Hiking and outdoor adventurism arenâ€™t just meant for the young whipper-snappers. By maintaining their health over the decades, seniors can continue to enjoy hiking even into their later years. In some cases, seniors prove to be some of the most badass hikers on the trail.
While itâ€™s doable, it doesnâ€™t mean that there arenâ€™t health risks involved. Hiking as a senior can be dangerous, especially if done alone, as a minor fall could be deadly on an isolated trail. So how do you, as a senior hiker, protect yourself while out on the trail?
Whether itâ€™s wearing medical alert jewelry in case you get injured or storing an emergency medical kit and trekking poles in your backpack, you can take measures to save your life while on the trail. Here are some of our most-trusted life-saving tips for senior hikers.
1. Check in with Your Doctor
Hiking can be a stress-relieving form of exercise, but it can be equally strenuous on senior individuals. Seniors should be fine on simple, short hikes, but you should consider seeing your doctor for longer, more strenuous hikes. A thorough physical can help determine if there are any underlying conditions that should be considered or to offer advice on how to exercise at your age.
2. Exercise Before You Hit the Trail
Strong legs are beneficial to hiking, but itâ€™s not the be-all and end-all. The muscular structure of the human body is such that your back, core, hips and glutes propel your legs. Strengthening your core is a simple step towards improving overall strength, especially when it comes to hiking.
Consider implementing some other exercises to improve overall fitness, too. This can include swimming, Pilates, yoga or body-specific exercises like working on posture or improving ankle strengthâ€”which is extremely helpful to avoid rolling your ankle on an uneven trail.
3. Check the Weather
Just as you wouldnâ€™t underestimate a mountain, never underestimate the weather. Check the weather the day before you leave for your hike and the day of. This can help you to avoid any weather-related issues, whether you decide to cancel your hike for a more ideal day or you decide to pack some warm clothing and waterproof gear.
4. Consider Your Clothing
The weather will dictate the majority of clothing choices you make. If youâ€™re looking at a sunny day with no chance of rain, you can opt for shorts, a shirt, a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses. Rainy days will call for extra layers, a raincoat and packing an extra pair of socks.
Youâ€™ll need to take some other clothing into account, though. Here are some considerations:
â—Â A well-made pair of hiking boots (that fit) will help stabilize your ankles, protect your feet and support your arches
â—Â Moisture-wicking shirts, tops, underwear and socks will keep your skin feeling cool and dry while reducing chafing
â—Â Carrying a comfortable bag matters, as any uneven weight distributed on your back can lead to severe discomfort
5. Bring Enough Food, Water and an Emergency Kit
Even short hikes require preparation. It may sound dire, but youâ€™re taking a risk every time you go out into the woods by yourself. So, reduce risks however you can. This includes packing more food and water than you might need, a first aid kit, a flashlight, a knife and waterproof matches, a lighter or flint.
You should also wear an ID bracelet while out on the trail. This simple addition to your overall outfit could potentially save your life, as it will provide passersby with your name, personal info and emergency contact numbers.
6. Stretch Before You Ascend
Tight muscles can lead to serious injuries if untreated, or if continuously used for exercise. Do some warm-up stretches to prepare for your hike and avoid potential injury while on the trail. The stretches donâ€™t have to be vigorous, either. Simple activities that stretch your back, glutes, core, legs and shoulders will go a long way to keeping you healthy while exercising.
7. Train Intelligently (Take Your Time)
Sometimes, the excitement gets the best of us, leading us to make decisions we wouldnâ€™t with a clear mind. Itâ€™s important for this reason to train your way up to whatever distance you plan on hiking.
This can be completed by gradually increasing your daily distance, time and elevation hiked/walked. When starting off, consider going for short walks around your neighborhood with a loved one. Then, begin increasing the amount of time you walk every day.
After long enough, you can begin increasing your exercise by going for multiple walks a day, soon incorporating other exercises that will help once you get to the trail. Donâ€™t run before you can walk! Your body will thank you, trust us.
8. Tell People Where Youâ€™re Going
Be sure to tell someone where youâ€™re going if youâ€™re hiking alone. This includes telling them where youâ€™ll be hiking, where youâ€™ve parked, when you plan on leaving and how long you think the hike will take. This ensures you have someone looking out for you in case anything happens on the trail.
Better yet, avoid the risk of going it alone, if you can, and hike with some friends or a local hiking group. Not only will the company and their motivation be nice, but youâ€™ll be kept safe by having some other people around to watch out for you.
9. Pace Yourself
Remember to leave your ego at the trailhead. Thereâ€™s nothing worse than an egotistical hiker, as theyâ€™re the person most likely to make a dangerous mistake while out on the trailâ€“either by hiking faster than they can handle without storing enough water and food or remaining on the trail too late at night without having a flashlight or headlamp in their pack.
Abide by this rule even if youâ€™re out for a day hike. Take your time! Thereâ€™s no need to rush while out in nature. Pace yourself and know your limits. Itâ€™ll keep you safe while allowing you to really take in your hike.