At the risk of sounding like some tonic huckster, I’m here to tell you about a free magic elixir that helps baby boomers (and everyone, really!) live longer, feel better, get stronger and lower stress. Not only that, this potion has the power to lower health risks related to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, memory loss and more. And it is abundant and mostly free in the Portland region.
So step right up and learn the secret to living longer and better: It’s regular hiking and walking, of course! Studies, including one by the National Cancer Institute, show that staying physically active after age 40 may add two to seven years to your life. The greatest benefits come to those who take several brisk walks totaling 150 to 300 minutes per week.
And the health boost gets even better by hiking with others – kids, grandkids, pets, friends, hiking groups and buddies. In fact, experts are finding (and we already know) that people and community connections are just as important as exercise for good health. When you hike our lush forests, green mountains, spacious nature parks or wildlife areas, you add the good-feeling appreciation of our amazing, scenic and special part of the world.
If you aren't already exploring The Intertwine by foot, it's easy to join thousands of Portland-area boomers who make hiking and walking their exercise of choice. Make it a habit. Mix it up a bit by exploring new places. There's so much to gain.
Multi-taskers often bundle walking with other leisure goals and hobbies. By walking you can pare down that paunch, give your partner space, feed your brain, or listen to the birds. Explore communities beyond your own; discover out-of-the-way parks, trails and fun little towns. Surround yourself with real forests and mountains, rivers and wetlands. Make hikes and walks an excuse to see more of family and friends, or to meet new people. Or just lose yourself in meditative hiking.
And – good news here – you needn’t always traipse about a forest, park or mountain trail to reap great health, aesthetic and social benefits. Throughout The Intertwine we have access to any number of interesting urban or historic hiking routes. We’re surrounded by walkable neighborhoods ranging from the downtown stylish to old European-influenced hillside homes to grand back-in-the-day communities.
Not sure where to start? Grab a pair of walking shoes and comfortable socks. Find a walking buddy to keep you both on track. Head out into your own neighborhood. Take in the scenery, the people, the tucked-away neighborhood parks and gardens. Gradually step it up and venture to other communities. Check a neighborhood’s walk score (walkscore.com/score), which tells you its “walkability.”
As you gather confidence, gather your friends, pick a destination, then download a map from the Portland and Willamette Valley hikes section of the online Oregon Hikers Field Guide. The guide is an all-in-one place to learn about great hikes and destinations in our beautiful region from people who know the area best.
You’ll discover a fascinating blend of living communities with natural areas, as well as old and new commercial and office areas. Neighborhoods that transition from 'burbie housing to undeveloped natural areas. Lots of river walks. You’ll delight in a diverse selection of urban-suburban-boondocks destinations.
To find interesting explorable neighborhoods beyond your own, make this page of walking routes a favorite. You’ll find descriptive maps to delightful parts of Portland and Vancouver, courtesy of the Portland Bureau of Transportation. Most loops can be completed in one to two hours. See the PDOT website also for free Bike+Walk Maps. Just find the site and click on the map area you want.
In Vancouver, check out the parks & trails page of Vancouver Parks & Recreation for maps of urban and rural walks.
Metro encourages people to walk short distances instead of driving with its Walk There! web page that describes and maps neighborhood walking routes by sections of Portland and Vancouver.
Throughout Portland, age-friendly outdoor clubs and Meetups welcome non-members. Most offer different levels of activity and are a perfect way to meet like-minded boomers. Many schedule activities during weekdays at times preferred by boomer/retiree members and guests. Many clubs offer multiple activities such as hiking, walking, snowshoeing, cycling, kayaking and backpacking.
Any of several walking or hiking groups, such as Positively Portland, provide informative, interesting walking tours through historic sections of town.
Meetups are formed by individuals on Meetup.com around one or more common interests, in this case, outdoors, hiking or walking. Joining is either free or inexpensive and gives you online access to the Meetup’s scheduled activities.
Around Portland, you can choose from dozens of walking and walker-friendly events. Some are multi-sport, multi-distance family events such as running races and fundraisers. Walk and multiply the benefits: Your registration supports community causes, and you get exercise, camaraderie and freebies. Plus, it's fun!
Two sites that list current events, most of which welcome walkers, are Events12.com/Portland and Running in the USA.
Here’s another fabulous walk idea: Add a touch of culture. Log your miles when you show up for “first-something” art walks, or stroll through any of several area monthly or seasonal art walks. Look on your city’s website for the routes and public spaces in your own community where you can experience art up close and personal.
You’ll also get your steps in on guided or self-guided tours of historical sites, homes, buildings, farms and gardens. Similarly, take advantage of events at expansive walk-around attractions in places like Oregon Zoo, as well as community-sponsored brew and wine walks.
Let’s make this easy. Just download the free Take A Hike Guide compliments of Boomers on the Loose®. It will link you to ideas, activities, places, groups, fun walks, classes, events and more as described above.
See you on the trails!