Take A Hike!

Why would a beauty blog talk about hiking? Because when your healthy inside it shows outside. I’ve gotten into the habit of hiking in the woods and find it really calming and beneficial. This weekend I took a group of friends with me to hike Crowders Mountain in North Carolina and even the least athletic person loved it! I know what I enjoy about hiking – the smells, the exercise, the physical challenge, seeing nature and critters close up, no cell reception and time to talk or think. There is something about being stripped of everything but your backpack, hiking boots and the will to keep moving that puts everything into perspective. I decided to research to see if it the benefits of hiking were particular to me or if there were any proven benefits. It’s not just me – there are some proven perks and they include:

  • Emotional Benefits – Turns out there is literally something scientific about the scent of the woods. There are 8 scents that scientifically make you happy and pine is at the top of the list. The Healthy lists all the scents here of you want to read more. Many parks don’t have good reception due to altitude or remote locations and this is a good thing – forces you to take a break from the rate race. All of this leads to lower stress levels, improved mood, and enhanced mental wellbeing. Lower stress levels also lower your blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Physical Benefits – Exercise in the fresh air help to lower cholesterol levels, maintain or lower body fat and helps to build bone density as well as flexibility and coordination. One of the benefits of hiking is that you can choose your level of challenge by choosing or creating your own path. When you visit a National Park they provide a map with choices for hikes (see below). They will rate them based on the physical challenge level and will indicate the number of miles. Don’t get scared when people start talking about walking for miles – it only takes 15-20 minutes for the average person to walk 1 mile. More than likely you do more than this when shopping so – you got this!
  • Social Connectivity – Communing with nature and better yet friends and family while hiking leads to a better overall quality of life. I enjoy hiking alone because it gives me focused time to think about things overall while listening to the sounds in the woods. Some people prefer to put their ear buds in and jam out – I’ve tried this and it just doesn’t do it for me but I get it. If you go solo without music you’ll notice the birds, change of seasons, the wind in the trees and the trickling of the brook. All sounds we seem to get too busy to hear. Hiking with friends, that special someone or family adds a whole other layer of enjoyment. You can learn more about one another through conversation, physical challenge and teamwork.
Sample Hiking Guide

If you’ve never hiked here is what you should have with you for a basic hike.

  • Water 
  • A snack – Turkey Jerky, Granola, Dried Fruit – Something  easy and not messy – just in case you get hungry. * Remember you’ll need to carry your trash out so keep it simple.
  • A phone – In case of emergency or for your music
  • Good Shoes – Hiking boots if you have them! They are especially helpful as they keep your ankles from rolling in uneven terrain. If you don’t own hiking boots but would consider buying some be sure to head to a store that knows their stuff. Try a local store first or an REI or Cabela’s. Even if you don’t buy at the shop you can get help finding the right brands and fit. Want more details on gear check out outdoorgearlab. Don’t want to make the investment? Wear the most comfortable and supportive sneakers you have. A firm bottom sole is best and consider bringing an extra pair of socks in case you’r feet start to feel sore. 2 pairs of socks can add more cushion and minimize friction.
CALM 100% Organic Soothing Oil
  • Basic skincare – Bug Spray, Lip Balm, Sunscreen and CALM. I started bringing CALM for minor skin irritations (like bug bites, sunburn or scrapes) and any allergic reactions to pollen.
  • Clothing – I recommend dressing in layers. Temperatures will change at various elevations as well as during various times of the day. You can always take something off if your too warm. Wick away fabrics are best as any sweat will dry and keep you cool. Not sure what fabric is best for you, check out Shape Fitness Clothing for more ideas.

Looking for a mountain or park near you check out? I’d recommend using National Parks as they are safe and organized. Check this Find A Park site for options near you.

So head out and enjoy!

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Dr. Vanessa Rodriguez is a board-certified general practitioner with more than 15 years of patient care experience. She takes an integrative approach to patient care that considers the whole person – mind, body, and spirit – and is deeply committed to assisting her patients in achieving and sustaining optimal health. Dr. Vanessa is also a skilled writer and medical reviewer, specializing in preventive care and health promotion. Her articles are written in an approachable manner that is simple to comprehend and implement in one’s own life. Dr. Vanessa’s mission is to equip her patients and readers with the knowledge and resources necessary to live their greatest lives.

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