What Makes Winter Olympians Such Good Athletes

Snowboarder Carving TurnIt’s time for the winter Olympics again and the athletes competing in the 2018 games are some of the best that the world has ever seen. What does an Olympian have to teach the rest of us about what it takes to succeed against the best athletes in the world?

They start training during summer

One of the most critical methods Olympians use for winter success is to gradually build up to peak condition. The best athletes in the US know that rushing progress is a recipe for disaster.

Consequently, they start training as early as possible on the way to peak performance. This typically means summer workouts. Olympians will use unlikely gear like wet suits and wheeled sleds to virtual-reality to simulate the sports they’ll compete in at the 2018 Olympic Games. The thrilling show we’ll all enjoy on TV is thanks to the novel techniques that have been invented to provide as much training time as possible before the big event.

Ski jumpers wearing swim suits

Ski jumps are a challenge to practice in the warm weather, jumpers rely on porcelain ramps and swimming pools for a soft landing. Although there is a facility in Utah that relies on moistened plastic to simulate a snow landing. Even as the weather gets chillier, competitors will continue practicing jumps into water – they just start using dry suits like divers who swim in freezing water.

The ski simulator

Skytechsport makes the ski simulator; it’s essentially a treadmill for skiers. Racers can strap themselves in and practice slaloms all day long in front of a movie screen projecting a realistic downhill course. Regardless how hot and dry summer is, the ski team can work on their technique and train their bodies to peak condition many months away from competition day.

Playing pretend for real-world results

Downhill SkiingMany research studies have proven that you can get better at any activity just be imagining that you’re doing it. It’s called visualization and athletes have been using it to be the best at their sport for decades.

Modern visualization techniques rely on unbelievably detailed mental images of not just the sport an Olympian trains for, but everything. Athletes are encouraged to imagine every part of their event, from the view from the bus getting to the stadium to the smell in the air.

Endless repetition is key

The biathlon combines cross-country skiing with rifle marksmanship, and biathlon competitors will spend the summer and fall sending tens of thousands of rounds down-range. All winter Olympians will endlessly carry out the movements that their sport requires; sometimes in the course of regular practice, but also in parts.

Regardless if it’s a trigger pull, hip movement or foot placement on a landing – every possible nuance is going to be explored and examined to see if it can be made more efficient, more accurate or simply stronger. Then these athletes will repeat those movements, endlessly, to reach perfection.

They develop laser focus

The secret to beating the competition at anything is focus. You could be the best at a sport, but if you can’t concentrate when it matters, you’re coming in last. Here’s what winter Olympians know about developing the unshakeable focus it takes to win.

First concentration is split up into four separate categories:

  • Many-outside: Seeing many elements of the entire situation, like when you’re looking over a soccer field or basketball court.
  • Few-outside: Seeing only one or two aspects of a situation. Useful for a biathlon shooter focusing on the target he’s aiming at.
  • Many-inside: Considering several thoughts at approximately the same time. This is crucial for Hockey coaches keeping track of all his players during a game.
  • Few-inside: Focusing on only one or two thoughts, like a bobsledder right before the big push off.

Hockey Player Down on IceWe’re all best at one type of concentration, so, coaches will evaluate an athlete’s best concentration category to take best advantage of their particular, best focusing ability. An athlete’s ability to concentrate can mean the difference between standing on the podium or watching from the audience after an event.

Olympians eat and drink to win

Arguably, this is the most important factor to winter Olympics success. These athletes have every calorie, gram of fat and protein, vitamin and amino acid calculated to provide them the energy, recuperative ability, and all-round health needed to perform at an elite level.

Everyone is familiar with swimmer Michael Phelps 10,000 to 12,500 calorie per day diet. This wasn’t his choice, it was what nutritionists determined he needed to consume to perform at his best. Winter or summer Olympics, each athlete must follow a specific diet that is calculated to keep them fighting fit for their big day in the spotlight.

Running for Life

Winter Outdoor Running

Running is one of the most popular ways to stay fit, and more people are taking up the sport every day. Before the 1980s, running was predominantly a man’s sport, but today, men and women, young and old, hit the streets and the trails for fun and fitness in the outdoors. Here’s a look at what makes running such an attractive sport for so many people.

Spend Time in the Outdoors

While some get their miles in on the treadmill, many people prefer to run outside, taking in the fresh air and enjoying the beautiful scenery.

If you live in the heart of a major city, though, check the air quality index in your area to make sure that it is safe to run outside. Look for parks and other open, green spaces to protect your lungs while running.

Control Your Weight

The amount of calories you burn while running depends on a number of factors, including your height, weight, age, gender and metabolism, to name a few. You can expect to burn approximately 100 calories per mile.

