If you go on the internet and type in ‘hiking clubs for seniors near me,’ you will be sure to find numerous informative articles on the subject. Now as helpful as they might be, when it comes to seniors and hiking, the essential steps to take before finding the best hiking spots matter the most!
In today’s article, we will explore everything a senior needs to know before setting off on a hike, from what they need to know about hiking at their age to some of the best locations for hiking in the US.
Importance of staying active for seniors
Hiking is a great outdoor activity, irrespective of your age. It provides numerous health benefits for people of all ages, particularly seniors. However, when we talk about senior hiking, we do not mean they have to be through rugged mountains or treacherous ravines. It can be as simple as taking a walk in the park.
Hiking for seniors can improve their physical health and mental well-being and even help to expand social connections. As people age, staying active becomes increasingly essential for maintaining good physical and psychological health. So hiking can be one of the best stimulating activities for seniors to help keep them engaged.
Physical activities like hiking can enhance one’s cardiovascular health, strengthen muscles and bones, and even reduce the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart failure while improving cognitive function. In fact, a study by the American Heart Association found that regular exercise in older adults helps reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke.
While you have the time, how about reading an article on brain-boosting activities for dementia patients? It is good to keep the brain sharp, even if you do not have dementia!
The main benefits of hiking for seniors
Hiking offers numerous health benefits for seniors. Not only is it a great way to stay active, but it can also provide many physical and mental health benefits. Even after a certain age, hiking can actually help improve and extend the life of a senior. Here are two of the prime benefits of seniors hiking.
Hiking improves cardiovascular health. Think of hiking as a form of aerobic exercise that can help improve your circulatory health. As a result, it can lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Hiking will help strengthen bones and muscles. Walking in the great outdoors involves walking on uneven terrain. Though for seniors, it can be a long trail as well. This can help strengthen the muscles in their legs, hips, and core, as well as improve bone density, which can reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Hiking will help improve an older adult’s (or anyone’s) balance and coordination. Hiking on uneven terrain requires one to have and maintain balance and coordination. On the plus side, it keeps the oxygen flowing!
Take a hike to reduce stress and anxiety. Spending a lot of time in nature and engaging in physical activity like hiking can help reduce stress and anxiety levels, particularly in seniors, helping improve overall mental health.
Hiking will significantly improve cognitive function. Regular exercise, such as hiking, has been linked to improved cognitive function, including better memory, concentration, coordination, and attention span.
Hiking amidst the great outdoors is a brain and mood booster. It is great for self-esteem, and the endorphins released during hiking can help to boost mood, leading to a more positive outlook on life and one’s health.
What seniors need to know before hiking?
Now that we have established the importance and benefits of hiking, time, for the severe part, is the hard truth. As people age, it does become difficult for their bodies to adapt to specific exercises. A person in their youth could have scaled a rugged, uneven hiking trail, but it will be more challenging when they become older. And it can be even more difficult for seniors!
It’s essential to take necessary precautions for seniors to ensure a harmless and enjoyable experience. So here are some things seniors should keep in mind before going off for a hike.
Always consult with a doctor
It’s always a good idea to check with a doctor before starting a new exercise routine like hiking. Seniors may have certain health conditions that could prevent or limit their hiking experience. They may need to take extra precautions or limit the hike’s length. So visit the doctor and adhere strictly to their medical instructions.
Choosing the right trail and difficulty level
Seniors should always choose a trail that matches their fitness level and abilities. It’s important to start with easier trails and gradually work up to more challenging ones. Seniors should also consider the trail’s distance, elevation gain, and terrain before embarking.
Wear appropriate clothing with footwear
Seniors should dress in comfortable attire during a hike. They should be moisture-wicking clothing that is appropriate for the weather conditions. It’s also important to wear sturdy but comfy hiking shoes or boots that provide adequate support and traction.
Bring enough water and snacks
Seniors should always bring enough water and snacks for their hike. The amount of water needed will depend on the length and difficulty of the hike, but a good rule of thumb is to bring at least 2 liters of water per person. Snacks or other food items should be high in protein and carbohydrates to sustain energy. Consult this with a medical professional before hiking.
Consider hiking with friends or a group
Hiking with a friend(s) or a professional hiking group can be a great way to stay safe and enjoy the experience. In addition, seniors can join hiking clubs or groups to meet other hikers in their area or even in assisted living or independent living communities. If you visit your locale or do a bit of research on the internet, you will find there are active hiking clubs for seniors in different states and cities across the US.
Pack some emergency supplies
Seniors should always pack some emergency supplies in case of unexpected events. These can include a first aid kit, a whistle, a map and compass, a flashlight, and a fully charged cell phone. Seniors should also make sure to inform someone of their hiking plans and expected return time.
