Saturday, September 1, 2012
Sunday, April 8, 2012
We all know we should be exercising. We have all been told countless times that it is good for us to engage in a fitness routine; but perhaps the thought of running on a treadmill, like the proverbial hamster on a wheel, has all the appeal of watching paint dry. Or, maybe you feel you ARE that hamster on the wheel…morning after morning…watching the clock, waiting for your 30 minutes to finally be up so you can hop off and get on with your day. Well, allow me to inform you of how you can not only enhance your exercise regimen, but do it in a way that will stimulate your mind, strengthen your body and nourish your soul. It is time to take working out to the great outdoors.
Let’s talk about the benefits of exercise. You have been told it will help you burn calories and stay trim. This is true. I am sure that we have all seen the articles, headlines and news shows. Daily physical activity not only will help you maintain an ideal weight, it is vital to your health. Working out will help fend off heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and slow the aging process. Weight bearing exercises, such as walking, have been proven to help prevent osteoporosis. Studies have shown that regular exercise can help alleviate mild depression as well as antidepressants do. Exercise literally can extend and perhaps even save your life.
Hiking is an ideal exercise. The reasons are simple. It is fun, and it works. Based on research, a 150 pound person, walking at just 2 miles per hour, can burn 240 calories an hour. Add on a backpack and you are getting a terrific cardiovascular workout, while strengthening your muscles. These muscles are engaged much more than they would be while walking on a treadmill or street due to the uneven surface of trails. Add uphill climbs into the hike and you are really working those quads, glutes and abs. Hiking uphill is an incredible calorie blaster!
In addition to the physical benefits, you can also help keep your mind sharp with the addition of an activity such as birding or identifying plants and wildflowers. Studies have shown that engaging in intellectually stimulating activities can keep your brain functioning at a much sharper level. Why not try to engage your brain while you are at it? There is also an added bonus: the possibility of wildlife sightings, especially if you hike near dawn or dusk, which lends an air of excitement to your walk down the trail.
The final benefit of hiking is the sense of peace that nature brings. Connecting with the natural world is a way to retain your sanity, a way to forget, for a few hours, about the everyday stresses of life. Standing at the summit of a mountain, the edge of a wildflower filled meadow or the shoreline of a shimmering lake can fill you with a sense of awe and accomplishment. Not something you typically feel as you hop off the treadmill I bet!
It is simple to get started. As always, you should consult your physician before engaging in any new exercise program. You will need to find out what equipment is needed. Proper footwear and a backpack are essential, especially on longer or more rugged trails. Always have more water and food than you think you will need before you head out. Now, you just need to decide where to go!
The tri-state area is filled with state parks, preserves and national wildlife refuges. Long Island abounds with nature preserves and parks. The Catskill, Adirondack and Shawangunk Mountains are all within a day’s drive of Long Island. Numerous other nature preserves and parks are scattered throughout the metro New York area. It is just a matter of doing some research. Hiking can be as easy as a simple ramble through a small preserve near your home, or as strenuous as climbing the High Peaks of the Adirondacks. There are trails to be found for every fitness level.
If you are apprehensive about venturing out on your own, there are plenty of ways to participate with like minded people. Hiking clubs such as the Adirondack and Appalachian Mountain Clubs offer hikes for every fitness level. Environmental and conservation organizations, such as The National Audubon Society, Sierra Club and The Nature Conservancy offer group hikes, along with birding and botany walks. Check online and see what these clubs and organizations have to offer. Huntington-Oyster Bay Audubon offers a wide array of outdoor activities, ranging from bird walks to hikes to paddling trips (another fun calorie blaster). Many of you are probably not even aware of the abundance of resources and natural areas that are within a short driving distance, perhaps even in your own neighborhood.
Hiking is truly a full body experience as well as outstanding workout. Your fitness level, intellectual health and even your emotional health can all benefit from taking a walk in the woods.
The next time someone says to you, “Go take a hike!” take them up on it! It just might prolong and enhance your life.
