Ever since walking in the woods as a girl scout, hiking has been one of my favorite fitness activities.
You don't need a 50 lb pack or mountain trails to participate in this sport. I love this definition from one of my 8th graders:
"Hiking is taking a long walk because you want to."
This week, my students and I traded our textbooks for tennis shoes and headed to Washington DC's Rock Creek Park for a day of trail blazing.
5 Reasons to Take a Hike
- You will get a total-body workout: Scrambling over uneven terrain and ducking under branches works your legs, knees, ankles, hips, abs, arms, and shoulders while giving you a cardio workout. That beats the treadmill any day!
- It's a great group activity: Gather your girlfriends or take a family outing to the woods. Set a pace that fits your group's fitness level. Entertain kids (and adults!) with trail games, like a scavenger hunt to find something in nature of each color of the rainbow.
- Spending time outside is good for you: As I explain in Fitness: 3 Reasons to Exercise Outside and Mental Health Month Fitness: 5 Exercise Ideas to Reduce Stress, simply being outdoors is a great stress buster.
- Explore a new place: Some of our nation's most impressive and breathtaking sights are best appreciated on foot, like the pristine California Redwoods and Arizona's majestic Grand Canyon. Wherever you travel, walk around to discover the landscape as well as the city sights.
- Hiking is free: While some popular parks may charge an entrance fee, many trails are gratis and you never have to pay to walk around your neighborhood. Skip expensive gear for day hikes and stick to your must-haves: comfortable shoes and a water bottle.
A day in the woods had my group smiling and--gasp--learning. Although nature provides a sense of "getting away from it all," trails are busy with activity. Our observation skills were tested as we tried to identify the sounds we heard and observe the life around us. Birds, chipmunks, snakes, and bugs fascinated my urban students.
Hiking sounds fun! ¿Where should I go?
National Parks are a great resource to experience the country's natural beauty on well-maintained trails, yet only 9% of park visitors are Latino, according to the American Latino Heritage Fund. To ensure these beautiful places are conserved for future generations, we must appreciate and support them. Click here to find a national park near you or here to plan an active summer vacation that includes discovering Latino heritage areas and historic landmarks.
¿No trails close enough for your day trip? No problem. An urban hike around your city provides the same great mind and body benefits.
Hiking Safety Tips
- Stay hydrated and always carry water.
- Never hike alone in the wilderness and let someone know where you will be trekking.
- Be able to recognize poisonous plants like poison ivy and poison oak and never eat anything you cannot clearly identify.
- Wear insect repellent in the woods and check for ticks that can transmit Lyme disease at the end of your walk.
Hiking is a fun activity that offers something for everyone: my students who discovered new things. So did I although I hike for the workout and time spent in nature.
The next time someone tells you to take a hike, thank them for the mental and physical health rewards you'll reap.
¿Need workout inspiration? Click here to read more of my fitness suggestions.
A teacher by day, The Wise Latina Club’s Natalie Wagner Fierro is the co-founder of the Institute for Student Health. She equally loves food (cooking or dining in Washington’s restaurants) and burning calories by distance running, practicing yoga, and archery. Click here to read more about and connect with Natalie.
What do you love about hiking?