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A walk around the block has measurable health benefits. Yet, if you want to take it next level and ramp up your health and happiness, try hiking. This weekend, weather.com has the Kansas City metropolitan area hitting the mid-60s in temperatures. From out your door down to your core, research shows multiple benefits for mind and body. With changing colors, fall is a great time to hit the trails.

Besides enjoying nature’s surround sounds, fresh scents, and colors, you can boost your brain power and creative thinking, according to a release from the Missouri Department of Conservation. 

Whether trail running or walking, the physical benefits of hiking are wide-ranging. The uneven terrain of paths that wind up, down, and sideways, work a variety muscle groups and help with overall balance — boosting the energy you use by 28% compared to walking on flat surfaces (Time Magazine). Hikers report benefits like weight loss, stress relief, better sleep, and more positive thoughts.

New hikers can start out slow and build up with a variety of trails and scenery from short walks to more moderate hikes. For safety and company, you can take a buddy or join a hiking club. Be prepared and stay hydrated to enjoy healthy and happy trails. Care should be taken on variable terrain to avoid injuries. There are several smooth surfaced trails as well. Explore hiking on MDC Conservation areas.

Hiking prep

It’s important to be prepared before going hiking. These tips from the American Hiking Society are sure to help.

• Wear appropriate footwear. Consider shoes or boots with traction, support and protection.

• Consider bringing a paper map and compass as a backup to your phone and GPS unit.

• Stay hydrated. Plan for a half liter of water per hour in moderate temperatures and terrain.

• Bring calorie-dense foods for a hike snack.

• Be sure to bring along a first aid kit, plus sunscreen and insect repellent.

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