Fall is here, and it’s a great time of year to get outside and experience all of the natural resources Massachusetts has to offer. I am looking forward to taking advantage of the Fall weather by going on hikes, and I was surprised to see that there are plenty of state-run hiking trails – over 80 in all! – located throughout Massachusetts. No matter what part of the state you are in, you’re sure to never be far from a trail, so there is no excuse not to hop in your car and drive to the nearest trail to hike for a few hours. Hiking, like walking, is something that almost anyone can participate in and experience health benefits from. The Department of Conservation and Recreation has designated almost 20 trails as being “accessible” (either paved or made from stonedust and roughly 1/4 – 3/4 miles in length) or “assessed” (actual dirt trails that offer a more ‘rugged’ experience for adventure-seekers), so that even people with mobility limitations can still fully experience the trails.
I encourage you to check out the DCR’s hiking webpages and pick a trail that suits your activity level; according to Pacific Standard magazine and the American Hiking Association, your body will thank you, as the health benefits of hiking are many:
- Both uphill and downhill hiking have been shown to decrease LDL (or “bad cholesterol” ) levels, while uphill hiking also decreases triglyceride levels
- Downhill hiking has also been shown to improve glucose tolerance and reduce blood sugar levels
- Hiking has been shown to decrease feelings of depression, while walking around a mall may actually increase depressed feelings!
- Hiking burns about 100 calories a mile, so if you were to hike at a 3-mile-per-hour pace, you’d burn 300 calories in an hour
For those of you tracking your steps as part of the Step It Up! walking campaign, hiking can be a fun and challenging way to add more steps to your day and experience nature at its best. I hope you will join me in taking advantage of the perfect Fall weather to take a hike!