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Greensboro News Record: Columnists

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Hiking hike commerce opportunity Club

As the sedentary holiday season takes its toll, it may be worthwhile to consider possible lifestyle tweaks in the new year. There is a way to make it easier on yourself:

Consider becoming part of a group that will give you frequent and cost-effective opportunities to get outdoors and exercise. Hiking and outing clubs in the United States have multiplied in recent years. Reasons to join one include the following.

1. Abundance of area opportunities. North Carolina has a wealth of hiking trails and opportunities. Greensboro alone has more than 70 miles of public trails, primarily around Lakes Brandt, Higgins and Townsend, and elsewhere, including downtown. There are also many walkable neighborhoods.

Within a 100-mile radius are opportunities for more varied and challenging hikes, such as at Hanging Rock, Pilot Mountain, Doughton Park, Grandfather Mountain, Rock Castle Gorge and Stone Mountain. While you may not be familiar with the details, hiking clubs are familiar with these and many other hikes, and they carpool to the trail heads for many hikes. It is a relief to be able to rely on others to locate an obscure trail head and stay on a curvy trail.

2. The perfect exercise. Doctors and others in the health field increasingly advise that walking at least 30 minutes a day, on average, is the single most important step one can take toward good health. That is not new: Thomas Jefferson was clear that “of all exercises, walking is the best.” A hiking club provides the ideal platform to do that. Regular participation will result in better health and conditioning, and it will increase your energy level. You will be more relaxed, feel better and sleep better.

3. Safety. Obviously, walking with a group provides greater safety, especially in the more remote areas. Injuries can happen.

4. Getting outdoors. Many people who exercise in gyms rarely get the fresh air and sunshine they need. And the scenery does not change. Hiking in fresh air and sunshine, and encountering nature’s constantly changing bounty and wonder, are physically and psychologically uplifting and invigorating.

5. Supplementing other routines. Hiking is a great supplement for other types of exercise. Tennis, yoga, running, golf and similar pursuits are very worthwhile, and hiking complements and enhances these activities. Hiking can also give your joints and muscles a needed break, since it involves a minimum of pounding and sudden starting and stopping.

6. Cost-effectiveness. Membership in a hiking club is inexpensive, since the clubs are run by volunteers. Annual dues for individuals and families are low. Joining early in the new year is the best value, since you receive a full year’s opportunities in return.

As a member, you typically receive a regular newsletter announcing hiking, biking, kayaking and dining/social activities. You choose the hikes or other offerings that suit you.

Equipment is not expensive. You can start out with your sneakers, shorts, jeans and a rain jacket. After several hikes, your fellow participants will be very helpful on what types of clothing, shoes/boots, packs and other items you want to consider, and the best places to buy them.

7. Informality. Typically, hiking clubs are quite flexible. They have few ironclad rules and make few outright demands on members. They fit within the schedules of members. If you get busy with work or other commitments and cannot join club activities for a while, no worries — the club will still be there. Opportunities are numerous; even the most active members can participate in only a small percentage of what is offered.

8. Friendship, companionship. Hiking clubs attract a wide array of interesting people of all ages, traits, personalities and occupations. Members tend to be considerate and have open minds. Fast friendships can be formed. Hikes, and car trips to and from outings, can result in interesting conversations and pleasant dining opportunities. (Hiking clubs know where the good food is.) Family conversations on hikes can be very useful; a teenager is likely to volunteer more to a parent on a short hike than can be pried out in a month.

9. Other opportunities. Membership in a hiking club sometimes results in members or friends getting together in smaller groups to take hiking and other trips farther afield. These can include trips to other parts of the country, or other countries, and can enrich members’ lives. A hiking club can be a springboard to broadened horizons.

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