You probably already know that hiking can be good for you. What you probably don’t know is exactly how good it can be and how much it can really benefit your health, both physically and mentally.
While it is certainly nice to get outside, take in the fresh air and connect yourself to nature, hiking has many more benefits.
For an activity that is so simple and accessible to almost everyone, the health benefits of hiking are amazing. Getting outside for a hike could well be one of the healthiest things you could do for yourself.
Throughout this article, I will outline the main reasons why everybody should put on their walking boots and get outside.
The health benefits of hiking
- A great cardio workout
I will get the obvious one out of the way first. Hiking is an excellent form of cardiovascular exercise that almost anybody can take part in. Your heart and lungs are able to get in a good workout that can easily be tailored to your own fitness levels.
Another benefit of hiking as a form of cardio is that its’ low impact very easy for your body to recover from.
Other cardio activities like running or exercise classes often take their toll on your joints, muscles and nervous system. Hiking has much less of an impact on all of those, which means you can partake in it much more regularly.
- Can be used as a weight loss tool
A good hike can burn upwards of 250 calories per hour, which is very good when you take into account the above point about its’ low impact nature.
Alongside a good diet, the extra calories burned from going on regular hikes provide a very simple way of dropping some unwanted pounds.
- Increases your leg and core strength
It goes without saying that your legs will be getting a good workout when you are hiking. You can easily present them with an even greater challenge by walking up and downhill if you really want to make them stronger.
What you may not have thought about is that your core muscles are also getting a good workout. Your core is always working to stabilize your body and will be working hard throughout the course of your hike.
If you throw in some uneven ground and varying inclines, your core muscles will need to work even harder to help you balance and stabilize yourself.
- Lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes
Anytime you challenge your muscles, they require energy to complete the task that you are asking of them. That energy usually comes in the form of glucose, which can be obtained from various body tissues or your bloodstream.
As you may know, chronically elevated glucose levels in the blood is a problem that can lead to you developing type 2 diabetes.
By exposing your muscles to the demands of hiking, you are forcing them to become more efficient as using the energy that is available to them. This means that more glucose will be shuttled to the muscles that need it, leaving your blood sugar levels more stable.
Therefore, decreasing the risk of type 2 diabetes becoming a problem. Low income individuals are urged to sell test strips that are left over for additional sources to generate revenue.
- Reduces depression and boosts your mood
There has been research to suggest that hiking could decrease depression and the feeling of hopelessness.
A study took 20 participants, split them into 2 groups and sent one group on a 9-week endurance hiking program. The participants were monitored and assessed with various tests that relate to depression and feelings of hopelessness. The hiking group showed significant decreases in both depression and hopelessness.
Even if you aren’t depressed the good feelings and hormones that are released in the body after a hike could help your overall mood and mental well-being. Just being outside and in nature makes most people feel instantly calmer and happier.
- Stronger bones
Any weight bearing exercise has the welcome benefit of strengthening your bones over time. Stronger bones are especially important as we age and the risk of osteoporosis increases.
Regular hikes could help to lower the risk and even reverse the effects of age-induced osteoporosis by forcing your body to adapt to its’ weight bearing nature by increasing the density of your bones.
- Decrease risk of cardiovascular disease
Extended periods of aerobic exercises have long been known to have a positive effect on your cholesterol levels. Hiking most definitely fits into the category of aerobic exercise.
By lowering your LDL cholesterol levels and increasing your HDL, hiking can help to lower your risk of developing heart disease.
Clearly, hiking has some truly wonderful benefits and I’m sure you are eager to get started. That’s great news and I highly recommend that you find a way to incorporate hiking into your life.
Don’t feel like you need to start off with mammoth hikes multiple times per week. Begin slowly by adding a couple of 10-20 minute hikes into your weekly routine.
You can then build up from there as your fitness levels increase. Once you get used to hiking, feel free to challenge yourself with longer hikes and steeper hills.
Just remember to keep it fun. Hiking really is one of the most enjoyable forms of exercise, so keep it that way and you will be more likely to stick with it for the long term. After all, consistency is the key to a healthful life.
Are you a fan of hiking already? Or has this article convinced you to give it a try? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.
Kelly is the founder of RegularityFitness, where she and associates blog about the best fitness exercises, weight loss methods, diet, muscle building. That will help you get a good shape and healthy. You can also connect with Kelly on Twitter: https://twitter.com/kellyregularit1