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Hiking for Your Health

-By Dr. Brett Qualls, PT, DPT, OCS

With the cooler temperatures comes an opportunity for one of my favorite activities: hiking!  Hiking is the perfect combination of doing something that is both active and relaxing.  The area surrounding Lake Havasu City offers many great places to hike.  With the cooler weather patterns, it makes it easier and safer to get out and explore some of our great hiking destinations.

SARA (Special Activities and Recreation Area) Park is one of my favorite places to hike.  The trails at SARA Park offer a variety of terrain and difficulty levels.  The hiking trails vary from walking in the soft wash bed to rock climbing/bouldering.  Several of the trails end down at the Lake and others offer awesome aerial views of the Lake and Lake Havasu City.  If you have not yet hiked out at SARA Park, add this to your list of things to do this fall.  You will not regret it.

Benefits of Hiking

Not only is hiking a great way to get out and enjoy the outdoors, but it is also a great form of exercise.  Hiking is just like walking, but better!  We see some of the same benefits for heart/lung health, calorie burning, and improving stamina wit hiking that we typically attribute to walking.  Hiking in a soft wash bed can also be easier on your joints than the pounding that they take on concrete or asphalt. Depending on the trail that you select, you can also get some leg strengthening work done as you negotiate steeper inclines.  Trekking up and down steep inclines is a good challenges for your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves!

Hiking also offers a unique wildlife and plant life viewing experience.  Hikers in our area see a variety of animals and different plants that you would likely never notice driving by on the road.  Hiking takes you into parts of our desert that would be inaccessible by car.  It is truly a unique view into nature and the ecology of our part of the world.

Hiking can also be a great way to decrease your stress levels.  Research has found that taking a walk in nature can decrease stress levels, as well as lower your risk for depression.  Outdoor hiking provides great scenery, light exercise levels, and plenty of fresh air.  Turns out is great for the body and great for the soul!

What to Pack?

Water is a must have when hiking.  Pack plenty of water.  I usually pack more than I plan on consuming, just in case my hike takes me longer than anticipated.  The chances of having too much water in the desert are pretty clim.  It is important to mention, however, that whatever water that you pack for the day is the water that you will have the pleasure of carrying with your during your hike.  While you are at a it, you might as well throw in a few snacks to enjoy during your hike.  Remember, food is the fuel that keeps your body running!

Hiking shoes or stable pair of walking shoes make hiking a much more pleasurable experience.  Aside from offering stable footing while hiking, hiking shoes also minimize the risk of developing blisters while navigating the terrain.

Hiking Tips

-Select an easier hike for your first attempt or your first time out for the year.  You can become more adventurous as you get more comfortable wth your hiking abilities.

-Always hike with a buddy!  There is definitely safety in numbers when you are out hiking.

-Make sure to do some stretches before and after your hike to minimize the risk of injury or soreness from your hiking activity.

-If you pack it in, pack it out!  Littering a trail or leaving behind garbage ruins the experience for fellow hikers.

*Copyright Lake Havasu Living Magazine