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Be Safe While Hiking

By Paul Rothbart

Hiking is quite an enjoyable activity. Being out in nature, fresh air, sunshine, communing with wildlife. Not to mention the great exercise and boost to mental as well as physical health. Hiking is extremely popular. The American National Trails System comprises almost 60,000 miles, longer than the entire Interstate Highway System. There's always a new trail to explore -- some easy, others more difficult. But no matter where you hike, there are risks. Staying safe while hiking is vital to enjoying the experience and coming out of it unscathed. Here are some safety tips for hikers.

Bring Proper Gear

This starts with clothing. Wear proper hiking shoes or boots. A solid tread will lessen the chance of slipping and falling, possibly causing an injury. A solid upper will protect the feet from branches and rocks. Wear clothing that breathes well but offers protection. Long sleeves and pants will help prevent bites from ticks and insects. Dress for the weather. Use sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat on bright days, and bring rain gear for wet days. If there are elevations on the trail, plan for it being colder at the top. Make sure to take water and snack food for energy. A first aid kit is a must. Take a flashlight in case it gets dark before the hike ends. You may even want to take a hiking stick to help with climbs.

Know the Trail Ahead of Time

Do some research and get a trail map. Anticipate tricky parts, climbs or places near streams that may be wet. Find out what poisonous plants or dangerous animals may be in the area and plan a path to avoid them. Have an idea of how long the hike will take. Overestimate and start early. Hiking back in the dark is not fun and can be dangerous. Check to see if any parts of the trail may be closed due to the season or weather. Like the Boy Scout motto says, "Be prepared."

Don't Rely On Your Cell Phone

Once you get on the trail and out into the wild, it is very common to lose cell service. Be ready for this. Having a trail map and a compass is vital. Trail markings wear out and are not always accurate. Bring a portable charger in case there is cell service. How frustrating would it be to have a signal but no juice?

Hiking is great exercise, good for the body, mind, and soul. Nature can be wonderful, but also hazardous. With a little planning, the right equipment, and some common sense, you can enjoy your hike and live to tell about it.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in North Richland Hills, Tex.

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