The key to better health through walking and hiking nature trails is establishing a routine. Plan which days of the week you want to get out and put them on your calendar. Then keep the following steps in mind as you go forward:
- Know where you want to go and vary your desinations to make each outing more fun and interesting. Search this website by county and even zip to find trails close to you. Many of these parks and preserves present various options of trails to choose from.
- Establish goals for yourself in terms of time, distance, and/or steps. There are many apps to track all three simultaneously like Apple’s Health App, Google Fit, and Map My Hike. A realistic goal for most people is 5000 steps, 2.5 miles, or 30-to-60 minutes. But if you are new to hiking, take it easy and just get out there and walk what you can.
- Start slow (30 minutes, 3x/week) and work up to longer and more frequent goals.
- Make it easy on yourself – if you don’t have the time to drive to a trail, find a local park. Add a variety of routes or trails when you can fit them in.
- Keep a log of your walks to see your progression up to your goals using an app or simply a little notebook.
- Add walking to other routine exercises you may do such as strength, yoga, and aerobic training.
- You may prefer walking alone to carve some time out of a hectic day for yourself. But once or twice a week, ask a friend or family member along for company. It’s rewarding one-on-one time.
Forming a group of fellow hikers is an excellent way to keep up the discipline of getting out on a regular basis.
- Start a walking or hiking group with your family, friends or neighbors or people who belong to your club, senior center, congregation, scouting or youth group, etc.
- Walk together once or twice a week to supplement your personal walking or exercise routine.
- For variety, periodically drive to different locations with trails to help maintain interest and appreciation of the outdoors.
- Share the responsibility for arranging where and when to walk.
- To add variety to your walking, participate in guided walks or organized annual events.
See Trail Tips for groups in the area and state as well as information to get the most out of your regimen.