Research and choose appropriate level trails.
Never hike alone; bring a map, and always leave your itinerary with someone.
Always pack a snack, plenty of water and a first-aid kit.
For longer day hikes, add high-energy drinks and eat lots of healthy snacks throughout the day.
Wear hiking boots, which are more substantial and have deep grooves in the soles for firm footing.
Pack extra layers. Hiking can take you from hot, humid or protected areas to cold and windy, exposed conditions in a short amount of time.
Bring an extra pair of socks.
Hiking has a greater risk of injury than walking because you may encounter challenging terrain.
You also risk insect bites, cuts and bruises as this activity takes place in an uncontrolled environment.
Though you may not always have coverage, carry your cell phone with you in case of emergency.
Hiking is not a competition or a race. Control your pace and pause to enjoy the views and reach the top of the hill when it's good for you.
There's no time like the present to clear a new path toward better health. Hiking can provide excellent opportunities as you pursue your individual goals along various trails. This is a great time to head for the hills -- and it may be your shortcut to a fitter body.
Cindy Boggs, fitness presenter, author and Activate America director, has been an ACE-certified coordinator/instructor since 1989. Send your questions about fitness, training or health to YMCA of Kanawha Valley, 100 YMCA Drive, Charleston, WV 25311, or e-mail cindys...@aol.com. Look for Cindy's fitness advice book, "CindySays ... You Can Find Health in Your Hectic World" on her website, www.cindysays.com, or contact the YMCA at 304-340-3527.