As people age, however, it can be difficult to find a suitable exercise routine that meets their physical capabilities.
Luckily, seniors can turn to hiking as a fun and active outdoor activity that they can tailor to their ability level and needs.
Positive Health Effects of Hiking
The health benefits of hiking for seniors have been proven by numerous medical studies.
“Walking is a tremendously good activity for senior citizens. It’s cheap, it’s simple, almost anybody can do it,” says. Dr. Michael Pratt, the acting chief for the Physical Activity and Health Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta (CDC),“It helps seniors and has very real benefits for maintaining mobility and independence.”
Pratt states in American Trails that, “statistics show that most older adults aren’t getting enough activity and we know that they stand to benefit from regular exercise.”
Hiking provides seniors with an opportunity to get outdoors and engage in an activity that is gentler on their joints since many hiking trails are softer than walking on asphalt or concrete.
A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society revealed that “seniors who walked at least four hours per week reduced their risk of hospitalization as a result of cardiovascular events.”
Health Benefits of Hiking For Seniors
Regularly going on hikes can result in various, well-documented benefits for seniors, including:
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Improved circulation
- Reduced arthritis, joint and knee pain
- Increase in bone density, which can improve bone health and reduce the risk of osteoporosis
- Stronger muscles
- Decrease in feelings of depression and isolation
- Increased cognitive function
- Better scores on memory tests
- Improved reaction time
How to Find the Right Trail
Some hiking trails are certainly more difficult than others, so how does one find a suitable trail?
Interested seniors should first try a short and flat trail. Once a certain level of comfort is attained on that trail, the length and intensity of the trail should be gradually increased over time.
Finding the right trail to start with might take some time, and don’t hesitate to drive to a trail, either; many trail heads do offer parking lots.
For seniors in wheelchairs or with limited mobility, look for trails that specify their accessibility and that have a boardwalk and wheelchair ramps. It is especially common to find these types of trails near active adult retirement communities, assisted living communities, and nursing homes.
When in doubt, consult a doctor about finding an appropriate mobility aid for hiking, such as a cane, hiking stick, trekking poles, or Nordic walking poles. Such aids can reduce the risk of injury or a fall.
Preparation Tips for Seniors
Every hiker – however young or old – should be prepared for a hike. Seniors should be especially mindful to:
- Stay hydrated by bringing multiple bottles of water or a water backpack
- Wear comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots
- Wear layers to account for possible changes in weather (rain gear, hat/gloves, etc.)
- Have a map of the trail
- Wear some sun protection, including a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen
- Bring an emergency kit, which should include a first aid kit, food/water, and an alternative way to communicate in case you need help but don’t have cell phone reception
- Inform someone not going on the hike with you where you’re planning on going, your route and your estimated return time
Making Connections through Hiking
In addition to the numerous health benefits of hiking, this activity also provides seniors with the chance to improve interpersonal relationships with those in their families. People of all ages can go on a hike, so making such an activity a family affair could easily increase the time seniors spend with their younger family members.
Many communities also have hiking groups for seniors. Such groups provide seniors with support, encouragement, socialization, and the opportunity to make new friends. Check local senior centers or retirement communities to see what types of free hiking or walking programs exist for seniors.
Hiking is the perfect option for seniors looking for a safe way to get active. Seniors of all ability levels can certainly find a physical or psychological benefit from this fun and engaging activity.
Learn More About Our Approach To Health and Fitness – Call Hearthstone Today To Schedule A Tour
If you are thinking about moving into an independent or assisted living community, our family owned properties offer seniors a wonderful opportunity for preserving personal independence, while still being able to remain close with loved ones.
At Hearthstone of Beaverton, our boutique-style apartments contain come in a variety of sizes from private studios to one or two bedrooms.
At Hearthstone at Murrayhill, we offer Independent, Assisted Living, and Memory Care. Our team of friendly, professional staff are available to our residents 24 hours a day and includes a full-time registered nurse at each building.
We serve our residents, families, and guests with love, respect, and integrity…and that is only the beginning of what makes us so special.
You can meet with us or schedule a tour by calling Hearthstone of Beaverton at 503-641-0911 or by visiting us at:
12520 SW Hart Road
Beaverton, OR 97008
Or calling Hearthstone at Murrayhill at 503-520-0911 or stopping by at:
10880 SW Davies Rd
Beaverton, OR 97008