As a senior, you might be wondering, is hiking good for seniors? I love to go hiking myself. I meet a lot of seniors enjoying beautiful nature along different hiking trails. It made me curious about if hiking is good for seniors, so I researched this question for you and found some interesting information.
In general, hiking is a good activity for seniors. Going for a hike helps to reach the minimum physical activity requirements for older adults. Hiking is related to lower stress levels in the body because it takes place in natural environments. But seniors need to be aware of the difficulty levels when choosing a hiking trail. They should choose a trail that meets their current level of fitness.
In this article, I’ll explain why hiking is good for seniors in detail. So, you’ll learn more about the benefits of hiking. Also, I’ll guide you with a list of tips on how you can prepare for hiking as a senior in the best way possible. Ready for a hike? Let’s dig in!
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Why Hiking For Seniors Is Recommended
Hiking is a relatively easy and low-impact activity that seniors can do. The level of difficulty varies depending on the trail you’ll follow. The fact that hiking is a low-impact activity makes it perfect for seniors.
The US Central For Disease and Control (CDC) recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of physical activity and two times muscle strengthening training for seniors weekly regarding healthy aging. One of their examples of activities is hiking or brisk walking for seniors. To meet these minimum recommendations, you only have to go for a short hike of 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week! However, hiking for longer periods and more often is even more beneficial.
According to the CDC, regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for healthy aging. When you’re in moderate or average physical condition, they even recommend focusing on multicomponent physical activity for more significant benefits. Meaning combining both cardio and muscle-strengthening workouts at once. It’s recommended to check with your doctor or a professional to figure out what level of training is recommended for you. However, hiking is the perfect activity that combines both cardiovascular and muscle-strengthening activities.
Benefits Of Hiking For Seniors
The benefits of hiking include much more than only working on your physical fitness. In general, hiking includes all the essential benefits for seniors when it comes to staying active. When you regularly go on a hike, you work both on your physical and mental activity. You’ll also be socially active because you’ll hike in a group or with a friend most of the time.
Let me explain these different benefits of hiking for seniors more in detail and backed up by science.
Physical Benefits of Hiking For Seniors
Earlier in this article, I mentioned the importance of physical activity for healthy aging. According to the CDC, it’s even one of the most important things you can do for healthy aging. But what are actually the benefits of physical activity for seniors, and more importantly, how will hiking help you achieve these benefits? I’m not a physician or doctor, but I’m interested in these benefits, just like many others. I researched this subject for hours and noticed that sometimes it’s difficult to understand. So, I’ll try to explain it most easy to understand. Here’s what you can expect for the physical benefits of hiking for seniors.
Hiking Lowers The Risk Of Heart Disease
Because hiking is a low-impact cardio workout, you’ll get many benefits and have a low chance of injuries. It’s important to work on your cardiovascular health. Workouts that focus on cardiovascular health help to lower blood pressure, which is related to healthier heart conditions. However, to really lower the risk of heart disease, you need to take much more elements into account. It’s important to talk to your doctor if you want to learn more about this.
Hiking Strengthen Your Muscles
When we age, our strength is declining. But with hiking, you can easily train important muscles. You’ll strengthen your legs, improve your core stability and balance with hiking. Which eventually helps you to move easier and improve your chances of healthy aging.
Hiking Is Good For Your Bones & Joints
Many people refer to hiking as a weight-bearing exercise that improves bone density or reduces osteoporosis (they both mean the same). This is important simply because a weight-bearing exercise like hiking strengthens your bones and muscles around it.
When we age, our bones and muscles lose their strength. Also, the chances we fall increase, and so will the chances of a bone fracture. However, when we regularly exercise, we can reduce these accidents simply because we help our bodies stay stronger.
Not only your bones and muscles will benefit when you’re actively hiking. As a senior, it’s important to focus on keeping your body healthy. Many seniors have issues with their joints. Hiking is an activity that helps your joints to be both flexible and strong. This way you can easily enjoy and fulfill your everyday activities without having knee pain for example.
