Hiking for Health

If you’re interested in an active autumn, hiking might be just the exercise for you. If you’re relatively new to hiking, don’t be intimidated by the image of backpackers climbing the Rocky Mountains. The reality is that hiking can be as mild or rigorous as you choose — depending on the trail and distance. Hiking is ideal exercise for individuals with diabetes of all ages even if you haven’t exercised in a while.

Benefits of hiking

Besides helping to control blood glucose levels, hiking offers numerous other health benefits. Like many aerobic exercises, hiking improves your stamina, flexibility, and muscular fitness. Hiking also stimulates bone strength and slows bone density loss. If you hike on a regular basis, the health benefits multiply by way of decreasing bad cholesterol (LDL) and increasing good cholesterol (HDL). Hiking also offers other important cardiovascular benefits by expanding the arteries, which minimizes stress on the heart.

Advertisement

Hiking gear

Before you set foot on your journey, make sure you have the right equipment such as sturdy hiking shoes, light-weight backpack, and hiking pole. While a pole may seem unnecessary, if you’re getting back into exercising, poles can help steady your balance and reduce stress on your knees, ankles, and hips.

Getting ready

During your hiking preparations, check your blood sugar level. If your level is low, you can treat it before you head out. Hypoglycemia is a potential risk with any exercise, so be sure to have snacks in case your blood sugar drops. Raisins and glucose tablets will last for long periods in a backpack. Don’t forget to bring plenty of water, especially during hot summer days. Check the weather forecast that day so you’re not caught in sudden rain showers — or at least be prepared with proper gear in case conditions change.

Hike time

It’s recommended that you hike with a family member or friend just in case an unexpected situation occurs. If you enjoy exercising with others, there are hundreds of hiking clubs across the country. The American Hiking Society includes a list of more than 1,500 clubs. There’s also online groups like Meetup that make it easy to find local hiking groups. If you’re looking for some truly inspiring hikes, visit the National Park Service, which has a treasure of hiking options that will keep you busy for many summers to come.

Want to learn more about outdoor recreation with diabetes? Read “The Health Benefits of Walking” and “Biking for Health.”