / 2)

• Consider using Nordic Poles (also called walking or hiking poles). Hikers often find poles useful to maintain balance when crossing rugged terrain while also easing the pounding on knees and ankles when hiking downhill. Even though poles increase overall calories burned, research shows that the rate of perceived exertion (how hard it feels) doesn’t increase. Poles share the load with your arms, which helps to propel you along. Talk to outdoor store staff to find the right size and type of pole you need for the typical terrain you’re expecting to hike on.

For the longer hikes of an hour or more, bring along some band-aids just in case, and extra sunscreen. A hat can also be welcome on hot days as long as it’s made of ventilated fabric. They real key, or course, is to have fun and enjoy the experience. Keep it simple at first, but don’t hesitate to go for longer and more challenging hikes. Now go hit the trail!

Alice Burron earned a master’s in physical education with an emphasis in exercise physiology from the University of Wyoming. She is an affiliate spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and is an ACE certified personal trainer and certified Lifestyle and Weight Management Consultant. Her first book, Four Weeks to Fabulous, is aimed at helping the busy person lose weight using sound nutrition, weight control and exercise principles that are proven successful. Visit her on her website at http://www.2bfit.net/.

About Alice Burron

Alice Burron, one of the co-authors of the “Stress As Trigger, Your Body As Target” book, is a life-long student of health and wellness. Her experience includes worksite wellness, wellness coaching, personal training, writing, speaking and community wellness initiatives. She can be contacted at [email protected] The book can be purchased at www.soapstonefitness.com.

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Step Out and Hit the Trail