So, having a fit and strong body overall helps with fighting common issues that come with age, like arthritis, issues with your joints, knee pain, and so on. If you feel you have any issues at the time of reading this, I recommend you to visit a professional doctor. This article is no medical advice, but for informational purposes only.
Mentally & Social Benefits Of Hiking For Seniors
Hiking helps you to slow down. It improves your mental health simply because it lowers your stress levels. There’s actually nothing stress-related when it comes to hiking (ok, maybe when you forgot your hiking shoes, but that won’t happen that much, right? And by the way, walking barefoot is also related to many health benefits. But more on that later).
Hiking For Seniors Can Decrease Depression
Earlier I explained that physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for healthy aging. However, staying mentally and socially active is equally important. According to this article on Harvard Health Publishing, you must train your brain just like you train your muscles to keep it healthy. To train your brain effectively, you must get out of your comfort zone.
With hiking, you both work on staying mentally and socially active. You must prepare for your hiking trail to know what to expect regarding terrain, difficulty level, weather conditions, etc., making it a challenging activity for your brain. But more important being active with mentally challenging activities like hiking can help to fight depression.
Many seniors and older adults struggle with depression later in life. There are tons of reasons why someone can be depressed. And if you have any depressed feelings it’s important to talk to your doctor about this. However, the fact that hiking takes place outside, away from urban areas but in nature helps to let go of negative feelings and fight depression. Being outside in nature is related to many health benefits.
It’s always recommended to go on a hike with someone else or in a group. Especially when you are out in nature away from urban areas. Hiking together with others makes it a social activity. If you want to start hiking regularly, finding a hiking buddy outside your regular social circle might be a good idea. Harvard Health Publishing mentions that seniors with a large network of social interactions outside their standard contacts of friends and family are often more active. Probably because you really need to go outside to get in touch.
The fact that staying active benefits your health and healthy aging is fascinating! I’m especially mindblown by the lifestyle of people living in the blue zones. Areas in the world where people get much older than average, in a healthy way! One of the things they have in common is that seniors stay active until a very high age. I share more interesting tips and tricks to stay active as a senior in my article How Can I Stay Active In Retirement?
Hiking in a group helps to fight loneliness, something many seniors have trouble with. Seniors struggle with isolation because they don’t come outside that often and for many their social circle decreases while aging. Being part of a hiking group can help to fight these issues and also help with making new friends.
It’s great to go on treks, which are often longer hikes of multiple days with friends of your hiking group. A friend of mine who is actively hiking and running with a group told me the other day that her hiking buddies really helped her when she’s was struggling with some family issues. They helped her talk about her feelings and with being together with others in nature she discovered she wasn’t alone.
Difference between Hiking and Brisk Walking
A clear understanding of what ‘hiking’ actually means because many people refer to it differently.
In general, when we talk about hiking, we mean following walking trails in nature. For example, this can be in natural parks, larger city parks, or alongside the coast. Of course, depending on what your location is. Brisk walking is a walking exercise at a higher speed, around 100 steps a minute, and in an urban environment.
Hiking is typically an activity that’s taking place in nature. However, brisk walking is an activity that’s similar to hiking but often takes place in a more urban environment. Also, when we talk about brisk walking, instead of walking, we refer to the walking speed that applies, or in other words the hiking pace. Brisk walking means walking faster, typically around 3mph or 100 steps a minute for a healthy adult. The hiking pace can be as fast as you prefer. Some people like to have a higher pace when they go for a hike. The pace you hike also depends on your hiking group, the hiking trail, and your physical condition
When you go for a brisk walk, you don’t need specific gear. You can just start by going outside, maybe put on your shoes first, and start with a brisk walk for like half an hour in your neighborhood. However, when you start hiking, it’s essential you get the right equipment, hiking gear and prepare in the right way.
How To Prepare For Hiking As A Senior
So, it’s essential to prepare for hiking because it’s an activity that often takes place in nature where not many people are coming. You need to know what to expect before you go on a hike.
When you start preparing for a hike, you must answer questions like;
- How long is the trail you’ll follow?
