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General Articles

Why we all need the Great Outdoors!

By Judy Churchill

I go to the hills when my heart is lonely, I know I will hear what I've heard before…” sang Maria in the film ‘The Sound of Music’ and she wasn’t wrong; what she was saying still rings true today. The hills and mountains will always deliver the same incredibly positive results to both body and mind. There is a huge degree of reassurance in knowing that they’ve been there for millions of years and have ‘seen it all before’. They are bigger and more powerful they we are and we have so much to gain from just stepping back from our daily, cramped, jammed-packed, stressful lives and taking a step forward into the health-giving, transformational Great Outdoors.

I have been hiking our Riviera region for the past 36 years and if I’m still doing it, it’s because I not only enjoy it but I know what the incredible mental and physical benefits are. As I get a lot of enquiries from people who follow the Facebook Riviera Happy Hiker page and my Happy Hiker articles in, I thought I’d share some of the amazing effects with you and why getting out into the mountains is something that all of us can benefit from.

September like January is often a time for fresh starts and an opportunity for improving our life style. It also happens to be the perfect time of year to hike. There are literally hundreds and thousands of trails on the French and Italian Riviera but most people have a very scant knowledge of them and where to locate them in the different local valleys. That is why I have developed the different above sources of information to share this local knowledge with others.

Hiking is one of the least costly, most enjoyable and fastest ways to improve your, health, fitness, state of mind and have fun. It is also something you can do alone or together with friends, family and pets.

What are the positive gains:

  • Cardio workout: rather than thrashing it out on the treadmill staring at a blank wall, hiking will give you an amazing cardio workout with stunning scenery thrown in to boot. This will help lower your risk of heart disease while improving your blood pressure, blood sugar levels (less cravings) and mood.

  • Weight-bearing exercise: Recently we’ve been hearing that to live longer we all need to do more weight bearing exercise. Hiking fulfills this; you are not only carrying your own weight at a gradient but also a rucksack and very often a small child on your back. While strengthening your lower back muscles, this will also improve your bone density and helps women in particular prevent osteoporosis.

  • Strengthening different muscle groups: I was delighted when Body Mechanic coach and Happy Hiker advisor Michael Pellegrino explained to me that while hiking we are strengthening our glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and the muscles in our hips and lower legs. All that for the effort of one hike! That’s far more fun than restricting yourself to just doing the machines in the gym.

  • Strengthening Core and Balance: Michael also explained that while walking on uneven terrain we are strengthening our core muscles and improving our balance and stability which makes hiking far more beneficial than jogging as the foot and core have to readjust with every step putting the micro muscles to work, while protecting the body from the trauma and damage of over repetition of the same movement which is what runners suffer from, and I know all about that one!

  • Weight control and improved mood: Whatever was troubling you before the hike, you can rid yourself of it in the mountains. Hiking has a very definite positive impact on lowering stress and anxiety levels. The effect is magical, you will come back mentally transformed. We are meant to be outdoors that’s what our bodies were designed for, not just spending all week breathing in the recycled air of a gym. I love the gym and it is great for during the week when we’re rushed of our feet but once the weekend arrives if I’m not working then I head for the hills to detoxify my whole system!

  • Working out your upper body: It is easy to assume that when hiking you are only working out your legs but once again coach Michael Pellegrino explained to me that by using poles you are pushing your upper body muscles to work harder and also increasing your cardio workout. Don’t forget the rucksack is also strengthening your lower back.

  • Stretching: The end of your hike is fabulous opportunity to do some much needed recovery outdoor stretching exercises and you’ll find some that Michael Pellegrino recommends in his videos on the facebook Happy Hiker page.

Tips for getting started:

Start with one of the shorter Happy Hiker green level trails and work up through the blue trails to the more challenging red ones as your fitness level improves. Even a low gradient hill will intensify your heart rate and burn extra calories. Basics are making sure that you always have more than enough water (also a good weight bearing factor) and use poles for a full workout and help with stability. You can find other tips in the Happy Hiker articles in The Real Riviera magazine on FB and on the website. One of the things I do not recommend is hiking on an over full stomach or eating a huge unhealthy meal when you’ve finished. One of the joys of hiking is that you can get by with good quality protein bars and special liquid fuel drinks during the hike and then eat a normal healthy meal later in the day.

Like the sea, the mountains demand respect, you should know your trail before you set off (my articles include map references) and check the weather carefully. Sea storms and mountain storms are frequent in our area and so do not take risks in uncertain weather. Early morning is the best time to start your hike. The good news is that if it’s bad weather in one valley it’s often fine in another so local knowledge is crucial.

Once you’ve bitten into your first hike you will be smitten! Then as soon as you start to see and feel the body and mind benefits, you’ll be unstoppable. For sources of info in English you can take a look at Facebook: Rivera Happy Hiker – Instragram: happyhiker_riviera, and do join us at our New Women Networking evenings where we do regular information evenings on local hiking and I’ll be happy to share my knowledge.

Judy is based in Monaco and specialises in transformational coaching working with both individuals and companies. 

Judy is also a qualified language teacher/trainer for adults and children in French, English and Spanish.

If you would like to receive coaching, communication skills training, language tutoring or certified translating from Judy, you can contact her or via Facebook messenger and

Saturday, 1 September 2018    Section: General Articles
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