Crisp air and crunching leaves signal autumn's arrival. Weekday walks and weekend hikes to enjoy the changing foliage in the hills and mountains can be a welcomed change of pace to an individual's wellness plan during this season.
Some beginner hiking tips from Health magazine:
Be ready for a workout.
Anytime you change activities, your body gets stressed in a new and different way; even if you do regular cardio workouts on flat ground, walking and climbing on uneven terrain will make for quite a different exercise experience and can work various muscle groups that you're not used to. Any type of incline will really intensify the aerobic workout and will burn significantly more calories.
Prepare with yoga, cardio, and strength training.
The uneven surfaces and varying terrain you'll experience on trails bring all kinds of challenges and rewards, including helping the body with balance, strength, and flexibility. Squats and other lower body strengthening can help you fortify the supportive muscles and tendons that surround your knees, ankles, and other joints, and can reduce your chances of muscle soreness afterward. Yoga and stretching are also great ways to practice for this type of exercise. Step aerobics or the stair-climber can replicate a lot of hiking moves and get you geared up for a long weekend walk
Carry a water bottle and sip frequently, and eat small, protein-rich snacks-such as nuts, yogurt, and fruit-along the way. Always check the weather before going out on a long hike, and be aware if you're in the mountains or other areas where weather may change suddenly. Finally, invest in a good pair of hiking boots (they'll offer better protection from the elements and from rugged, ankle-twisting terrain than regular sneakers), and break them in ahead of time, starting with short jaunts.
Try finding a local hiking group or class, perhaps associated with the American Hiking Society or the Appalachian Mountain Club. Going out with friends can be safer, more fun, and more educational, and you're more likely to stick with it.
Not ready to scale boulders or climb a mountain? Don't push it: Any type of walking at a brisk rate-aim for a 15-minute mile-has aerobic and health benefits. Start there, and work your way up to hills or trail walking. It's more important to do something you'll enjoy, whether it's an uphill battle in the woods or just a walk in the park.
Want some ideas of places to hike? Check out Lancaster-York Heritage Region's website at http://www.lyhr.org and the "Natural Wonders" tab. Plenty of how to's and hiking information can be found on the American Hiking Society's website at www.americanhiking.org.
Cindi Dinger, on behalf of the Wellness Committee