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5 Useful Tips for Senior Hikers

April 25, 2022 5 min read

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There are so many health benefits associated with hiking. From increased core strength to less stress, many seniors are taking on hiking as a way to stay healthy. 

Some get scared off by the word “hiking”. They think hiking requires specialized gear and the ability to scale rock walls. For many, the truth is hiking is walking outdoors amongst nature. 

More often than not, all you need to get started is a supportive pair of shoes. Trekking poles for increased balance and stability can enhance your hiking experience.

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Let’s take a look at some of the best practices for seniors looking to begin hiking.

5 Tips And Best Practices for Senior Hikers

Whether you are active or trying to get healthier, these 5 tips will ensure that your experience is safe and fun.

Seek Clearance From Your Doctor

Every doctor will tell you that the key to a healthy life is regular physical activity. While moderate activity is safe for most people, theMayo Clinic suggests that doctor clearance is a good best practice. 

In the event that you have pre-existing health concerns or conditions, it is even more important that you obtain clearance from your doctor. 

Starting out on low-difficulty trails is a great way to work up to managing more difficult hiking trails. 

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Dress For The Day

For more hikes, you do not require any specific clothing. That being said, you’ll want to ensure that the fabrics you sport do not contain moisture-retaining materials like cotton. Look for synthetic materials that have moisture-wicking properties. Choosing athletic or yoga wear is a great start. These clothes can also be worn in layers, and removed and packed with ease when needed.

For your feet, you’ll need to consider the terrain of the trail. If the path is well-groomed, then a supportive pair of running shoes or cross-trainers will work wonders. Taking on a trail that has a more rugged terrain, you’ll want to sport a proper pair of hiking shoes.

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Consider Hiking Poles

Hiking poles, when properly fitted, can enhance the enjoyment of hiking and provide physical benefits. Hiking poles can provide balance on more difficult terrain, and keep your elbows at a comfortable 90-degree angle.

Once you found a set of hiking poles that you like, test various movement patterns to see what works best for you. Some people prefer moving the pole opposite to the stepping foot, while others prefer a more symmetrical approach. 

No matter the movement pattern you choose, be sure to use your poles to push off the ground with each step. This added push provides leverage to your hiking, taking some strain off your body.

Check out our hiking poles and accessories in ouronline store!

Always Stretch Before and After Your Hike

Making sure your muscles are ready for the work ahead will reduce the risks of injury and unnecessary strain.

Your stretching routine can be quick and simple. Think about a minimum of 5 minutes performing exercises like:

  • Toe touches
  • Side to side hip stretching
  • Over your head arm extensions

Doing these motionsafter your hike will help your body recover faster and ensure no aches or pains set in.

Hike At Your Experience and Skill Level

The easiest way to feel unmotivated and give up is to go too fast too quickly. When starting out, hike at your own pace. This will help you to understand which parts of the trail are more difficult than others, which speed is more comfortable for you, and a myriad of other important physiological readiness indicators.

If you end your hike and are feeling great, it may be time to look at more difficult terrain or longer hikes. Getting to the end of your hike and feeling exhausted? Well, it may be required to dial back or continue to build your fitness at the current pace.

When it comes to choosing the right pace, you’ll want a pace that raises your breathing slightly, but does not cause excessive sweating. Be sure to take in the scenery and drink plenty of water, resting when needed.

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Additional Safety Precautions For Senior Hikers

It is worth diving deeper into specific safety precautions. Regardless of age, any hiker will benefit from these general guidelines.

Plan Ahead

It is important to know where you are planning to hike, and more importantly, the conditions that you will face. 

An hour-long hike on a well-groomed flat terrain is going to offer a different experience than an hour-long hike on elevation with loose gravel. 

By knowing what your hike presents, you will be able to pack accordingly and be well prepared.

Be Aware of Surroundings

While well-groomed trails reduce the possibility of exposure to plants like poison oak, the chances arenot zero. 

An awareness of your surroundings will ensure that you do not touch plants that could cause harm to you. This awareness starts with an ability to identify plants ahead of time. An app called Seek by iNaturalist is a great phone app that can be used to identify plants using your smartphone camera!

Learn more about Seek by iNaturalist and otherhiking map app essentials and increase your trail readiness!

Use the “buddy” system!

As much as possible, hit the trails with friends, and family, or join a local hiking group. Being around others ensures that in the event of an emergency, you will have people to help.

Besides that, if you are new to hiking, having experienced hikers around offers a number of benefits. Experienced hikers can offer you resources and experiential knowledge, and they normally have extra gear you can borrow for the trip! When hiking in a group, always be sure that the group is considerate of the newest members and takes on hikes that everyone can manage.

This is not to say that hiking alone is unsafe or shouldn’t be done. Should you choose to go hiking alone, be sure to share some details of your hike with someone. The details should include though are not limited to:

  • Where you are starting and ending your hike.
  • How long your hike is expected to last.
  • If cell phone service is available on the trail.

Always be sure to call the person to notify them that your day of hiking is complete. You don’t want them sitting on pins and needles worrying about you while you are enjoying a well-deserved rest in a hot tub after a nice meal!

Stick to Marked Trails

Venturing off the beaten path is something that most hikers should stay clear of. No matter how familiar you are with the area, it is a best practice to stay on the marked trails. 

While this precaution is primarily for your safety, it has a secondary purpose. Using shortcuts, or creating your own trails can lead to unnecessary erosion and damage to the environment.

Drink LOTS of Water

Staying hydrated throughout the day is a necessity. A good rule of thumb for water consumption is a half-liter of water per hour of hiking. If it’s a hot day, then increase your water intake to ensure you stay hydrated.

Take a Hike!

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It’s your turn. With these best practices in mind, you can now hit the internet or talk with friends who hike and get started. 

There are so many benefits to hiking, and it’s such a simple activity that nearly anyone can find a trail suitable for their fitness level. 

Happy trails!

Rory McGonigle
Rory McGonigle

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