Proper nutrition a key component of healthy hiking

Char-Koosta News 

ELMO – If you want to boost your mood, lower your heart disease risk, improve blood pressure, build muscle and lose weight, go take a hike.

Hiking is an all-around natural way to boost overall health in mind, body, and soul.

The outdoors opportunities are vast on the Flathead Reservation and so many living in tribal communities across the valley are overlooking a world that could change their lives if they just simply got outdoors for a couple of hours a day to connect to themselves, nature and even others.

“Being outdoors improves mental, emotional, physical health,” said Kati Burton CSKT Tribal Health Department (THD) nutritionist. 

Burton says hiking is a social or personal reflection time that helps find a deeper perspective. On the physical health side she said walking in the woods certainly increases heart rate, encourages oxygen-rich blood flow, helps breathing and burns calories. 

Hiking can be a way to uniquely see a place you see every day from a different view and experience. It’s exactly what happened to the handful of folks who made the hike upward along the power line trail in Elmo last week for the “Eat and Hike.” 

“I liked hiking. It was hard, but it’s so pretty out here,” said Trinity Carpentier, one of the young participants. “It’s peaceful and everything else seems to go away you become at peace.”

A majority of the hikers last week said it was the first time they had been up to the trail and on top of the mountain to view Elmo and Flathead Lake from a different perspective — it was a new experience for them. 

Three Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes THD programs collaborated for the first time to take people on a hike and then return to the Elmo Health Center to make a healthy meal together with guidance and help from THD Guided Care Program nutritionist Burton. 

“It’s a sense of accomplishment – physically,” said Paul Phillips, CSKT Tribal Fitness trainer. Phillips said hiking is a great way to get in and be in shape while having the bonus of adventure and topped with incredible views. 

“The sunshine and green-space leads to better moods,” Burton said.

THD Reason to Live Native Elmo coordinator Dana Hewankorn said her goal is to get her program participants outdoors and to be able to lead and keep up with them on hiking trails. She said it was a physical and mental challenge for her but she was determined. “I don’t want to be telling others to get outside and I can’t keep up. I want to be able to do this too,” she said. Hewankorn made every step toward the top with the encouragement from the rest of the group, proving if she can do it others can.

What to eat

Whether taking a short hike, long strenuous hike or middle-level hike like last Wednesday for the hikers on the “Eat and Hike” day, keeping the energy up is key. Calories and metabolism are still going even after a hike so it is important to eat the right kinds of foods to keep you going, says Burton. 

The menu item for after the hike was a healthy chicken salad on ciabatta bread with lettuce and tomato, with a cabbage slaw topped with a homemade sesame dressing. 

“After exercise, we should eat a meal within one hour in order to replenish the energy lost and repair damaged cells,” Burton said, adding especially after a day of hiking a mountain.

“Choose a meal that is balanced with carbohydrates from fruit, veggies and a simple bread (like ciabatta!),” she said. “And lean protein, like the chicken we are eating mixed with healthy fat from Greek yogurt and avocado.”

Aside from the delicious and satisfying health meal the group was treated to ttheir own salad dressing bottle that included a variety homemade recipes for salad dressings. The dressing made during the lunch was at a fraction of the cost one would buy off the shelf in a store and much healthier and fresher and of course tastier. 

For information on community, health hikes contact Paul Phillips at (406) 675-2700, ext. 2509; or (406) 360-8052 or visit Facebook CSKT Fitness Centers.

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