Today I am honored to have Margaret from Your Therapy Source sharing about the therapeutic benefits of hiking as we continue in our series on the therapeutic benefits of recreational activities!
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One of my favorite things to do with my family is to go hiking. As a child and now as a mother, I have always found it extremely fun to explore different hiking trails. Not only do you get exercise, you usually get to see amazing views and perhaps wildlife. A year ago, our family with 6 children decided we would try to hike 50 miles over the summer. We didn’t get even close but we had so much fun trying.
There are many therapeutic benefits of hiking:
- first and foremost excellent aerobic and strengthening exercise
- challenges balance skills when walking on grass, dirt, stones, uphill and downhill
- physical activity in general positively affects concentration, elevates mood, enhances creativity and facilitates memory
- increases sense of accomplishment
- the whole family benefits from the physical activity and participates in quality, screen-free time together
- calming sensation from being outdoors in nature
Additional benefits of hiking:
- it’s free!
- you can go at your own pace
- no pressure of a winner versus a loser
Hiking is a great activity for all children.
It is necessary to do some homework before you go hiking with children in order to grade (adjust) the activity based on the child’s abilities. A little online research or a trip to the library to check out hiking trail books will allow you to pick the right trail for your family.
When starting out, pick flat trails that are short loops. Children usually prefer to complete the entire trail rather than going halfway and turning back around. There are handicapped trails that are perfect to try out. They are usually flat and paved making it smoother if in a wheelchair or if your child uses an assistive device to walk.
If your child is not overly social, hiking is an excellent choice since you can easily vary how much you socialize during the hike.
If you want to tackle a more serious hike with children, again, do a little research to start. Many other people have already provided feedback on whether certain trails are suitable for young children.
Keep in mind that as the hike progresses, children may fatigue. To prevent injury remind them to be aware of the terrain and to walk, not run. Sometimes going downhill can be more dangerous and difficult to traverse than climbing uphill. There can be slippery rocks, muddy slopes or large drops that can be harder to navigate on the way down. Make sure you will be able to get back down before you try to go up!
Don’t forget that a hike can be as simple as walking and exploring a small stream all the way to conquering some high peaks. Start out slow and progress based on your family’s abilities. Have fun exploring the outdoors!
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Margaret Rice, PT, is the owner of Your Therapy Source Inc, an online resource for special education, pediatric occupational therapy and pediatric physical therapy. She has authored many publications that encourage sensory motor skills in children. In her free time, Margaret frequently goes hiking with her husband and her six children!
Connect with “Your Therapy Source”:
Previous posts in this series on Mama OT:
Additional posts coming up in this series! (in no particular order):
Therapeutic Benefits of Bowling
Therapeutic Benefits of Bike Riding
Therapeutic Benefits of Dance
Therapeutic Benefits of Gymnastics
Therapeutic Benefits of Rock Climbing
Therapeutic Benefits of Running
Therapeutic Benefits of Surfing
Therapeutic Benefits of Yoga
Therapeutic Benefits of Exploring Nature (from an Occupational Therapy perspective)
Therapeutic Benefits of Exploring Nature (from a Speech Therapy perspective)
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