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Happy Trails! The Benefits of Hiking and Where to Go

September 30, 2016 1:01 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

*This post was written by AF, a 22-year-old student at CSU Channel Islands, born and raised in Ventura County and passionate about keeping the youth and other members of the community safe, informed, and responsible.

It’s no surprise that hiking is a great and healthy activity to do with many benefits, some of which are more obvious than others. Hiking is a good alternative to going to the gym because it gives you the same benefits as any exercise does, but without the crowds, machines, and an expensive membership.

Spruce Cape area of Kodiak, AK Spruce Cape area of Kodiak, AK

According to EverybodyWalk.org, hiking is a great way to improve overall health, including the reduction of a risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes. Obviously, hiking can lead to weight loss and muscle toning. Hiking also has the benefit of increasing your overall energy level. Your brain can become stronger and larger by hiking as well, increasing memory and mental health.

Being outside helps you get your daily dose of Vitamin D (but use caution—too much sun is a risk of skin cancer). Your bone density can benefit from hiking, decreasing risk of osteoporosis and arthritis. Hiking also lowers your cancer risk and slows aging.

Two of my favorite benefits from hiking are for happiness and back pain. Hiking makes you happier, and can even help people with severe depression. I personally like how hiking gives me a break from cars, city noise, billboards/ads everywhere, and technology. Hiking can also relieve back pain, especially for those of us sitting at computers or desks too long during the day.

On Pilar Mountain - Kodiak , AK

EverybodyWalk.org also provides some good tips for hiking. It is important to start slowly, because even though hiking can be relatively low impact, it can be challenging if you are a beginner. Hiking can become easier and safer if you work on your core strength beforehand as well as varied resistance exercises and yoga. It is helpful to dress properly and carry enough water. Some trails have water fountains, but more often than not, they do not and you need to be aware of the weather and personal fitness level to determine how much water you need. (I always like to bring extra in case my hiking partners need some, or I fall and need some water to wash off).

Be careful not to push yourself too hard–taking short breaks is encouraged. Good shoes with good grip are also important. Watch your step and pay attention to the trail, taking small steps especially on steep declines. I have personally almost fallen down dangerous hillsides because I was too caught up in the views that I wasn’t watching the trail well enough. Depending on the difficulty and your skill level, trekking poles may be helpful. Some people prefer hiking alone, but it can be very beneficial to hike with friends.

Bend, OR

There are different ways to change the vigorousness of a hike. Hiking with hills and incline makes for a better workout, so if you are up for it and are conditioned enough, elevation gains are great. Another thing you can do to increase calorie burn is to hike with extra weight in your backpack.

5 Spruce Cape area - Kodiak, AK

There are several types of trails of varying terrain and difficulty, so there is bound to be something for everyone. Living in the mountainous Southern California provides a lot of opportunities for hiking, so even if you aren’t up to travel, there are several options locally. If you like beaches or mountains, trees or desert, there are several options of all kinds.

Some of my favorite Ventura County trails I have hiked are the Matilija Canyon Trail in Ojai and the Wildwood/Paradise Falls trail in Thousand Oaks. Both of these trails offer a variety of distances and trail options within them. Both have some shaded trail areas and water features (creeks, waterfalls), though not gushing since they’re in Southern California and we’re in a drought.

AllTrails.com is a GREAT resource for finding trails to hike on. It gives you information like addresses, whether or not the trail is dog friendly, what sights and features there are on the trail, and user comments that can help you prepare for the hike. For some areas, like my experience in Kodiak, AK, there was no information on AllTrails, but the Alaska tourism websites listed several trails.

Long Canyon - Simi Valley, CA Matilija Canyon - Ojai, CA

Another thing I like about hiking is it gives me a reason to travel and explore the natural world around me. In my short life, I haven’t had much time, money, or opportunity to travel, but there are thousands of trails throughout open spaces, national parks, and other areas to explore.

I have gone down to the Pasadena area and done a hike within the Sturtevant Falls Trail/Chantry Flats area that was incredible. But the best hikes I have ever been on were in/around Kodiak, Alaska and Bend, Oregon, which is where most of the photos in this blog are from. Seeing completely different environments, plants, and animals (pretty much bugs) than I am used to brings me such joy, and I wish I had more time to hike and more money to travel so I can hike in new places. I hope to explore the hiking trails of Northern California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska more in my life. Hiking will be a part of my life and my health for as long as possible, and maybe you can hike and enjoy the benefits, too! Happy trails!

Kodiak, AK Kodiak, AK

Source: http://everybodywalk.org/15-benefits-of-hiking-get-on-the-path-to-longevity-today/