The summit of Crane Mountain, the Adirondacks, NY
Thursday, April 5, 2012
Friday, March 23, 2012
As so many know, venturing out into nature is good for us, physically, mentally and spiritually. As we explore the outdoors, there is always the chance that we may encounter wild animals, an exciting bonus to the day. Observing wildlife is one of life’s richest experiences and thanks to the many television shows that are now broadcast about animals, as well as the internet, the appreciation of wildlife has never been greater.
Unfortunately, bad behavior on behalf of the observers can sometimes occur. As you may have heard, a majestic all-white snowy owl had been seen on Long Island over the past winter. Unfortunately, this attention had resulted in the owl being regularly harassed by quite a number of people, so I thought it would be a good time to remind wildlife enthusiasts about proper behavior when viewing wildlife. Wild animals must be treated with respect and wildlife watchers need to behave responsibly. There is a code of ethics that we must all follow while observing wildlife, both for the well-being of wildlife and your own safety. Peeking into the secret world of wildlife is tremendously gratifying, but the following guidelines must be adhered to:
Avoid getting too close
It is natural to want to be as close as possible as you can to an animal, but this is a big no-no. The closer one gets, the more threatened and stressed the animal will feel. Keep your distance; binoculars and/or a spotting scope will enhance your viewing experience, while allowing the animal you are observing to feel more comfortable. A more rewarding viewing experience will occur when the animal is behaving naturally, without being disturbed.
Learn to recognize signs that the animal is uncomfortable with your presence
Animals are unpredictable and you need to continually be aware of the animal's response to your presence because what it might tolerate one minute could change within seconds. Some general clues to watch for are:
- The animal runs or flies away or toward you (such as a bluff charge).
- The animal appears nervous and keeps looking at you with head up and ears pointing toward you.
- The animal doesn't resume its normal activity, or "settle down". Birds may chatter angrily in your presence.
- In the case of a roosting owl, if the owl looks directly at you, it is now aware of you and could be uncomfortable.
- The animal begins to display in some manner, such as a piping plover’s “broken wing” display.
If you are looking at baby birds in a nest or an animal foraging for food, etc., remember that they are going about their day; and you are interrupting their normal behavior. Each time an animal is disturbed, it is put at a disadvantage because it has expended precious energy needed for survival. In addition, your presence at a nest or den site could alert a predator to the natal zone, thereby advertising an easy meal.
Don't pursue an animal
Never chase an animal trying to get better glimpse or photo. Don't follow animals or behave in any way that might be seen as "harassment." In addition, please keep your dogs on a lead and never allow them to “flush” birds and other animals.
Move quietly, slowly and in plain view
Loud noises, sudden movement or an unannounced approach startle animals, causing a stress response.
Use a blind if possible
Your car also makes a wonderful blind, but please, for safety sakes, remember to pull completely off the road.
Use calls, tape recordings of calls, or other device with moderation
Overuse of such devices can interrupt breeding cycles, drive birds from their territories, or make animals "call shy" so that they may not respond to the real thing.
Do not feed wildlife
Have you ever heard the phrase, “A fed bear is a dead bear”? Sounds extreme, but in many cases, it is true. Wildlife can quickly become habituated to humans. It does not take much more than one productive encounter with a human for a wild animal to associate us with food, thereby leading to potentially dangerous or uncomfortable human/animal conflicts. These rarely end well for the animal. In addition, feeding waterfowl bread and other non-nutritious foods is detrimental to their health and disrupts normal behavior.
When in large groups, try to break up into smaller groups
Small groups of people are less disturbing, usually talk more quietly, and tend to act in a more responsible way than big groups do.
Do not disturb the habitat you are in
Always stay on the trail. You could be trampling important food sources or rare vegetation.
Respect the rights of your fellow viewers
Other viewers have a right to see the undisturbed wildlife that you are viewing. Don’t flush birds or other animals, thereby perhaps ruining the chance for other observers to see it.
In summary, as ethical wildlife watchers, we must place the needs and safety of wildlife first, protect habitats, and respect the rights of others. A rewarding wildlife watching experience is one that consists of animals behaving as naturally as possible in their own environments, not reacting to our presence. Huntington-Oyster Bay Audubon promotes responsible recreation and if you follow the simple guidelines provided above, your experience will be enhanced. You will know that you are behaving in a way that promotes responsible and respectful wildlife viewing!