I just started my second hiking group as age 61 and although it’s not specifically for seniors, I’ve noticed the conversations on the trails changing over the years. On a recent hike at Whiskeytown Lake, Northern California, the chat was about grandchildren, travels and other challenges of retirement, early or anticipated. It’s true that many grandma’s today are hiking, not knitting and reaping all the benefits from it as well. While not for everyone, those that have discovered hiking swear by it’s benefits, not only health wise but also the ability it provides to get out and connect with others and make new friends along the way.
Healthfitnessrevolution.com lists hiking as a social activity in their Top 10 health Benefits of Hiking. The lists states that “Hikers always recommend using the buddy system. A regular weekend meet-up or a planned long-distance trek can help you forge bonds while you shape up. Plus, interaction with the larger hiking community encourages you to engage with your workout as a lifestyle, rather than a chore, which will make you more likely to stick with it for the long haul.”
According to active.com in a recent article on the many benefits of hiking, hiking is an aerobic exercise and can help improve:
- Cardiorespiratory fitness including heart, lungs and blood vessels
- Muscle strength
- Bone density (or slow its loss)
- Sleep quality
- Weight control. On average hiking burns up about 250 calories an hour—and people who lose weight through hiking or walking generally maintain that loss and continue to lose, while those who depend on diets tend to gain weight back.
Hiking can also help reduce your risk of certain illnesses such as heart disease and heart attacks, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and some cancers.
You do, however, need to be prepared before joining a hiking group and going on a hike. As livestrong.com discusses in the Benefits and Disadvantages of Hiking, “hiking can become a dangerous and miserable experience if you are not prepared for conditions. Consult a doctor to ensure you’re healthy enough to hike.”
We can’t all be like Grandma Gatewood as in Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail, but we can start out slowly. If you’re just beginning hiking or starting to think about it, begin by looking for a group that offers a variety of different hikes that vary in length and difficulty so you can slowly build up speed and stamina. One of the best ways to find a local hiking group or local hiking club is to join meetup.com where you can search for hiking or walking groups by your city or zip code. Happy hiking!