Most older adults are all about living their remaining years to the fullest. Proof of this is the fact that many of them are searching for essential hiking tips for seniors. But why?
You see, hiking is a fun, physically stimulating adventure. Hence, it’s no surprise that a lot of people are into it. It is a popular activity throughout the United States, with millions of people exploring various trails and thru-hike routes.
However, one common misconception that I want to dispel here is the idea that hiking is only for the young and vigorous. The thing is, hiking doesn’t have to involve dangerous terrains and challenging weather conditions. A short trail that has gradual ascents can already be considered a hike. Hence, this activity should also be suitable for seniors and older adults.
Here, I will discuss some of the benefits of hiking for seniors and what they should do to ensure that this outdoor trip is safe and worthwhile.
Table of Contents
- 1 Benefits Of Hiking For Seniors
- 2 Hiking Tips For Seniors
- 3 Have Fun And Enjoy Nature!
Benefits Of Hiking For Seniors
Hiking is a form of exercise. Therefore, it is not surprising that it yields numerous benefits to the mind and body of aging adults. Here are some of the specific perks that seniors can get by just becoming casual hikers.
- Enhanced cardiovascular health – This is because hiking involves walking on uneven terrain, which requires your heart rate to increase to maintain balance. As such, you will burn more calories than if you were sitting at home doing nothing. In addition, you’ll need to use muscles other than those used when seated or lying down. Thus, hiking helps improve blood circulation and oxygenation levels in the brain.
- Improved bone density – When you’re out there hiking, you’re constantly moving around. That means that you’re using different muscle groups from time to time. And since these areas don’t receive enough stimulation while being stationary, bones become weak. However, regular hikes help strengthen bones and prevent osteoporosis.
- Increased mental clarity – You may think that hiking isn’t really an intellectual pursuit. Well, it actually improves cognitive skills like memory retention and problem-solving abilities. These attributes make hiking great for senior citizens who often suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
- Improved muscle strength – Since hiking is a physical activity, it builds up stamina and endurance. So, even though you might feel tired after completing a long trek, you won’t experience any fatigue afterward. Moreover, hiking strengthens leg muscles and increases flexibility.
- Reduced risk of falls – If you’ve ever been hiking before, then you know how much effort it takes to keep yourself balanced. Because of this, you tend to walk slower and take shorter steps. But what happens if you suddenly lose your footing? Then you could fall over backward and injure yourself badly. Fortunately, hiking reduces the chances of falling due to its slow pace and steady inclines.
- Increased social interaction – While hiking, you meet new friends along the way. Some of them may share similar interests as yours. Others may simply enjoy spending their free time outdoors. Either way, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to interact socially.
Hiking Tips For Seniors
Consult Your Doctor
Before embarking on a hiking adventure with your loved ones, consult your doctor first so he/she can give you all the necessary medical clearance. It would be best if you ask him/her about any medications that you are currently taking. Also, let your physician know whether you have any existing injuries or illnesses. He/She will advise you accordingly. You should never ignore your doctor’s recommendation; otherwise, you’ll experience difficulties or problems before or during the hike.
Prepare Yourself Properly
When preparing for a hike, ensure that you bring everything needed. Make sure that you pack comfortable clothes and sturdy shoes. Bring water bottles filled with fresh drinking water. Don’t forget to carry snacks and energy bars too. Lastly, wear sunscreen lotion and insect repellent spray. The last thing you want is to get sunburned or bitten by insects while enjoying nature.
Of course, part of the preparation is honing your body. You don’t go on a hike without any form of training. Weeks or days before the hike, make sure that you start jogging or walking. These exercises can build your endurance. You can also do other routines as long as they are permitted by your physician.
Pick A Trail That You Are Comfortable With
If you’re not familiar with trails in general, then you need to learn more about different types of hikes. There are short walks, moderate treks, strenuous climbs, and challenging ascents. Each trail has its own set of rules and regulations. Therefore, choose one that suits your fitness level. This means that you shouldn’t attempt something that requires high levels of exertion unless you are physically prepared for such activities.
