This blog post was written by Ben Smart and is published as part of our blog exchange with Tar Heel Tone-Up.
Fresh air, breathtaking views, and space to explore – these are just a few of the tangible reasons to enjoy an outdoor hike. Engaging your mind and body with a short excursion could also yield health benefits extending beyond physical exercise. Research with nearly 2,000 participants in England found that walking outdoors in a group delivered a significant mood boost as well as lower perceived stress and depression, especially for those experiencing stress from a traumatic life event.
Before lacing up your boots and heading to the trail, take the time to pack and prepare the right way. We’ve compiled a few tips to make your next hike the healthiest to date.
Let’s start with your pack. If your filled backpack weighs more than a few pounds, it’s a good idea to select an ergonomic pack with waist strap capabilities, which will take the bulk of the weight off of your back and distribute it to your torso. When wearing the backpack, adjust the shoulder straps first so that the backpack fits comfortably on your shoulders, and then fasten the waist strap.
Now that your backpack is up to par, let’s examine the contents. Take everything out of your backpack and lay in on a table. Are you bringing any unnecessary items? Think twice before packing the second tube of toothpaste or the heavy binoculars. Ensure that you’ve packed a conservative first aid kit, and one or two plastic bags; these can really come in handy.
The most important part (and my favorite aspect) of hiking is food and hydration. Fill a stainless steel bottle (or two) full of water for the trek. Metal is preferred over plastic, as many plastic bottles can leach small amount of toxic BPA or other chemicals into your water, which means you’ll be drinking those chemicals.
As for snacks, aim for balanced portions. If you’re only hiking 1-3 miles, high protein and low carbohydrate food can be sufficient fuel. Three ideas:
- Turkey sandwich with spinach and cheese, accompanied with a side of almonds
- Tuna and high-fiber crackers, completed with an apple and peanut butter
- Salmon and a whole grain tortilla, topped off with a banana and cheese
Once you’re hiking, remember to make smart choices. Take your trash to go, don’t litter. Watch your step, and adopt a wide stance when scaling steep trails. Finally, look up from the cell phone and enjoy the view! If you keep your eyes peeled, you’re sure to find some wildlife.
Ready to take a weekend hike? Check out UNC Campus Recreation’s outdoor expedition schedule here for events this summer.
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