I have always told myself that if I can be a role model for living a healthy and active life, then I’ve done my job as a Mom. I push myself to get outside and hike when I’d rather curl up on the couch. I train for races when I’d rather sleep in. I let my daughter know I’m going to the gym because it’s important to be strong. It’s not always easy, and I’m not always successful, but as moms we can inspire each other to move more, to travel more, and to do it WITH our kids.
So, spring is here, and the trails are open! Every winter I dream about that first hike of the season – breathing the fresh air, exploring the woods, and teaching my kids how lucky we are to live here. Sometimes it’s just like I imagine – like we’re a page from an L.L.Bean catalog. Sometimes the reality is quite different (whining kids, 50 snack stops, aching backs from carrying the three-year-old half the hike, and bugs…bugs…bugs.) But no matter the experience, I come home thinking, “we need to do that again soon”. And seeing the little ones climb over rocks or smell flowers instead of fighting over toys…well, need I say more?
Going for a hike can take an hour, a few hours, or a few days. It can be on a flat trail, rolling hills, or tough rocks. The great thing about hiking is that no matter what type of hike you take, you get to escape from the daily grind and just be together. You don’t have to be an expert. You don’t need to go fast. You don’t need the newest backpack that weighs an ounce, transforms into a tent, and dispenses candy on demand for crying kids (although if they sell one of those, I’m in). Just go. Just get out. Just leave the to do list for another day.
As a Mom, hiking not only offers you an enjoyable way to get some family time. It also improves your fitness and provides some mental clarity and calmness that all women need.
Physical Health Benefits:
- Hiking burns approximately 400 calories per hour. Meaning your body will thank you and you won’t feel guilty about that post-climb glass of wine.
- Improves your cardiovascular ability so your heart and lungs stay strong.
- Increases lower body and core strength. Your quadriceps, gluteals, hamstrings, calves, abdominals, inner and outer thighs, and low back will all get a simultaneous workout.
- Improves balance and agility because your body is traveling on uneven surfaces.
- Hiking on dirt saves your joints from the impact they take when jogging or walking on pavement.
Mental Health Benefits:
- Hiking can take your mind off of the endless to do lists, reduce stress levels, and increase the healthy endorphins released in your brain.
- When hiking, try to shift your focus to how your body is feeling; the burn in your muscles, the way the air feels as you breath, or the increase in your heart rate as you hit the hills. Begin to really listen to your body. Can you push harder? Do you need to slow down? Can you hike for one more mile? Or are your legs worn out and it’s time to call it a day?
- Stop every few moments to look at what’s around you and be present – notice the plants, flowers, and sounds – and then teach your kids to do the same.
What you’ll need:
- Sneakers/day hiking boots
- Comfortable pants
- Workout socks
- Layers (tank top, t-shirt, long sleeve, and a jacket)
- Small backpack
- Water and snacks
- Hat or sunglasses
- Cell phone
- A watch so you don’t get caught climbing up while the sun is going down!
- Optional: hiking/walking poles, camera, bug spray, sunscreen, etc
Some popular family friendly hiking areas: Urban Forestry Center (Portsmouth), Odiorne Point State Park (Rye), Great Bay Discovery Center (Greenland), Pawtuckaway State Park (Nottingham), Mount Major (Alton), Henderson-Swasey (Exeter), Oaklands Town Forest (Newfields), Stratham Hill Park (Stratham), Fort Foster (Kittery, ME)
To find other hikes near you check out:
- Hike It Baby
- NH State Parks and Recreation
- Southeast Land Trust of NH
- Hike New England
Once you’re back home, continue your family time by looking at photos you took along the hike, getting out a map and planning the next trail to explore, or sorting through any treasures the kids may have collected (pine cones, leaves, rocks, or small sticks can make great art projects with a little glue and paint!) Next, put those tired kids to bed, take a hot bath, and enjoy a glass of wine (or two).
What’s your favorite family friendly hike in NH? I’d love to hear about it and add it to our hiking “to do” list!