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  • Kristin McNealus, DPT, MBA

Summer is Here!

As the weather gets warmer, it is a great time of year to get outside! Hiking is a wonderful family activity as well as a fantastic way to improve everyone’s health.

Hiking can have the typical benefits of exercise, such as improving cardiovascular fitness. This can decrease the risk for heart disease and diabetes. It can also help with weight maintenance, and model health habits for the children to incorporate as they grow. Working out outside incorporates conditions that cannot be experienced inside. Adding wind, temperature changes, and sun can add a different challenge to exercise besides intensity. This can build resilience, and teach more flexibility.

Depending on where you go hiking, it can be strengthening exercise if there are inclines and hills. It can help bone density as bone health requires impact. Also, if you are hiking on uneven surfaces, this can improve balance and reflexes.

We know that exercise can improve mood, and decrease the risk for depression and/or manage stress and anxiety. Well, heading outdoors can further contribute to improved mood! There has been evidence to show that spending time in nature, and away from busier settings, has even more success with promoting positive moods.

With all of these benefits, how do you get ready to hit the trails? Just like with any exercise program, be sure that you are safe for exercise. If you and the rest of the family have been sedentary for the past several months, consider getting clearance from your physician or physical therapist is a good idea.

Grab a pair of comfortable shoes that can manage the terrain you will be traversing. If you are hitting trails, consider hiking boots that can help with stability. Walking poles are a great way to improve stability and balance. Always take a map and a cell phone. Put sunscreen on – even if it is not sunny.

Carry a backpack, and be sure that you have layers of clothing in case the temperature changes in either direction. Bring sufficient water to stay hydrated. Pack some snacks, preferably some natural snacks. Bananas, nuts, raisons, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and apples are all great options.

There are various levels of difficulty of hikes, start slowly. Pick easier trails to begin. There are options for all levels of ability. If you or any family members have difficulty with temperature regulation or sweating, be sure to pick days that are not too hot and research trails that have a fair amount of shade to rest.

Here is a website with more tips about hiking with someone who has a disability:

Do not let wheelchairs or strollers limit your decision to get out there. Here is a website to help find accessible trails by state:

As the temperatures rise, lace up those shoes and hit the trails! And share your experiences with the rest of us!

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