You should always pay attention to your body. You have to admit that it has been past its prime. It’s time that you settle for simpler and safer hikes. Don’t worry, though. There are still lots of beautiful scenery that you can witness and experience without the need to tax your body.
Be Updated On The Weather Forecasts
The weather plays an important role when planning a hike. In fact, there are times where bad weather conditions can turn into dangerous situations. So, it pays off to stay updated regarding the current condition of the sky. Check out local news stations online or talk to people who live nearby. They might provide some useful information. If you want to get the most out of your trip, you have to make sure that the weather is fine and sunny.
While there’s nothing wrong with hiking on rainy days, it might pose extra difficulties to you. Always remember that you are already old; slippery terrain should be excluded from your list of preferences. Moreover, you can’t just ignore the hazards that low temperatures can bring to your body. The level of danger that hypothermia possesses is similar to both senior and young hikers. So be careful!
Choose The Correct Clothing Layers
It goes without saying that choosing the right clothing layers is essential. When hiking, you must consider wearing multiple layers of clothing. First, you need to put on a jacket. Then, add another layer underneath, which consists of a shirt and pants. Finally, finish up with socks and gloves. Your feet will thank you later because this way, you won’t feel cold at all.
But of course, you have to check the weather first. It will help you identify the layers that you should wear. During summer and sunny days, you don’t need to wear anything extra. You can settle with your hiking pair and shorts, including your sun protection items such as caps, sunglasses, and lotions.
In winter, you will need to wear a base layer, mid-layer, and outer shell. You may also want to wear your winter boots and pants.
Inform A Trusted Person Where You Are Heading
It would be best if you let someone know where you plan to go. This person could be either family members or friends. However, do keep in mind that they cannot accompany you every step of the way. Make sure that you tell them what kind of route you intend to take so that they can prepare accordingly. Also, inform them of any medical issues that you might encounter along the way.
Informing someone about your trip isn’t just a gesture of formality. Instead, it is a way of protecting your life and ensuring your survival. For instance, if you don’t return on the expected date you said, they can call authorities for rescue. The same thing if there’s a weather disturbance that suddenly took place in your destination.
Be In A Group
Seniors should hike in a group. Hikers usually enjoy being part of a team. Besides, having companionship makes things easier, especially when you’re tired. Plus, you’ll always find somebody willing to lend their hand whenever needed. But of course, you have no control over other people. So, try not to rely too much on others. Be independent and self-reliant.
Always Hydrate Yourself
When hiking, seniors should never forget to hydrate themselves. Hikers usually carry water bottles while trekking, but sometimes these things run dry. To avoid dehydration, drink plenty of fluids before starting your journey. Remember not to overdo it since drinking too much water can cause complications as well. Since you are already old, your hydrations may have changed already. You can consult your doctor about this matter.
If you’re going to walk long distances, then you’ll definitely require more than one bottle. But even if you only walk short distances, you shouldn’t neglect to replenish your supply. You should assess the quantity of water that you need in your hike. If there are water sources available in your destination, you should bring water filters or purifiers.
Use Hiking Poles
It’s alright if you admit that your legs are no longer as stable and sturdy as they used to be. Now that you are old, you might want to use poles for support purposes. This is because walking with poles will help prevent injuries from occurring. It also helps keep balance during difficult terrain. However, make sure that you don’t go overboard using them. Just like any other equipment, you must know how to properly utilize them. Otherwise, you could end up hurting yourself instead of helping yourself.
Have Fun And Enjoy Nature!
There’s no doubt that hiking is fun. However, this doesn’t mean that you cannot enjoy yourself at the same time. Hikes offer great opportunities to bond with family members and friends.
Plus, these trips allow you to spend quality time together. When you plan a hike, try to include everyone in the group. Your kids may love climbing trees and jumping over rocks. At the same time, your spouse could prefer going through scenic paths. As much as possible, let them decide what kind of activity will suit their interests best.
It goes without saying that you must take care of your health. But if you really want to enjoy every moment of your hike, you have to keep up with your diet. Try eating healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans, etc. Avoid junk food because it contains unhealthy ingredients.