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What to Know About Hiking After 60

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on November 01, 2021

Hiking can be a great form of exercise as you get older. It helps you maintain your health, enjoy nature, see some great scenery, and enjoy some sunshine.

If you’re worried about being “too old” to hike, don’t. Many people enjoy hiking well into their 60s, 70s, and even 80s. You don’t have to take the steepest, most challenging path. A simple stroll around your neighborhood can be a great way to enjoy a hike.

Helpful Tips for Hiking After 60

Before you head out on a hike, it’s important to plan ahead. Here are a few important tips to keep in mind.

Check with your doctor. Preparing for a hike? When you’re doing any physical activity that’s not normal for you, always check with your doctor first to make sure you are cleared for exercise.

Take it slow. After your doctor clears you to take a hike, make sure to take it slow. If you haven’t walked a lot recently, start going for daily strolls. Make each walk a little longer every day leading up to your hike. Stretch your body before embarking on your journey. Start walking on smaller trails and eventually work your way up to something longer.

Choose the right trail. Choose a trail that feels right for you. Never feel pressured to exert yourself and go beyond your comfort level. You don’t need to try to keep up with your friends. If you’re planning on hiking with someone else, do some research first and choose a trail that is comfortable for both of you. Never feel bad about taking breaks. Listen to your body.

Check the weather. There’s nothing worse than getting caught in a rainstorm while you’re in the middle of a hike. Always check the weather before you depart to avoid any unexpected challenges. Make sure to bring everything you need for the day. If the weather is less than ideal, don’t be afraid to cancel your trip. Your safety always comes first.

Tell someone where you’re going. If you’re hiking alone, this is really important to do. It’s always a good idea to tell a family member or a friend where you’ve parked your car and what trail you’re going on. Be as specific as possible. Include your estimated start and end times. Be sure to include the number and contact info for your hiking partners as well.

Wear the right clothing. Plan ahead by packing all the supplies you’ll need. These are things such as a hat, raincoat, and sunglasses. You should also bring sunscreen and bug spray. Dressing in layers is also a good idea. When you’re hiking uphill, your body will likely heat up. When you’re going downhill or taking a break, you will likely cool off.

Hiking boots are important. Experts recommend purchasing ones that are about a half size bigger than your normal shoes. This keeps your toes from jamming into the boot's toe when you’re going downhill.

Use hiking poles or a walking stick. These can improve your balance and help you when you’re hiking on uneven ground. Even if you think the trail will be mostly flat, having these around won’t hurt. Most are easy to carry and very lightweight.

Carry an emergency pack. You should always be prepared in case of an emergency, even on a short hike. Pack an emergency kit with first aid supplies. If you take medications, bring some extra in case you’ll be outside longer than planned. Pack extra food, and a lighter or waterproof matches so you can make a fire. Remember that your phone may not have service during your hike. An emergency locator beacon can save your life if you get sick or hurt on the trail.

Drink plenty of water. Make sure you pack more than enough water. Hydration is key for any level of exercise, especially a hike. You don’t want to be dehydrated in the middle of the trail.

Hike in a group. Going on hikes alone is great, but hiking in a group can be safer. It also fosters camaraderie. There’s nothing that can beat the feeling when you and your friends reach your destination.

Benefits of Hiking After 60

There are several benefits of getting physical exercise. If you are over 60, hiking and other forms of physical activity can help you:

  • Reduce the risk of falling and fracturing bones
  • Lessen the chance that you’ll develop coronary heart disease, develop colon cancer, high blood pressure, or diabetes
  • Reduce blood pressure in some older adults with hypertension
  • Treat disabling or lasting conditions by improving your muscle strength and stamina
  • Maintain healthy muscles, bones, and joints
  • Control joint swelling and pain associated with arthritis
  • Reduce depression and anxiety, improving your feelings of well-being and mood
  • Maintain healthy bones, muscles, and joints

How to Manage Emergencies While Hiking

Emergencies happen. If you or someone you’re with becomes injured or lost while hiking, follow these safety tips.

If someone is lost. If you’re with a group and notice someone is lost, call 911 and follow their instructions. They’ll likely ask you about the last known location of the hiker, what clothing they were wearing, and what supplies they had with them.

If you don’t have a cell phone or a cell signal, get the attention of other people in the area. Ask them to alert a park ranger or visitor center. It can be a scary time, but the best thing you can do is to stay calm and stick with a buddy while you help look for the missing hiker.

If someone is injured. If you or someone you’re hiking with becomes injured, stop and take a look at how severe the injury is. If you need immediate medical attention, call 911 and follow the operator’s instructions.

Always bring a first aid kit with you so you can clean and treat minor injuries like scrapes. If the injury is more severe, the first thing you should do is try to control the bleeding by applying pressure on the wound. Check to make sure that the person with you is breathing and try not to move them.

If you or anyone you know is ever in need of help, never be afraid to ask. Park rangers, visitor centers, and emergency personnel are there to help you. 

Show Sources

SOURCES:

CDC: "Physical Activity and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General."

National Park Service: "Benefits of Hiking," “Emergency Planning."

Washington Trails Association: "Hike for a Lifetime."

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