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Exercise Advice for Aging Hikers

Over the Hill Hikers

What can older hikers do to help offset the stiffness, aches, and pains that come with getting older so that they can continue hiking into their late 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. That’s the question that a reader sent me last week. She writes:

[quote]I am in my late 50’s and my partner is 64. We have completed (and loved) several multi-day walks over the past 20 years but are becoming stiffer in the joints as we age. We are planning a challenging 5-day hike in New Zealand early next year and wonder how best to prepare to avert any physical discomfort. While we will continue our usual gym routines and regular walking, the age factor / aches and pains / stiffness are becoming an issue. We want to continue our hiking for as long as possible, so any suggestions appreciated.[/quote]

This issue has been on my mind as well, since I’m now approaching my mid-50’s. I reckon I have about 15-20 years of backpacking left which explains my fervor in doing as much as I can while I’m still reasonably “robust”.

What advice would you give us?

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  1. Another consideration for those visiting New Zealand should be foot wear. I firmly believe that good boots are an essential for much of our tracks, routes and trails as they are often rough, steep and very hard on footwear. I have had a medium priced boot destroyed on a six day tramp; continuously wet, many river crossings and knee deep mud on Stuart Island did the dirty. On the other hand the “Great Walks” are a walk in the Park by comparison and shoes are fine.

    • My granddaughter hiked on long weekends as a geoscience exchange student in New Zealand, mostly hiking on the South Island. During the University of Canterbury’s 3 week spring break she and five friends did a weeklong hike ( or tramp) including a 30 kilometer trek one day (18 miles) between huts. The terrain is much different than what is hiked on the East Coast of the US, according to her, and jagged volcanic surfaces could be a challenge. She thought the hut system was sophisticated and provided a great place to stay overnight. They did not bring tents, which garanteed that they would get in a lengthy hike from hut to hut. Now that she is home, she would love to return to New Zealand. Good for you, Tony, to be 77 and still going strong! i plan to do the same.

  2. I’m type 2 diabetic and 63. I did a certain amount of backpacking in my 40’s and as a young adult, Adirondacks, GMC Long Trail northern section and in the Eastern Townships Canada (Sentier de l’Estrie.) I’m road cycling to keep my legs and lungs strong and my diabetes is very well controlled. I long to do the whole Long Trail, but a bit creeped out. I get a lot of encouragement/inspiration from reading seniors doing this. Whether the LT, AT or JMT…. lots to be gleaned from.

  3. I’ll be 70 this fall. I can’t hike as far or as long as I once could, but I do keep going. First trick is to have good genes. Next, exercise a lot and regularly, aerobic and weights. Get out year round. I’ve always believed in backpacking at your own pace. It’s even more important now.

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