Connect With Nature: Forest Therapy
Elevate Your Hike this week by connecting with nature through forest therapy. Inspired by the Japanese practice of “forest bathing,” forest therapy is an outdoor healing practice that encourages you to experience the pleasures of nature through all your senses.
Nature has a calming effect. Many trees and plants release immunity-boosting organic compounds and oils into the air. Research suggests that spending time in nature may help lower stress, improve attention and lift your mood, among other benefits.
For this week’s hike, try to let go of the thoughts in your head, breathe in the fresh air and focus on the sights, smells and sounds around you.
To learn more about forest therapy, visit the Association of Nature and Forest Therapy Guides and Programs website.
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Fuel Your Body to Move
This week is all about fueling your body with healthy foods for your hike. Pack snacks to keep you nourished and energized. Examples include orange slices, bananas, apples, carrots, peanut butter crackers/sandwiches, protein bars and/or trail mix/nuts.
Check out our favorite Hiking Snacks for quick, nutritious, easy and non-perishable snack ideas.
Even better, create your own trail mix with this Healthy, Happy Trail Mix Builder.
And, of course, hydrate! Hydration is crucial before, during and after your hike. As you exercise, your body works harder and uses the fluids you take in at a higher rate. Aim for about a half liter of water per hour of moderate activity in moderate temperatures. Take frequent water breaks throughout your hike.
Now you’re all set to fuel your body to move! Grab a light blanket and pack a picnic for your hike. Don’t forget to bring a spare trash bag to clean up when you’re done.
For more tips, read this blog: Food as fuel before, during and after a workout
Let the Games Begin!
Kick off the first week of the Take a Hike! Challenge by playing some fun games with your fellow hikers. Games can provide entertainment — and education — while you connect with nature this week. If you’re bringing the kids, games can help keep them engaged on the hike. Just remember to respect the environment (take pictures of items, don’t remove them).
Check out these game ideas to Elevate Your Hike:
Grab the kids and go on a Wildflower Walk or try this Hiking Scavenger Hunt. Mark down what you see and hear along your hike, such as birds, butterflies, leaves, acorns, etc. You can search for items as a team or make it a contest to see who can find the most.
Check out this Field Museum Prairies and Savannas Guide from the Chicago Park District to help you identify species of flowers, grasses, bird and butterflies.
You could also play ID that tree! Bring binoculars and use this Common Trees of the Chicago Region guide to help you identify the trees you see on your hike. Keep a checklist of the species you find. Apps like iNaturalist use image recognition technology to identify the plants/animals you spot.
Need more inspiration? Read this blog: How to make the most of your hike