Hiking: Get Outside and Get Moving!
Martin Pazzani likes to recall a day that changed his life.
Three decades ago, when he was 34, Martin went hiking in the New Hampshire mountains. Coming down, he saw a remarkably fit man running up. As the man approached, Martin realized the runner was his grandfather’s age, and he asked how the senior citizen was able to do this.
“He said, ‘I’ve been running up this hill twice a week since I was a little kid. It’s the fountain of youth. See ya, Sonny!’ ”
Martin watched, dumbstruck, as the man kept climbing.
Today, Martin has hiked countless peaks on all seven continents. He has decades of experience as a leader in the fitness industry. And he wants more people over 50 to have the strength, agility and stamina to enjoy the outdoors more often. He has a book out in June called “Secrets of Aging Well: Get Outside.”
Exercise and Sunshine Are Vital
Martin stresses that being outdoors is good for our immune systems and mood, and hiking provides a vigorous workout, complete with endurance and high-intensity intervals. And, super-important for people later in life, it improves balance.
Gym and studio workouts make it more fun and safer — with squats, lunges, rope-jumping and more exercises. And it all combines to improve joint flexibility and more.
If you’re not sure how to begin, Martin keeps it simple: “Walking is where it all starts,” he says. So start with a short distance, then add to it, maybe carry a backpack and add some poles.
He has dozens of stories of mature people who took up hiking after health difficulties. Allan, 81, had both knees replaced, both hips replaced, and two heart surgeries. Susan started after a mastectomy and then formed a 10,000-member hiking club.
We realize most people aren’t going to reach such heights, and that’s great. We’re here to help you get or stay fit enough for fun activities like hiking, running, biking, and more that will keep you moving.
Other Wellbeing Tips
Exercise and being outdoors improve our wellbeing. Here, Martin shares other tips for a better quality of life (and less need for healthcare and medicine).
- Unplug from technology. It’s getting harder to do all the time. But it’s important to set limits to how much time you stare at your phone or computer screen. It actually will lower your stress level and improve your attention span.
- No music during your walk or hike. Martin says it can produce stress, tension and cortisol, the stress hormone that leads to weight gain, depression and worse. Plus, the silence is – you know – golden when it comes to heightening mindfulness and enjoying the moment. At the gym, too many people turn up their music so loud to cover up ambient noises. Let it go.
- Go to the top of something, even a tall building, and enjoy the view. Most people focus their vision on screens or other up-close items, which affects eyesight and mood. With altitude you can take in the horizon and engage the full range of eye muscles, lowering stress levels. If no tall building or hill is available, try the beach or open field – anywhere with a long-distance view.
For help getting started with a fitness program to support any activities you may be considering or to get better at the ones you already do. Please feel to reach out.
Gordon Palmer; registered Personal Trainer, Fitness Coordinator and Nutrtition Coach for Project Body Smart at Global Fitness & Racquet Centre.