Is Hiking for You?
If you enjoy walking and spending time outdoors – both activities which support one’s physical and mental health – then hiking is the activity for you. Walking through natural spaces recreationally is considered hiking, regardless of the level of difficulty. More strenuous hikes that involve elevation gain can especially help you work on cardiac fitness and strengthen your leg muscles and bones. Hiking supports your physical health in other ways, such as decreasing the risks of respiratory problems and hypertension.
As mentioned in our previous blog post on forest bathing, spending time out in nature does wonders for your mental health. Spending time in and around trees, sitting, walking, and hiking, can lessen anxiety and depressive symptoms and reduce stress.
Hiking can also help promote community building. You can invite a friend or join a local hiking group. There are hiking groups around the country that are created just for women to create a safe space for a population that often cannot hike alone safely. Local environmental organizations and National Park Service sites can also offer guided hikes.
If you have mobility constraints, there are many options out there to provide accessible walking and hiking trails. Unfortunately, not all trails are created the same, so it is important to check in advance if a certain park or walkway has appropriate spaces for you. In San Antonio, many of its trails allow for hikers to choose different turns to make toward more or less challenging trails. There are signs available that signal if a particular trail is ADA accessible. You can find SA trail accessibility maps here.
Important Things to Know Before You Hike
- Pack a bag. It is very important that you bring extra water and snacks, particularly if you are going out on a long journey. Buy or make your own first aid kit. Include a flashlight and extra layers of clothes.
- Know your route. To avoid getting lost on a trail, there are often maps at the park entrance that you may look over. AllTrails is a free smartphone application that allows you to navigate your hike while on the trail.
- Especially if you are hiking alone, let others know where you’re going.
- Remember to always leave things better than you found them. Respect nature and make sure to throw away any trash appropriately.
- Enjoy yourself and remind yourself that everyone on the trail is experiencing their own journey! It is okay if some people are faster than others, and if some people are more or less experienced. What is most important is your own experience!
By Illana Issula
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