Hiking Your Way to Better Health
AHS is so gung-ho on the health benefits of hiking that the
theme of this year's annual National Trails Day (June 1) is "Trails for
"The theme underscores the health benefits of hiking and
other outdoor recreational activities," said Mary Margaret Sloan, AHS
president, in announcing the campaign.
"Spending time outside, whether I'm hiking or climbing,
enables me to incorporate exercise into my life in a way I love," said
"Trails for Health" spokesman Erik Weihenmayer, the first blind
mountain climber to scale five of the world's seven tallest peaks, including
Mt. Everest, and who is set to climb the last two later this year.
Besides Weihenmayer's visual challenges, he also suffers from
seasonal allergies. If you do too, the thought of sniffing and sneezing your
way along a woodland trail might not sound too appealing. Allergies, however,
needn't keep you indoors, says Howland.
New developments in medications -- from once-a-day prescription
nasal sprays to eye drops to antihistamines such as Allegra or Claritin, which
don't cause drowsiness -- mean that most allergy sufferers can enjoy almost
1total relief from their symptoms with no side effects.
Howland advises those with allergies to stick to prescription
medications and avoid over-the-counter allergy remedies which often cause
drowsiness. "You don't want to be on a challenging trail and suddenly find
you're sleepy," he says.
So, it looks like there's pretty much no reason at all for you
not to walk out your front door ... and keep on going. "Hiking is an
enjoyable, non-competitive, aerobic exercise that you can do in the city or the
country, says Howland.
What's not to like about that?
The American Hiking Society offers these tips for safe
- Before you head out for your hike, make sure you look over a trail map and
bring it with you. Take a compass with you and tell a friend what your planned
route will be.
- Know the appropriate pace or activity level for you, based on your health
and fitness level.
- Bring along plenty of food and water to keep your energy level up and to
keep yourself well-hydrated. Apples, granola, or trail mix combine protein,
carbohydrates, and a bit of fat to keep your blood sugar levels stable. Drink
water before leaving on your hike and while you are walking -- even if you
don't feel thirsty.
- Dress for the weather. Take along a waterproof jacket and hat in case of
unexpected rain (or snow).
- Make sure you have properly fitted hiking boots. Choose a shoe that has
plenty of room for your toes and has a snug, comfortable heel. The shoe should
have solid support and good cushioning. This is especially true if you're going
to be hiking on uneven terrain.
- Pack a first-aid kit, pocketknife, matches, and flashlight.
- Protect your skin from sunburn with sun block. Use an SPF of 15 or
- UV-rated sunglasses protect your eyes from harmful UV rays.
- If you do suffer from seasonal allergy symptoms, don't forget your
prescription antihistamine. If you are allergic to insect stings, make sure you
carry your emergency kit with you.
- Wash your hair and clothes after spending time outdoors to get rid of the
pollen you may have picked up outdoors.