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Posts Tagged ‘Hiking Health’

Two children in hiking clothes next to a sign that says Alum Cave Trail. Trees are in the background.

The fall is a great time to get outdoors for a day hike. Day hiking is a low impact physical activity, and offers the countless health benefits of being outdoors. Being in nature, or even seeing scenes in nature, reduces anxiety, stress, improves moods and cognitive functioning. In addition to feeling better emotionally, nature contributes to physical health including reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones!

Getting Ready for a Day Hike

Hiking is a fairly, low-cost activity. Needed supplies for a half day or day hike include:

  • A comfortable pair of hiking boots or shoes
  • a backpack
  • water bottle
  • food or snacks
  • sunscreen, use even on a cloudy day to avoid burns
  • bug-spray

Dress in layers of clothing so you can add or remove as you get sweaty or take breaks. Non-cotton shirts that fit tight and wick up sweat should be the bottom layer. This will keep you dry and your temperature regulated. Changes in elevation may cause temperature changes as well.  Check the weather before you go out but be prepared for anything. Rain gear such as ponchos are inexpensive and light.

Food and Water

Nutrition is important to keep energy levels up. Consider the five major food groups when planning meals and snacks: fruits, vegetables, protein, grains, and dairy. A mixture of protein and carbohydrates before, during and after the hike will keep your blood glucose steady and will help you replenish energy stores at the end of the hike. Raisins and Peanuts (GORP) is the perfect snack as it blends protein and carbohydrate. Energy bars are also helpful but can be expensive. For hikes lasting for 2 hours or more think about food safety. Keep foods that you would normally refrigerate (meats, dairy, cooked grains, leftovers, cut fruits and vegetables) cool at 40 degrees or below in an insulated pack with ice.

Hydration is critical. Be sure to drink fluid (preferably water) on a regular bases even if you aren’t thirsty. As a general rule, bring about 2 cups of fluids for every hour of hiking, and drink about 4 cups prior to hiking to prevent cramping.

Other precautions

Be wary of poisonous plants such as poison ivy and ticks. Stay on the trail as much as possible to avoid both of these problems.  Consider wearing treated clothing or bug spray on clothes, especially under the waist to avoid ticks. Tick borne illnesses are becoming more common. If possible bring a map of the trail or use GPS. It’s always a good idea to bring a friend, especially if you are a beginner hiker.

For more in-depth information on hiking, sign up for OSU Extension’s three part webinar series: Hiking and Health at go.osu.edu/hikinghealth. The webinar series is created by Family and Consumer Sciences and Ag & Natural Resources specialists who have a passion for the great outdoors. This series will aim to provide education and insight into how to properly prepare to spend time in the woods. This series will cover a variety of topics related to hiking and health, such as:

  • Food safety on the trail
  • Proper hydration techniques
  • Tick prevention
  • Plant identification
  • Proper gear selection
  • And more!

When: Tuesday October 8th, 15th, and 22nd from 11:30am – 12:30pm!

Where: Zoom! Once you register at go.osu.edu/hikinghealth, you’ll be sent Zoom links to participate in each webinar.

Author: Dan Remley, PhD, Associate Professor and Field Specialist, Food, Nutrition and Wellness, OSU Extension

Reviewer:  Pat Brinkman, Associate Professor and Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator, OSU Extension

Sources:

University of Minnesota. 2016. How does Nature Impact our Wellbeing? https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/how-does-nature-impact-our-wellbeing

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2019. 5 Tips for Camping and Hiking. https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/how-does-nature-impact-our-wellbeing

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In the near future, your doctor may prescribe getting outside and embracing nature. Your doctor may suggest that you participate in green exercise, or they may write a nature prescription.

Green exercise includes any physical activity that takes place outdoors. Think about taking a walk in nature, exploring a park, or discovering a new forest area.

Michigan State University Extension has an interesting article about the benefits of green exercise. Some of these benefits may include:

  • boosting the immune system
  • lowering blood pressure
  • reducing stress
  • improving mood
  • increasing ability to focus, even in children with ADHD
  • accelerating recovery from surgery or illness
  • increasing energy level
  • improving sleep

According to research from the University of Washington, exposure to trees and other natural features provide positive changes to our emotional well-being, such as reducing stress, anxiety, and depression.

Driftwood

While visiting Whidbey Island, Washington, I enjoyed finding this artistic piece of driftwood and rocks. Someone left this “gift of nature” for anyone who came upon it to enjoy. If we take a moment to pause and reflect on the beauty of nature, we may find that our stress levels are reduced, our mind calms and we feel more positive.

I love being outdoors – it is good for me both physically and mentally. Spending time in nature helps me slow down the pace and embrace the beauty of nature.

Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you.” – Frank Lloyd Wright

Do you need a little more motivation to get started? Join Ohio State University Extension for their free October webinar series on Hiking and Health. Register by September 24th at go.osu.edu/HikingHealth . You will enjoy learning about topics such as food safety on the trail, proper gear selection, plant identification, tick prevention and proper hydration techniques.

Sources:

American Heart Association (2018). Spend Time in Nature to Reduce Stress and Anxiety. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/spend-time-in-nature-to-reduce-stress-and-anxiety.

Fogel, A. (2010). Green Exercise. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/body-sense/201009/green-exercise

Green Cities, Good Health. University of Washington. https://depts.washington.edu/hhwb/

BBC News (2018). ‘Nature’ being prescribed by GPs in Shetland. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-north-east-orkney-shetland-45758016

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Immerse Yourself in a Forest for Better Health. https://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/90720.html

Tiret, H. June, 2017. Green exercise can improve physical and mental health. Michigan State University Extension. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/green_exercise_can_improve_physical_and_mental_health

Written by: Michelle Treber, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Pickaway County, treber.1@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Franklin County, lobb.3@osu.edu

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