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Cindy Boggs Cindy Boggs

Cindy Boggs is an American Council on Exercise-certified fitness professional, corporate wellness presenter and author of the award winning book, CindySays… "You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World." Her website is

Hiking Is Great Exercise, But It Takes Preparation.

Now's the time to take a hike. Seriously, it is the best way to take in beautiful scenery, get a full-body workout and quite probably enjoy an adventure. I love waking up to a beautiful day and deciding to use the outdoors as my health club. What could be better than gorgeous surroundings urging you to take the next step in order to do more and see more? In my opinion — nothing. 

Get ready to hit the hills

How can you prepare for this? If you're moderately active and include a little weight training you will undoubtedly have a "leg up," so to speak, once you start hiking. But if you are new to hiking, you may benefit from a few tips to make the trip go a little smoother and keep you a good deal safer. You can actually specifically train to be a great hiker — this comes from experience, and you will become more efficient with each hour and/or mile you spend moving through and conquering the challenges of nature. 

Unlike most physical activity

If you want to play a sport, you practice the sport and strengthen the muscles that make you better at that sport. For example, if you are a golfer, you need to spend time in the gym working on back, shoulder, leg and arm strength with an emphasis on flexibility. But hiking is such a specific form of exercise, it is difficult to imitate it in the gym setting. Jogging or walking on a treadmill in not ideal training for a hike in the hills because the grade of incline must be extremely high. Stair steppers can mimic an uphill hike but the steps are too regular and you won't find regularity on a trail. Both the beauty and the challenge come from the outdoors being a dynamic environment. The path you ran last week will not be the same when you run it again.

What goes up must come down

The most common concern voiced from hikers is that the coming down portion of their trek is more difficult than the going up. Seems as if it would be the other way around. However, if your heart is conditioned and prepared to hike, going up is rarely a problem. It's when you start downhill that you feel the stress on the knees, hips and ankles. This is because when you are climbing uphill your muscles shorten and act as an engine providing power. But going downhill your muscles lengthen and tighten simultaneously acting as a brake to control the descent. So, how is the best way to train to hike? Experienced hikers will probably tell you that the best way to get ready for a hike is to hike. Starting slow with short hikes and progressing gradually so your body becomes accustomed to the new activity and environment is the best way to become a good hiker.

Tips to hike safely

Hiking combines easy and intense cardio, strength training, balance and flexibility.


  • Do your homework and choose appropriate level trails.
  • Never hike alone, bring a map and always leave an itinerary with someone.
  • Pack a snack, water and basic first aid.
  • For longer hikes include sports drinks and healthy snacks.
  • Wear appropriate clothing and proper footwear. Hiking boots are a must.
  • Pack extra layers. An average hike could take you from hot, humid or protected areas to cold and windy, exposed conditions within one to two hours.
  • Bring an extra pair of socks.
  • Carry your cell phone in case of emergency.
  • Hiking is not a competition or a race. Control your pace and pause to enjoy the views and reach the top of the hill when it's good for you.


There is no time like the present to clear a new path toward better health. Hiking can provide excellent opportunities for you and your partner to pursue your individual goals along the various trails. Jump out of the gym and head for the hills. Hiking just may be your short cut to a fitter body.