On most Saturday mornings just before 9 a.m., Lisa Duque, 42, stands eagerly at the bottom of a dirt path dressed in a T-shirt, cargo pants, sturdy shoes and sunglasses.
She does a few leg stretches, then slides each arm through the padded straps on her pink JanSport packed with protein bars, nuts, fruit and bottles of water.
Lisa, who has three children and one grandchild, began hiking last year with a group of friends who wanted to embark on something adventurous. An avid power walker, she was excited about the challenge of hiking a mountain and curious about the feeling of getting to the top.
One steep mile later, Lisa stood on top of the 1,625-foot summit looking out at the vast landscape with the Charlotte skyline nestled in the horizon. Exhilarated, she was immediately hooked.
“It’s addictive,” says Crystal Gaines, a social worker and mother of two children. “If you do it for three weeks straight, your body will crave it.” At age 52, she hikes every weekend to maintain her weight and to strengthen and tone her legs, hips and thighs. “It’s also good for my joints and heart,” she says.
According to the American Hiking Society, hiking is an excellent way to lose weight and reduce the risk of chronic illnesses such as:
• Heart disease
• Osteoporosis and arthritis
• Management and prevention of diabetes
Since her first trip to the 1,625-foot summit, Lisa’s health has significantly improved. She’s lost 53 pounds, and she no longer has shortness of breath, high blood pressure or adult-onset asthma.
Crystal, who has no prior health issues, also hikes as a mental escape from her busy lifestyle. “It’s so peaceful and calming,” she says. "When I'm in nature, I look at what God has made.”
Standing on top of a 2,305-foot granite dome, Lisa gazes out at the massive rolling green mountains, a breathtaking view just a little over 100 miles away from her busy life in Charlotte. “It’s a good way to end my week,” she says.