Hiking for Fitness and Weight Loss | Reader's Digest

Hiking for Fitness and Weight Loss

Hit the trails for mental and physical benefits.

An enjoyable way to explore the world around you, hiking can take you from the trails of your local city park to wilderness areas.

To hike comfortably, raise your fitness level to the point where you can walk 4 to 5 miles on level ground without undue fatigue or strain. Then start walking up and down hills. (Going downhill is actually harder than going up.) Take along a knapsack to get used to carrying extra weight.

For short hikes, almost any pair of previously worn, comfortable, sturdy shoes will do, except sneakers, which do not provide ankle support or traction. For longer hikes, wear hiking boots. Ask a knowledgeable salesperson at a camping and outdoor equipment store to help you select a suitable pair. Dress defensively; take along a poncho and sweaters to protect you from weather changes such as sudden rainstorms and from colder air (which can be up to 30 degrees lower) on mountaintops. In areas where hunting is permitted, you should always wear bright colors.

If you are hiking for more than a couple of hours, be sure to take food and water. Hiking burns about 300 calories an hour and can dehydrate you quickly. Drink 1/2 cup of water at least every 20 minutes, more if it’s hot or you are sweating profusely.

Respect your environment: Don’t litter, trample plants, or disturb animals. Be safe: Don’t drink untreated water, overextend yourself or take chances. In remote areas, it’s a good idea to know First Aid.