Skip to main content
Find a DoctorGet Care Now
Skip to main content
Search icon magnifying glass








Hiking has become a family affair for Kelly and Chad Herzog, who often hit the trails with their three children, Ryland, Kenley and Kade. The family portrait was taken at Minnewaska State Park near Ellenville, NY. The action photos were taken at Acadia National Park in Maine. “The kids still talk about that vacation,” said Herzog.

Take a hike!

Hiking is a family affair for Kelly Herzog of Norwalk, who enjoys hitting the trails with her husband and their three children. No screens, no texts, no emails, no phones – no distractions except for the sounds and sights of nature. Connecticut’s Sleeping Giant and Devil’s Den, along with Bear Mountain in New York, are among the family favorites.
The special family time has an added bonus – multiple mind-body health benefits.

“Climbing up and down trails gets the heart pumping, which makes hiking a great cardiovascular workout,” said Herzog, a certified exercise specialist at Greenwich Hospital’s Center for Healthy Living. “It’s also a good way to spend time with family or friends without just sitting around. Instead, you are interacting with people and nature.”

Total body workout

Studies show that hiking, like most cardiovascular exercises, helps reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and osteoporosis. It also boosts mood, relieves stress and eases anxiety, thanks to the release of endorphins, which increase feelings of well-being. Hikers typically burn 300 - 400 calories per hour on moderate terrain, making hiking an effective activity for healthy weight loss and maintenance.

“Hiking involves lots of muscle groups all working together. You also need to adapt to the terrain as required,” said Herzog. “One minute you’re using your legs, the next you’re using your upper body strength to grab onto a rock as you climb. Having good balance and coordination are important, as well.”

For some hikers, immersing oneself in the sights, sounds and beauty of nature may be the most rewarding part of the experience – and one that benefits their health too. Greenwich Hospital’s Roberta Brown, RN, points to the growing interest in the mind-body benefits of forest bathing as a stress reduction method. Forest bathing is based on the Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku, which can be translated as “taking in the medicine or atmosphere of the forest.”

“Forest bathing has been found to lower blood pressure, heart rate, and levels of harmful hormones such as cortisol, which the body produces when stressed. This can invite a calmer and more relaxed state,” said Brown, coordinator of the Integrative Medicine Program.

Brown doesn’t live near a forest, but she does enjoy meditating, practicing yoga and dancing immersed in nature at a local park or beach. “Being in nature can heighten our sensory awareness and give us a sense of tranquility,” she said. Herzog is familiar with that sense of serenity, experiencing moments of peaceful reflection when she reaches the summit. She also enjoys the sense of wonder. On a recent hike at Devil’s Den in Weston, a preserve in Saugatuck Forest, the family came across a new type of mountain laurel. “When we got home, we discovered that we have the same tree in our own backyard!”