Hiking: off the beaten fitness path

Mon Jul 12, 2010 10:35am EDT
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By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - If outdoor fitness has been your road not taken, summer may be perfect time to ditch those climate-controlled Pilates classes and take a hike.

"The Green Mountains of Vermont is the gym in our backyard," said Jimmy LeSage, owner of the New Life Hiking Spa in Killington, Vermont. "You get to be in nature. It's more tranquil."

Although the spa offers other activities, its centerpiece is hiking, which can mean anything from a leisurely nature jaunt to an arduous trek up a mountain.

"You get stronger, you lose weight, you de-stress," said LeSage, a former ski bum who has been ushering weight-conscious clients through the Green Mountains for more than 20 years.

Hard economic times may be driving more budget-conscious Americans to move their fun, and their fitness, out of doors. The Outdoor Foundation, a nonprofit association of the outdoor recreation industry, reported that participation in hiking grew by nine percent in 2008.

Traversing hills, especially while carrying a backpack, burns calories, strengthens muscles and can prove addictive enough to uproot even the most stubborn couch potato, according to Dr. Patty Freedson of the American College of Sports Medicine.

"Hiking doesn't take a lot of skills and can be done with group support," she said. "Most important, it's enjoyable. If you can get a sedentary person to do one or two miles and sustain it, that would be great."

The Fatpacking company, based in Hull, Massachusetts, likes their hiking-for-weight-loss treks spiked with camping and wilderness training.   Continued...

<p>Hikers on a pier at Kent Pond in Killington, Vermont July 2008. REUTERS/New Life Hiking Spa/Handout</p>