As an older adult, hitting the gym might not seem like the most attractive way to get regular exercise.
Lucky for you, outdoor hiking is quite possibly one of the best low-impact fitness activities for seniors, and Ireland is ripe with walking tours and hiking trails that will take your breath away.
Health benefits of hiking include:
- Better Mood: Walking outdoors has been shown in multiple studies to help reduce negative brooding as well as boost feelings of happiness and focus. The sunlight, sounds of nature, and fresh air are all great stress-relievers
- Stronger Muscles and Bones: Moderate-intensity hiking generates a quality aerobic workout that gets the heart rate up, stretches and works muscles, and helps build bone density.
- Pain Relief: Hiking outdoor trails is much easier on the joints than some other exercises and sports, which is great news for arthritis sufferers. The boost in blood circulation from constantly moving also helps loosen stiff joints and relieve muscle inflammation.
- Healthy Sun Exposure: Healthy doses of sunlight while hiking with proper sun protection (hats, layers, sunblock) are welcomed by your body which converts UV rays into Vitamin D to power healthy bones and a healthy immune system.
- Improved Coordination: The hand-eye coordination, balance, and flexibility hiking requires for traversing rocky and bumpy forest paths can help older adults lower their risk of falling.
- Greater Overall Health: Managing a healthy weight and reducing risk for heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and even cognitive decline are all possible with routine exercise like hiking.
How to Enhance Your Hiking Hobby
Looking to get even more out of your hiking habit? Check out these fun and creative ways to take it up a notch:
- Use walking sticks – if back pain or joint inflammation makes even hiking difficult, invest in supportive walking sticks that can help you maintain good posture and balance.
- Add more weight to your pack – for a 160 lb person, hiking for an hour may burn over 400 calories. Want to make an even bigger impact? Add 5 to 10 lbs of weight to your hiking pack and you could burn even more calories and boost muscle tone.
- Go with a group – the social component of hiking can be just as beneficial as any other health effect. Engaging and conversing with others while staying active has been shown to help decrease risk of developing dementia down the line.
- Try a new trail – perhaps you’ve covered all the ground in the region closest to you, but what about taking a trip to try a new set of walking tours and hiking paths? Turning a quick trip to the coast into a hiking holiday could be your ticket to happiness.
- Turn it into art – have your hand at some scenic photography by scouting at great angles and snapping shots (with your camera or smartphone) which you can turn into prints or simply post on social media.
- Volunteer to clean-up – check with your local park services or environmental organizations to see if they are coordinating any trail clearings or clean-ups where you can donate your time and energy to pitch in.
- Go camping – if your go-to hiking process is to hike up, back down, and go back home, you might be due for a change of scenery. Snag a great campsite by showing up to reserve it early, set up your tent, and then plan for day hikes and stargazing.
If retirement has helped you embrace a love of the outdoors, than hiking is a must-try activity for you. Nature plus physical fitness plus time with friends and loved ones makes hiking one exercise that doesn’t even seem like work!
Jessica Hegg is the content manager at ViveHealth.com. Interested in all things related to living a healthy lifestyle she works to share valuable information, fresh resources, and helpful products like these aimed at overcoming obstacles and improving the quality of life for others.
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