Active Aging: Hiking, Health, and Healing

Rodney Steadman, Candace I. J. Nykiforuk, Helen Vallianatos


This article examines the illness and recovery experiences and perceptions of physically active middle aged and older adults participating in hiking groups. These perceptions are examined within the local milieu of their group and the larger social context of biomedical norms of healthy older bodies. Discourse on the body was viewed through the lens of medical anthropology and data were analyzed using embodied ethnography. There were 15 participants (53 percent female) and all were of European descent. The hiking group provided participants with meaningful spaces and places where they could explore all aspects of their health with the support of others who had undergone similar life experiences. The physical activities they engaged in as a group were therapeutic and transformational for several members. Their group activities created a deep sense of community and aided in their healing processes. Holistic health programs such as hiking groups could provide an alternative or ancillary treatment options. However, cost, location, opportunities for socialization, and the physical abilities of potential participants should be seriously considered before adopting a hiking program for this demographic.


Active aging; health; middle-aged; older adult; hiking; embodied ethnography

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Copyright (c) 2018 Rodney Steadman, Candace I. J. Nykiforuk, Helen Vallianatos

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