Longevity Through Hiking
Jan 02, 2020 07:25PM
My first call after deciding to write this article was to Roland Breault, a volunteer from my territory. Roland is 87 and attributes his health and happiness to his time spent hiking and in nature.
“I started hiking in my early 60s, when I retired,” he says. “I currently hike three days a week for about three hours a day and still do some unofficial trail maintenance. The trails and nature are my savior and spirituality. I feel the presence of God when I’m out in the mountains. I don’t take medication, and I know that all the oxygen and movement keeps me young and active. Plus, I am sustained by the people I run into on the trails.”
Bob Ross joined the Trail Conference more than 50 years ago, when he stumbled across its office on Madison Avenue. Lots of hiking followed.
When his wife, Janet, developed an inoperable brain tumor, Bob became her sole caregiver—a commitment he kept for the next 34 years. He offers three bits of advice for anyone in the trenches like he was: Take care of yourself first, get a dog to break the tension, and maintain a trail. His choice was the Orange Trail, part of the High Mountain system in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, which was only two miles from his home. This way he could get back if Janet needed him.
After Janet died, Bob discovered the joys of fundraising at the Trail Conference and elsewhere, and he expanded his trail maintenance to include the Franklin Lakes Nature Preserve.
At 83, Bob reports that he feels fantastic—he walks five to 10 miles a day now.
After 25 years of annual checkups, his doctor continues to give him a clean bill of health, with less than a 2% risk of death from heart disease over the next five years.
In concluding, I should add that after I put out the request for stories about hiking and longevity, I received replies from a number of people in their early to late 70s offering their stories. “I’m sorry,” I had to tell them, “but I can’t include you in this article. You’re simply too young.”
Roger Dubin is
marketing director for Natural
Awakenings. Contact him at MrNatural
[email protected] or on Instagram @MrNaturalNYC. To learn more about the New York–New Jersey Trail Conference, visit NYNJTC.org.