May 07, 2013 • By

Take a hike! Five healthy hiking tips

It’s time to shake off winter and get out to enjoy all that nature has to offer.

But don’t limit yourself to walks around the block, challenge yourself and take a hike! Annie Parsons, avid hiker and Larabar community host, offers her top five tips to make your hike healthy.

1. You don’t have to head for the hills to make it a hike.

A hike is really just a long, steady walk. You can visit a national park or can hike around your own neighborhood. “I have a nine mile walking loop that I do in the summers, whenever it’s light enough after work,” Annie says. “It keeps me conditioned for longer hikes in the wilderness.” She hikes around neighborhoods and local lakes and, because she lives in Colorado, gets to the mountains whenever she can.

2. Proper fit is important.

“If you’re doing any more than five miles at a time, get properly fitted for shoes and a backpack (if you’re hiking with a backpack),” she says. Day-long or multi-day hikes require a well-fitted pack to ensure proper balance and prevent back, joint and muscle issues.

3. Food is fuel.

Long hikes mean your body is burning a lot of calories, so stay fueled with proper nutrition in mind. Annie’s favorite fuel? “Cheese and crackers, peanut butter and crackers, trail mix, nuts and fruits. it’s always nice to have a little chocolate.

Lärabars have only two to nine ingredients, they don’t freeze, don’t melt and they pack well,” she says. The type of food and the amount you may need is not what you’d need for a typical day in the office. Keep track of calories and ask yourself, “How long has it been since I ate?”

4. Take care of your body.

“Hiking can take a toll on knees, hips and back,” Annie says. Stretch before you start hiking and pay attention to what your body is telling you during your hike. If you’re hiking in high altitudes, you may experience nausea, light-headedness and headaches. Build up to high altitudes, acclimate for a few days, drink lots of water and get a lot of sleep. At the end of strenuous hikes, Annie lays flat on her back and elevates her legs up against a wall at a 90 degree angle to help take the pressure off her joints.

5. Pay attention to altitude.

Signs of altitude sickness include headache, nausea, racing heart and feeling like you’re going to pass out. If you’re experiencing altitude sickness, breathe deeply, sit down, drink a lot of water and take it easy on yourself. Pushing yourself further could make it worse and could lead to an emergency.

“I wish everyone could get out and hike as much as I’m able to,” says Annie. No matter where you live, “Walk as much as you can. Use your body, see things from a different perspective. You don’t need to climb a mountain. Get out at your own pace. Feel your legs work and enjoy whatever nature you can find.”

Editor’s note: Annie’s tips came from this Google+ Hangout video, with Andrea Metcalf. It also features Justin Lichter (35,000 mile hiker) and Jessica Mathews (ACE).