PBS Kids GO! It's My Life
Solo Sports: Walking and Hiking

You're out where it's quiet, taking step after step over hills and trails. You're paying attention to where you are and how you feel, not where you're headed.

Are you:

  • A bass drum player who's gotten separated from the marching band?
  • Lost in the Mohave Desert and hoping to stumble across an oasis?
  • In basic training at a Marine base?
NO! You're hiking!

You might think of walking as simply a way to get from place to place, or it may come so naturally that you don't even think about it all. But walking is a great way to get your muscles moving and your energy flowing, and to put you in a positive mood.

Because you're not coming down so hard when you take a step, walking is easier on your joints and bones than running. It's a great way to start getting active and get used to physical activity, as a goal in itself or to help you work your way up to more intense sports. Walking with at least one other person is the safe and fun way to do it. It's a great way to spend time with a parent or sibling, or catch up with a friend.

Walking outdoors lets you enjoy the scenery, feel closer to nature, and get some fresh air in your lungs. When you're walking on a trail instead of streets and sidewalks, you're hiking. Hiking can be a way to explore the mountains, woods, or other scenic areas while getting a terrific aerobic workout, lowering stress, and building stamina. It can give you an escape from things that stress you out, and quality time with people who are important to you.

Cool Walking and Hiking Facts:

  • Walking and hiking are learning opportunities. They can provide a chance to do some wildlife watching, observe plants and trees, and learn about historic trails. Explore the library or bookstore for good books about your local landscape.

  • Race walking is a world-class sport that you can watch at the Olympics.

  • The difference between running and walking is not determined by speed, but by how you take steps with your legs and feet. When you're walking, one foot remains on the ground at all times. In running, both feet are sometimes off the ground at once.

  • For walking, you'll need a good pair of walking sneakers or cross-trainers. For hiking, get some sturdy hiking boots with good treads, and a thick pair of socks to help avoid blisters.

  • You can do all sorts of things while hiking, like naming different types of plants or animals you see, singing songs or telling stories, taking nature photographs, or bringing along a picnic basket for a nice lunch in the wilderness.
What Kids Are Saying About Walking and Hiking:

"When you go hiking you learn things about the environment you can't in a book. It's fun."
--Andy, 12

"Sometimes when I ask my dad to drive me to the mall, he suggests we walk instead. It's about three miles away, so it's a good workout and we have a chance to talk about stuff."
--Lucy, 11

"Whenever I go camping with my family over the summer we do lots of hiking. Sometimes I get real tired but it's fun anyway. I like seeing the animals."
--Brittany, 11

"It's fun mapping out different trails to hike on. I usually like going on the weekends."
--Jason, 12

"I play football, baseball, and basketball when I'm in school. Hiking is something I like to do for fun."
--Chris, 14

Get Involved!

All it takes to get involved in walking and hiking is a place to do it, and the desire to get out and have fun.

Important: Walking can be a great activity to do on your own, but depending on where you live, that may not be safe. Talk to a parent or guardian about where and when it's okay to walk alone.

You can start with short walks around your neighborhood. If it's safe to do so, you can try walking to or from school instead of taking the bus every day. In bad weather, you might try walking inside on the track of a health club, or on a treadmill. Many shopping malls even have walking clubs where you can walk around the mall before the stores even open.

If hiking with others in the outdoors is more your style, locate trails in county, state, and national parks, or find out if there any hiking clubs in your area. Map out your route ahead of time, and make sure everyone with you knows where exactly you're all going. Always have a plan ready in case you get separated. Bring plenty of water and snacks, but don't litter! Make sure you take any first aid or emergency equipment you might need, such as a raincoat, flashlight, compass, and blanket.

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