Workout Wednesday: Tips for a Health Hike

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. Our next trip March 27th-29th is Kayaking Contentnea Creek. See you there!

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Workout Wednesday blog posts are written by UNC Campus Recreation. Each Wednesday we swap blog posts with the Tar Heel Tone Up blog so that readers can view more diverse post topics that will benefit their health and wellness. Workout Wednesday blog posts can be found both here and on

Need some fresh air? Check out these spots near campus!

Look at how happy he is outside?!
Photo: “Minou enjoys his sunbathe,” by Marina. Flickr Creative Commons.

It’s September! The weather is (finally) cooling off, the leaves are starting to change colors, and we are (probably!) all in need of some fresh air and a study break (like that cat!). North Carolina is FULL of excellent city, county, and state parks with hiking trails and outdoor activities galore (check out this awesome blog with 22 ideas for outdoor adventures), but I wanted to take a minute to give a shout out to three awesome, public transit-accessible parks and outdoor spaces we have right here in Chapel Hill and Carrboro (one is even ON CAMPUS!). Enjoy!


Located just minutes from campus in Carrboro, Wilson Park is a great option for a Sunday picnic or an after-class hike in the woods. The park is home to 8.5 acres full of trails and walking paths, including some trails along Bolin Creek if you’re adventurous and want to hop in the water for a quick dip. Wilson Park also has tennis courts (including 4 that are lit-up at night), a baseball field, playground equipment, and a pavilion and grills to accommodate your picnicking needs.

For more information:

Park address: 101 Williams Street in Carrboro

How to get there: If you have access to a car, Wilson park is a short (under 10 minute) drive from campus, and there is plenty of parking available. No car? No problem! You can take the F bus from various spots on campus (e.g. along Franklin Street), ride the bus for about 10 minutes, and get off at the “N. Greensboro Street at Williams Street” stop. From there, you’ll turn down Williams Street and walk 0.1 miles, and the park will be right there! The other option would be to take the J bus from campus, and get off at the “E. Main Street at Jade Palace” stop, take a right on N. Greensboro Street, walk 0.8 miles and turn onto Williams Street, where the park is.

Photo: “Boating” by Zhaoyu Zhang, Flickr Creative Commons.


Need some more water in your life? University Lake (also located in Carrboro) may be just what you’re looking for. From September through early November, the lake is open from 6:30am to 6:00pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Boat rentals (canoes and kayaks) are available at University Lake, and there are picnic areas as well so you can be sure to get plenty of fuel before your boat ride.

For more information:

Address: 130 University Lake Road in Chapel Hill

How to get there: Hop on the CM bus from various spots on campus, and ride for about 15 minutes, exiting at the “Old Fayatteville Road at Poplar Place” stop. Walk towards the big parking lot and take your first right. Walk about 0.4 miles down that road and you will end up at the University Lake office, where you can rent boats! There is also a parking lot for those wanting to drive.


UNC Biker
Photo by Liyun Yu, “UNC Biker”. Flickr Creative Commons.

Up for some outdoor games and activities right in your backyard? Check out the 20 wooded acres (on campus!) at the COEC, which is home to an 18-hole disc golf course, three sand volleyball courts, tennis courts, picnic areas, a ropes course, and more! Additionally, the COEC sponsors a ton of great outdoor opportunities like backpacking trips, day-hikes, rock climbing excursions, and kayaking adventures.

For more information:

Address: 410A Country Club Road in Chapel Hill (right on campus!!)

How to get there: COEC is about a ten minute walk from the Student Union – check out these walking directions starting in front of Fetzer Gym. There are also some parking spots available AFTER 5:30pm.