Hiking for Health, Fun and Fitness
Tell someone you love to “Go Take A Hike!” You’ll be doing them a huge favor! According to the American Heart Association , the simplest, positive change you can make to effectively improve your heart health is to start walking. It’s enjoyable, free, easy, social and great exercise. A walking program is flexible and boasts high success rates because you can stick with it. It’s easy for walking to become a regular and satisfying part of your life. Upping the ante and getting out on a hike adds a whole new dimension to your walking program.
As an adult, I’ve been a strong advocate for a daily walking program and earned the title of “Psycho Walker” a few years ago during a National Fitness Challenge I participated in with some co-workers – I averaged walking 17 miles a day for 6 weeks – a total of more than 1,600,000 steps!! Of course that was in focused competition and we had a goal in mind, so that’s not “normal” walking for me these days, however I do love to get out and do short day hikes or “Power Hike” on some local trails.
Thanksgiving Day Traditions – “Before the Feast”
We often spend Thanksgiving in Phoenix visiting relatives for the holiday; one of the best parts of this (outside spending time with the family) is the great weather that the Desert Southwest offers and the amazing opportunities to just “get out and do stuff”. Since we’re in the heart of Phoenix and not far from the canal system, I often will do a 2-3 hour walk along the canal system – it’s flat, smooth and easy walking; perfect conditions for power walking.
Up early Thursday morning, I headed out to the usual haunts only to find the trailhead I’d planned to use at Camelback Mt. was closed and the crowds at Squaw Peak Mt. were simply CRAZY! seems everyone else had the same idea!
Not to be discouraged I consulted my iPhone Oracle (a.k.a. Miss Siri) and asked for good hiking spots in Phoenix. She quickly replied with “a few locations that are not too far from you” LOL. I accepted directions to the first hit on the list which turned out to be North Mountain Park which was only a few miles from my current location. I was pleasantly surprised to find plenty of parking despite lots of folks out on the trails.
I stopped by the visitors center, grabbed a trail map and set out for the morning.
Have Map, Will Travel
Starting out at the visitor center (not pictured here, but just off the upper right of the map image) I decided to cover 3 different trails: the 100, 306 and 44. On the map image, those are the purple, blue and green routes respectively. Hitting the Shaw Butte Trail (306) from the South East provided the best workout as it was the steeper approach. Not realizing the trail actually meandered up to the towers at the top of the hill, I took an alternate route that ended up being almost vertical by the time I reached the top – lots of fun!
Once at the top, there was a great view of the local area (that’s the photo in the header image for this post). Moving on from this summit, I worked my way down and back to the 100 trail taking a short transition via the 101 to access the North Mountain Trail #44. This was actually an access road to the towers at the top of the mountain so this was paved all the way up – still a challenge, it seemed like it was a constant 21% grade or more. I think every muscle in my legs were firing on this one! Looking back down the hill (see post below) reminded me of cycling scenes from the Tour de France when the cyclists were working their way up the switchbacks of the climb.
All-in-all this was just an amazing morning, a great workout and beautiful weather. What a perfect way to start of my Thanksgiving Day, typically a day when we acknowledge our gratitude for family, friends and the bounty that has been bestowed upon on us; I was able to add my gratitude for the ability to enjoy my environment and improve my personal health and wellbeing.
And Don’t Forget the Benefits of Hiking…
Remember, adults should strive for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise (or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity). Breaking it down…30 minutes a day, five times a week is an easy goal to remember. Hiking is an awesome way to get in some daily aerobic activity and take advantage of some of these benefits:
- Improved cardio-respiratory fitness (heart, lungs, blood vessels)
- Improved muscular fitness
- Lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
- Lower risk of high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes
- Lower risk of high cholesterol and triglycerides
- Lower risk of colon and breast cancer, and possibly lung and endometrial cancer
- Increased bone density or a slower loss of density
- Reduced depression and better quality sleep
- Lower risk of early death (If you are active for 7 hours a week, your risk of dying early is 40% lower than someone active for less than 30 minutes a week.)
- Weight control; hiking burns up 370 calories an hour (154-lb person)
So get out and Take a Hike, it’s guaranteed to do you some good!