If warm weather is tempting you, give in and go for a hike. A walk in the woods is good for your body, mind, and soul.
Before you hit the trails, you have some work to do.
Get a Buddy. Not only are friends good company, but they can also be lifesavers if you are injured or lost.
Honestly evaluate your fitness. Determining how much stress your body can take is key to having an enjoyable and safe walk.
Research routes. Read websites and guidebooks; talk to people at the store where you bought your equipment; reach out to hiking organizations or scan their social media; and contact the park ranger where you plan to hike to get details about the distance, slope, difficulty, and hazards of your trail.
Buy appropriate gear. Depending on the terrain, you may need boots or lightweight shoes. Choose moisture-wicking material, like polyester, to keep you dry. Wear long sleeves and pants if hiking in areas filled with ticks and poisonous plants.
Once you have decided where to go with your hiking buddy, you have to pack. Most day hikers carry the Ten Essentials: navigation, sun protection, first aid, knife, food, water, clothes, headlamp, fire starter, and shelter. You only need the first seven on the list for a walk that takes a few hours.
Experts estimate that people drink a quart of water every two hours in moderate temperatures. Hiking in high temperatures requires more. Plus, your body craves lots of fluids, so pay attention to it. If you can’t carry enough water to prevent dehydration, take a route with access to drinkable water or bring a water filtration system.
Bring nonperishable foods that pack a lot of energy, like nuts, dried fruit, and energy bars.
Don’t forget to reapply sunscreen throughout the hike. Generally, it lasts two hours, but sweat wears it away, so it needs to be smoothed on sooner than that.
With some preparation, a hike is a boon for your heart and mind.
Click here to learn how to hike with kids properly.