The traditional notion of hiking – heavy boots, a backpack and a twisting, hilly trail – sounds more like a recipe for sore knees, achy hips and tender feet than a good way to spend a day outside and get some exercise. So how does a person with arthritis get a little nature in their workout?

You can get a great cardiovascular workout, burn calories, keep your joints moving and make your muscles strong all in inspirational, natural settings by trail walking. Walking on hiking trails can be enjoyable as long as you plan ahead and take precautions to protect your joints. Lou Ann Kernodle, physical therapist in the exercise science department at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., and a hiker herself, offers this advice:

Check out trails beforehand. You’ll want to walk on smooth, relatively level trails, so check with park services, local hiking clubs and local hiking outfitters to get recommendations for appropriate trails in your area. Go to or to find “low difficulty” trails in state and national parks.

Gear up. Walking poles, walking sticks, canes, braces and splints all can help take pressure off joints and make you more comfortable. For cooler weather, neoprene knee sleeves or continuous low-level heat wraps bought over the counter can help keep knee joints warm and supported.

Dress your feet. For walking on flat trails, unless you have severe ankle instability, running or cross training sneakers work well because they absorb shock, which is crucial for those with arthritis in the hips, low back, ankles or knees.