19th June 2017.
Summer is the perfect time to gather the family together for fun and activities together. Whether you go on holiday or stay at home, there are endless opportunities to engage with your kids in exciting ways. With school out, they will probably have tons of energy to burn. So why not plan for an enjoyable physical activity? Not only will everyone get to enjoy fresh air and the outdoors, but you'll appreciate knowing the activity has positive health benefits, too. So, what activities are ideal for the whole family? Consider hiking. At first glance, a family hike might seem like a strange idea ? but think about it on a deeper level.
Not only is it an opportunity to spend time in the great outdoors, but it can be quite a demanding exercise, too. What if you don't want to put your family through their paces? That's fine too ? hiking can be as strenuous or as easy-going as you like. That flexibility, combined with the fact that opportunities are everywhere, is what makes it the perfect activity for your family this summer. How do you transition from saying "Let's go hiking!" to actually hitting the trail? Let's look at how to do just that.
What makes hiking such good family exercise?
Before we tackle the how
, let's tackle the why
first. Isn't hiking just walking on a path? At its most basic, yes, that is true. You might find a "hike" along a shady forest path to be a relaxing way to spend an afternoon. Even that amount of physical activity can have benefits for your body. Hiking goes far beyond
just a basic walk, though. It isn't like walking on the road or a paved footpath, where there is a smooth and even surface underneath your feet. A major part of hiking's challenge comes from varying terrain ? both regarding surface features and elevation changes. It might sound easy on paper, but after half an hour of stepping over roots and slowly going higher, you'll find it can be quite the heart-pounding exercise
The fact that it's a continuous cardio activity means it's excellent for your heart health. The active movement of hiking also means you can give your bone density a boost. Both benefits are excellent for you, but they're just as good for your growing kids, too. Teens especially can benefit from the extra activity as they grow. It can help foster a love for exercise and the outdoors that can persist throughout their life.
There's one final benefit, too: it's inexpensive! Unlike other summer activities which can cost plenty of cash, hiking has a low entry cost. You'll want to make sure you have the right gear (more on that below), and there may be trail fees. However, these are small expenses compared to many more traditional summer activities.
Begin by planning a route or picking a trail
So, let's say you've made the decision to take your family hiking this summer. The next step on the to-do list involves choosing a suitable location for a hike. Keep your search local as you begin looking. If you've never been hiking before, starting out with a difficult and very long trail isn't a good idea. Instead, look for a simple nature walk that's easily accessible. Try to keep it within thirty minutes of home where possible.
Those living in cities may need to travel a bit further to find a trail and some green space! A Google search can help you find the best hiking trails in your local area.
Most nature parks and preserves have marked trails throughout to allow visitors to navigate the area easily. Other parts may not use trails so regularly. Either way, plan your day carefully. Know which route you intend to walk and its total distance. Keep in mind what your family is capable of as well. You don't want to make it several kilometres into a hike only to realise everyone is ready to go home! That's a recipe for a long walk back to the car full of complaints. Choose something in line with the general fitness level of your family.
After you've gone on a few hikes, feel free to ramp up the challenge bit by bit. Ask fellow hikers if they have tips or good places to work on developing some endurance. Of course, don't forget the most important part of a hike ? good scenery. A location that's visually appealing and memorable is far more fun for the family to hike through together.
Plan appropriately to bring the right items
How you'll plan and pack for hiking with the whole family depends on the age of the children you'll bring with you. Are your kids very young? You'll want to stick to short paths and trails, and you'll need to bring extra supplies above and beyond the usual load. Extra snacks and water are a good idea to prevent crankiness. For parents of older children and teenagers, though, you can rove a little farther with some
A sturdy hiking backpack and good closed-toe shoes or boots are the best places to start. Not everyone needs to carry a bag; you may be able to succeed with just one or even two. If you intend to hike on harder trails someday, though, adjusting to how backpacking works isn't a bad idea. Additionally, don?t underestimate the value of comfortable shoes on the trail. Your feet will thank you after a long day.
What should go into those backpacks? Water bottles, for starters, and those aforementioned snacks. Also, bring along bug repellent and plenty of sunscreen. Before you head out, check the weather in advance and on the day of your family hike. If light rain is in the forecast, bring ponchos ? it doesn't have to force you to stay indoors. When a thunderstorm is on the horizon, though, stay home; no hike is worth the risk of being caught in that. Don't forget a map (or your phone's GPS) to help you find your way back to where you parked, too.
Fun and games for the family on the hiking trail
Are you already having visions of your children complaining "I'm bored!" while you hike? Don't worry. There's plenty more to do besides walking the trail and looking at nature. In fact, you can transform the hike into a wholly different experience every time you go out if you want. How? It all comes down to the
way you structure the day's activities. A little creativity goes a long way. Just engage with your child's natural energy and desire to play. There are all kinds of trail games families can play.
For example, you might organise a fun scavenger hunt. Come up with a list of objects for your kids to find on the trail before you leave the house. You might even want to decide on a few small prizes to give them a goal to work towards while hiking. Not only does this keep the kids engaged with the hike, but it'll keep them moving all around the trail.
In areas where it's safe for hikers to go off-trail, a simple hide and seek game can be fun, too. Let your kids run a little bit ahead on the trail and tell them to hide behind an object near the trail. When the rest of your family group approaches, they can jump out and surprise everyone! It's excellent fun for the kids and will always keep them focused on the path ahead. Meanwhile, you and your spouse can enjoy the fresh air and the sight of your children having a blast in nature.
Make the most of the summer with this fun activity
Whether you travel far from home to visit a specific trail or you choose a nearby location, your family has plenty to gain from giving hiking a try. From improving your kids' physical fitness and love for the outdoors to simple relaxation, there's so much to love about this activity. Remember to pack appropriately and wear the right type of clothing for the trail you intend to hike. Check the weather forecast regularly, too! No one wants to get caught in a storm out on the trail. So ? is it time for you to think about putting on your hiking boots?