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Walking and Hiking a Path to Better Health …

March 27, 2010

The difference between walking and hiking is like the difference between jogging and running. It’s the seriousness of the effort.

For a closer look, let’s examine walking. Taking a walk conjures up connotations of walking around the block — a leggy stint on the sidewalk of an urban setting with pedicured lawns, trees, curbs, fire hydrants, pets on leashes, neighbors on front porches and kids on scooters.

A different image is played out with a hike. Mountains, grand vistas, sunsets, backpacks, thick-treaded boots and no sign of civilization. Hiking is considered an ecologically safe method of venturing into the outback – notwithstanding the impact upon tundra lichen and permafrost plants that take centuries to grow a centimeter.

Walking and hiking are good for the body and the mind. A romp is the woods can easily download a backlog of stress while the mind lets go of work tasks and household duties, and shifts to the wonderments of nature.

A hike usually involves more planning, and almost always a drive in a motorized vehicle to get to the trailhead or path outside the city limits. There’s also the outerwear, water, snacks, cameras, binoculars, bird and wildflower books that wind up in rucksacks and fanny packs. A hike usually lasts longer than a mere walk where you just go and do it.

The Demise of Walking

For many people, using legs and feet as a transport vehicle is not as preferable as using an automobile. Additionally, mankind has chosen to live out in the suburbs away from jobs, schools, stores and markets. Reasons to walk have been eliminated.

To compound the problem, generations of impatience and laziness have induced people to park as close as possible to where they’re going – even snagging handicapped parking slots to shorten their treks to malls and post offices. In a nation of drive-thrus and instant everything, we’ve become a society that never walks more than a few steps, hence the reason that many of us are overweight and out of shape.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than one third of U.S. adults (over 72 million people) and 16% of U.S. children are obese. Since 1980, obesity rates for adults have doubled and rates for children have tripled.

U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona says obesity is the greatest threat to public health today, killing more Americans than AIDS, all cancers and all accidents combined.

For many Americans, taking the trash out to the curb once a week is the most exercise they get. Getting up to find the remote or to grab another beer from the kitchen refrigerator often gets the blood stream pumping for others. Humankind has tragically slumped to being a slug on the couch while cable TV slowly sucks the life out of their minds and bodies.

Fight Back by Taking That First Step

In order to deter man’s unnatural evolution into slothhood, he has to fight by rising to his feet and taking that first important step. Open the door, step outside into new territory — and don’t look back. Begin with short walks to acclimate the body to self-motivation.

Then work up to short and then longer hikes. Explore the outdoor world as if it were the Discovery Channel. Identify the local trees, wildflowers, birds and beasts. Dabble in geology, meteorology, ecology, astronomy and history on your jaunts through the wilds. Join a walking or hiking club to add a social atmosphere to your jaunts.

A good walk will do the body a lot of good. Now go do it.

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