The first step for hiking for seniors
Before hitting the trails, seniors need to prepare their bodies for hiking. The best way to do this is by starting with brief walking exercises. Walking is a low-impact activity that can help seniors improve their cardiovascular health, strengthen muscles and build endurance. Seniors should take short walks around their neighborhoods and gradually increase the pace. 10 to 20 minutes per day for a week or so would be significant enough to prepare a senior person for the long run (or walk).
Seniors that retire to luxury retirement communities can often find relevant hiking clubs or members to buddy up with for such activities! If you want to learn more about some of the top luxury retirement communities in the US, read here!
Some important hiking tips for seniors
Before you go hiking, bear in mind that it is a complex walk in the park. Therefore, seniors need to be watchful during hiking to avoid injuries or health problems. Here are some essential tips to keep in mind.
Planning and research
Before heading out, plan your route by researching the terrain and distance of the hike. Check the weather forecast and dress for the right conditions. Ensure you have enough water, food, supplies, and an emergency kit bag to last the duration of your hike.
Decide on the distance
Knowing the physical limitations of hiking, especially if you are a senior, is essential. Start with a shorter hike and slowly increase the distance as you become more comfortable. Stay under five miles unless you are an experienced hiker. Only then can you be certain of the space you can hike on as a senior.
Use a map
This is a no-brainer. It would help if you had a map. Seniors about to go hiking can take traditional maps or GPS-enabled devices like the ‘Bushnell BackTrack Mini GPS Navigation .’A map will help you plan your hike and show you the area’s topography. It will also help you avoid trails that might be too difficult for seniors or those with disabilities or specific limitations.
Invest in some gear
Invest in hiking boots that fit well, and bring plenty of socks, sunscreen, bug spray, sunglasses, and a hat. In addition, wear comfortable clothing that protects against sunburns and ticks. Seniors can also opt to buy hiking sticks, which will be highly crucial for hiking. The Cascade Mountain Tech Lightweight Aircraft-Grade Aluminum Trekking Poles and the Retrospec Solstice Hiking Poles are some of the best hiking sticks for seniors available in the market today!
Check the weather forecasts
Always check the weather before heading out and plan accordingly. Seniors should avoid hiking during extreme weather conditions. Though nature can be unpredictable, it is best to go hiking during seasons and in weather conditions that are generally known to be calm and safe.
Top areas for seniors to hike in the US
Here are some of the best hiking trails in the US for seniors!
- Yosemite National Park (California)
- Glacier National Park (Montana)
- Lake Tahoe (California, Nevada)
- Yellowstone National Park (Idaho, Montana, Wyoming)
- Zion National Park (Utah)
- Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)
- Mt. Rainier National Park (Washington)
Remember, there are many hiking clubs for seniors across the US! Find yourself one and connect with them to find the best hiking location for seniors!
Read the following relevant articles that seniors will find helpful!
How to Choose Senior-Friendly Travel Destinations
Did you know?
Did you know hiking is becoming increasingly popular among seniors in the United States? Here are some interesting facts about hiking:
- There are more than 400 national park sites in The US.
- In 2020 one of the most visited national parks in the US was the Great Smokey Mountains National Park—almost 12 million visitors.
- The average age of hikers in the US is 36.
- Almost 60% of hikers are male, while the other 40% are female.
- Hiking is a popular activity in the US, and people over 55+ are actively participating.
The one time where ‘take a hike’ can mean something positive is in this instance! Hiking is an excellent way for seniors to stay active and enjoy the beauty of nature.
Always remember to plan ahead and do some research when it comes to hiking, and bear in mind that for seniors, it is always best to consult a medical professional, choose the right trail and carry appropriate supplies before setting off trailing off for an adventure in the great outdoors!
Are there any mental health benefits to hiking?
Yes, hiking has numerous mental health benefits, including reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. It also improves mood, self-esteem, and cognitive function. Furthermore, being in the great outdoors is always known to calm and relax the senses.
How far should a 70-year-old walk?
The distance a 70-year-old should walk depends on their physical condition. It is recommended to start with short walks of about 10 minutes and gradually increase the distance over time. Walking for 30 minutes at least five times a week is a good target.
How long should you train before hiking?
The length of time you should train before hiking depends on the trail’s difficulty level. For example, you may only need a few weeks of training for easy trails, while more challenging trails may require several months of training.
What are some positive effects of regular hiking?
Regular hiking has numerous positive effects on physical and mental health. It can improve cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, strengthen muscles and bones, reduce stress and anxiety, and increase mood and cognitive function.
What are the advantages of using a stick when hiking?
Using a hiking stick can greatly improve balance and stability and reduce the risk of falls. For seniors, whether you are in great shape or not, it is highly advisable to use a hiking stick. It also helps to take the weight off your knees, reduce muscle fatigue, and provide additional support when hiking uphill or downhill.