Guide To Hiking For Seniors – Benefits & Safety Tips

There are tremendous benefits of hiking for seniors: exercise, fresh air, and mental stimulation are just a few. Learn more about these benefits, some safety tips, and essential gear needed for hiking. Then, check with your doctor, and "take a hike!"

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
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The facts are pretty clear; there are many benefits of hiking. However, during your senior years, it can be challenging to step outside and take a hike. Many seniors spend a lot of their time cooped up indoors. But who can blame them? When the years start catching up, it’s easy to lose one’s zeal and enthusiasm for the outdoors.

But think about how much you’re loosing by locking yourself indoors. Think of it this way, when you insulate yourself inside, not only are you not giving your body the exercise it badly needs, but you’re also exposing yourself to possible germs and bacteria.

Are your loved ones or doctor insisting that you “take a hike?” If so, you might want to listen. It’s easy to assume that hiking is for the young and hotblooded, but that couldn’t be further from the facts. Hiking doesn’t have to be hardcore, merely taking a long walk outdoors at any location, elevation, and for a few days or hours also qualifies as hiking.

Benefits Of Hiking For Seniors

With more and more research and studies uncovering the meaningful benefits of the great outdoors to one’s wellbeing, are you still going to continue watching nature from the sidelines? Of course not! You already know in your gut that interacting with nature, moving your body, and breathing in the fresh air is suitable for both your health and happiness.

So stop sitting on the fence and take a ten-minute hike outside and see how you feel later. Do you feel like your young self again? Do you feel more engaged and mentally aware? Likely so.

1. Hiking Is A Happy Pill

Are you familiar with that feeling of mmm…ah! Of course, you are; after all, it’s a feeling you’ve probably had a million times when you see, smell, feel or hear something that makes you happy. When you are out on a hike, you are one with nature, and you’ll be surprised by how much relaxed you can feel by merely gazing out from atop a hill or watching the sunset.

Plants – and not the type you smoke – and many other aspects of nature have a way of soothing the mind. Many studies have found that hiking reduces stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues. Even a 5-minute hike has the power to boost your mood.

2. Hiking Is A Great Workout

An important benefit of hiking for seniors is exercise. A majority of exercises move the body in two directions; however, hiking moves the body every which way as you sidestep slippery pathways, as you climb over rocks and fallen trees. By moving in multiple directions, you’re doing an all-round workout. Every step you take strengthens your core, increases bone density, and your muscles. With hiking, your body will never feel and look better.

senior couple hiking and taking a break

3. Saves Seniors From A Boring Routine

What’s your daily routine like? What about your workout routine? Whether your loved one visits the gym now and then, or they spend pretty much all of their time at home, the chances are that their daily routine could be boring the life out of them. But when you introduce your aging loved one to hiking, they will have new trails to explore, new plants and flowers to discover, different birds to watch, and hiking may suddenly become something they enjoy.

4. Increases Flexibility & Balance

Over the years, older adults may experience difficulties with their mobility and balance. However, navigating through rough and uneven terrains challenges all their knees, core muscles, ankles, and joints, all of which are crucial in maintaining balance.

For instance, when walking downhill, the legs have to do a lot of controlled work to stabilize the knees, hips, and ankles, so you don’t fall. This type of controlled movement makes sure that your legs are not getting even a second to slack hence increasing balance and flexibility.

5. May Help Treat & Prevent Some Health Problems

Hikes are different from regular walks and other exercises. When your loved one takes a hike, they are not only exercising, but they also get in tune with nature. And there’s no denying the benefits of exercising while spending time outdoors. Hiking may help prevent and even treat the following health problems:

  • Obesity
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • High blood pressure
  • Osteopenia and osteoporosis
  • Pain and injuries
  • Dementia
  • Sleep problems

6. Hiking Boosts Cognitive Function

When seniors go out hiking, they are continuously exposed to new stimuli such as a new trail, different plants, and many others. These new experiences and stimuli boost the neural activity in their brains hence strengthening their cognitive skills. However, don’t let your loved one explore new trails alone. Make sure they are accompanied by friends or a professional care worker on their hiking adventure until they are familiar with the path.

senior couple talking while on a hike together

Safety Hiking Tips For Seniors

Now that you know what seniors stand to gain from hiking, it’s time to prepare for your hiking adventure. Here are tips to step outside, take a hike, and enjoy while leveraging the full benefits of hiking:

  • Hike with friends, professional care worker or a dog
  • Take it slow for a low impact way to connect with nature
  • Always check the weather
  • Tell someone of where you are going for the hike
  • Have a map of the trail
  • Avoid aches and pains by stretching on your hike
  • Stay hydrated
  • Have the right gear for the hike

Essential Hiking Gear For Seniors

Are you ready to go out and hit the trails? Not yet! Cool your heels and check if you have all the essential hiking gear for seniors. The only way to stay safe and enjoy your hike is to make sure you have the right equipment for hiking.

Hiking essentials for seniors include:

  • Hiking Shoes And Socks: The only way to enjoy your hike and avoid injuries is to keep your feet happy. So get yourself a nice pair of hiking shoes and socks because sneakers won’t cut it.
  • Trail-Ready Outfit: Hiking terrains can be quite rough, not to mention that mountain weather is notoriously unpredictable. Choose trail-ready outfits, and that includes gloves, jackets, pants, and even shirts. Go for clothing that can stretch, breathable, and dry quickly. You want to hike with clothes that won’t tear or get in your way but instead enhance your hiking experience.
  • Water Bottles: Water bottles are a necessity when hiking.
  • Hiking backpack: backpacks are another must-have when hiking. Pick a bag that can hold your gear and one that is specially designed for hiking. Backpacks made for hiking are comfortable on your back and offer quick access to items.
  • A First Aid Kit: Seniors should always carry a first aid kit with them when hiking. They can be lifesavers if you get a cut, blister, or twist an ankle – things that can happen too easily on a hike.
  • A Hiking Stick: Seniors must have walking sticks or trekking sticks for added balance, moving vegetation, and to reduce the impact on the knees.
  • Your Smartphone: A smartphone is a reliable item on a hike – it’s a trail guide, GPS, as well as your quickest method of summoning help in case something goes wrong.
senior man and woman hiking in the woods

Time To Step Out And Hike – Quick!

Hiking is an excellent way for seniors to improve their health and connect with others. Find out if there are hiking groups in your area and help your loved one join one.

Hiking is an excellent option for seniors looking to get out of their shells and get active. Make sure you research hiking trails near you to find a suitable path for you or your loved one. Of course, consult with your doctor before embarking on your hiking adventure.

Tell me about your experiences hiking as a senior in the comments below. Do you have any tips or information to add?

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Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Scott Grant has spent more than 20 years serving seniors and the elderly in the home medical equipment industry. He has worked as a manufacturer's rep for the top medical equipment companies and a custom wheelchair specialist at a durable medical equipment (DME) provider in WV. He is father to 4 beautiful daughters and has three terrific grandkids. When not promoting better living for older adults, he enjoys outdoor activities including hiking and kayaking and early morning runs.

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