- What is the difficulty level of the trail?
- What are the weather predictions?
- Do you have cellphone coverage?
These questions are the most important to answer when preparing for a hike. When you know this essential information, you can start creating a packing list before your hike begins.
You must never go alone for a hike for safety reasons when hiking in a quiet or abandoned nature park. In case you need help, it’s always good to be with a hiking buddy. Also, it’s recommended to let other people know where you’re going. Especially when you can’t get a cellular signal. This way, other people can warn the authorities when you’re not coming back in time. It may sound serious, which it is, but these safety reasons are just precautions.
Hiking, in general, is a very safe and easy activity to do. Still, taking these precautions makes it even more, safer for everyone.
Essential Hiking Gear For Seniors
Some hiking gear belongs to the basic kit for every hiker. Let me share the essential hiking gear and equipment for seniors.
Is this obvious? Maybe, but some people don’t realize that it’s important to have a perfect-fitting hiking shoe. Not only to avoid blisters. Also for damping (for ankles and knees), grip, and weather protection.
So, when looking for a hiking shoe, you need to consider the shoe’s weight, stiffness, sole, and water resistance.
It’s recommended to go to a specialist when searching for a hiking shoe. The best specialists can make a short film of how you walk and stand. They basically measure your foot and the way you walk, and then they recommend a shoe that perfectly fits.
Of course, when you already know which hiking shoe you need, you can easily buy one only on Amazon.
Some love to go hiking barefoot. I wouldn’t personally recommend walking barefoot for a long hike if you have never done this. However, connecting with nature, also known as earthing is the easiest when walking barefoot. The most important thing is that you are really on natural grounds. So the health benefits of earthing or walking barefoot are limited when you walk on concrete or asphalt for example.
When you prepare for a hike, you prepare for different weather conditions. So it’s important to have the right clothing for every weather condition. And of course, these hiking clothes need to be lightweight and easy to fit because you’ll take them with you during your hike.
Many people that start with hiking buy complete rain-protecting suits. Which, of course, can be handy. However, when hiking, you want to pack light as possible, so I recommend using a rain poncho instead. A poncho is lightweight, and when you don’t use it, you can easily fold it into a small package, which fits in your backpack.
Hiking poles or walking sticks are an essential part of your hiking outfit. Especially when you go hiking as a senior, you can use the extra balance that these walking sticks offer. Every self-respected hiker uses these walking sticks. They’re very convenient, for example, when walking on uneven terrain. The best hiking poles are lightweight and easily foldable to click on your backpack when not using them.
A hiking backpack is also lightweight, fits easily on your back, and has enough storage for your hiking gear. The best backpacks also have storage for a hydration pack where you can click on a straw so that you don’t have to bring an extra bottle. Bringing enough water is essential when you go on a hike.
One of the best and most well-known brands for hiking backpacks is Deuter, trusted by many hikers worldwide. You can find the latest Deuter hiking backpacks on Amazon here.
Also, this hydration pack from Deuter (available on Amazon) fits easily in most hiking backpacks.
For obvious reasons, it’s important to bring sunscreen and protect your skin against sunburns. It’s recommended to put on sunscreen multiple times a day when you’re outside in the sun. However, don’t overdo it, because sunscreen also blocks the absorption of Vitamin D, which is an important vitamin that you can only get from getting enough sunscreen.
Outdoor Survival and Emergency Kit
Like we discussed earlier, it’s essential to be prepared when going on a hike. This outdoor survival and emergency kit is your hiking safety kit. You probably won’t need it when nothing is happening, but when you do need it, you’re happy you have this kit with you. This kit contains everything you need for emergencies.
As a senior and retiree, you’re always looking for new and fun activities to do. You just learned that hiking is the perfect activity for seniors. However, many other hobbies and activities are fun to do for seniors and retirees.
Retirement is a life-changing event, and preparing and planning for this stage in your life can be difficult for many retirees and seniors. We help you with this. Learn more about in our helpful ebook Five Steps To Happiness In Retirement.