Even if you are a beginner and can only run a single mile, those calories will add up quickly if you run multiple times a week. As an added bonus, working out revs up your metabolism, so you continue to burn extra calories for hours after your run, helping to keep your weight in check.

Improve Cardiovascular Health

People Trail Running

Running gets your heart pumping, and any exercise that raises your heart rate helps to boost your cardiovascular health. Your heart is a muscle, and it gets stronger the more you push it. If you suffer from any type of heart condition, check with your doctor before beginning any new fitness regimen to ensure that you are exercising safely.

When you run, your lung capacity increases as well, helping your body to run more efficiently and making it easier to get through your daily activities, even on the toughest days. When you get through your chores and other tasks easily, you have more energy for fun things like playing with your kids or going out for drinks with friends.

Build Willpower and Determination

It takes some serious willpower to lace up your shoes and get out the door, especially when the weather isn’t ideal for running, like during the winter and when it rains. On days with bad weather, tap into your deepest reserves of willpower to get going.

Getting out the door is the hardest part, but as with any other skill, your willpower will improve the more you practice it. Before you know it, you’ll be lacing up those sneakers and hitting the road without giving it a second thought.

To get around excuses on bad-weather days, commit to running for just five minutes. That always seems manageable, which can make it easier to get going. Once you get started, you may find that you’re more than willing to keep on running.

Enjoy a Competitive Spirit

Road races have exploded in popularity in recent years, so it’s time to get in on the action. Don’t worry if you are still a novice runner; today’s races typically offer multiple distances for you to choose from. A 5k is just over 3 miles, so it’s an accessible distance for runners of all skill and experience levels. Some races even offer 1-mile runs, so it’s easy to get started.

From Turkey Trots on Thanksgiving morning to Valentine’s Day Undie Runs, numerous opportunities exist for you to get out and race throughout the year. Don’t worry about keeping up with the pack if their pace is too fast for you. Go at your own speed and shoot for a personal best. As your endurance level improves, you can start pushing yourself a bit harder to compete with other runners.

Get Fit with Friends

Outdoor Cross-Country Run

Running clubs are popping up all across the country, so there is sure to be one in your area, or you can start your own. Social media and other online platforms make the process easier than ever before. Look for a group that matches your running style and skill level.

For example, if you have a baby at home, look for a stroller running group. Similarly, if you prefer running on trails than roads, find a group that shares your interest in getting off the beaten path. Whichever running group you choose, you’ll be getting fit with like-minded people and may even make some lifelong friends in the process.

Get Your Zen On

One of the greatest parts about running is that it helps you to forget about all your worries and stresses. While you’re running, you’re often so focused on just pushing through the next quarter of a mile that all other thoughts are pushed from your mind. Without all that noise cluttering up your mind, you are free to just enjoy being in the moment.

It’s a sort of meditation in a way, giving you a zen feeling that will carry on long after your run is finished. As you run, feel free to let your mind wander. Many runners swear that they get their best ideas while running, because their minds aren’t bogged down with day-to-day details and have more freedom to think creatively.

The Elusive Runner’s High

We’ve all heard of runner’s high, one of the most incredible aspects of running. From time to time, you may get into that perfect rhythm with your stride where it feels like you could run forever. All the pain and stiffness melt away from your legs and you seem to just fly through the miles.

Never felt runner’s high? Don’t worry. It takes a bit of practice and training to get in good enough shape to the point where running feels good. Let this be your motivator: to feel truly free and on top of the world. Have a bit of patience. Once you hit that runner’s high for the first time, you’ll want to get that feeling back again and again.

Get Started Today

All you need to get started with running is a pair of comfortable, supportive shoes, which you probably have in your closet already. Taking that first step is always the hardest part, but once you get started, you may find a love for running that you never knew existed.

Skiing and Snowboarding My Cure for the Winter Blues

Snowboarder In AirI have been enjoying getting on the snowy slopes of the Adirondacks and the surrounding NorthEast mountains since I was a young boy. Not only is it something to do during our long cold Winter months but it has developed into a core passion of mine. Make no mistake that if I relocated to a warmer climate I would be compelled to travel frequently to get on the snow I need.

It is funny how when you do something for so many years how it becomes ingrained into the fabric of who you are. I mean that so much in the what makes you tick kind of way. There is irony in the way that I was introduced to skiing was as an after school activity when I was in 7th grade. From those days filled with classmates and painfully poor technique I feel as though I’ve certainly come a long way. Both in the realm of athletic skills as well in managing the fears and emotions that come pouring through such a challenging activity that you can take all over the world to cultivate some of the best experiences and memories possible.

Snowboarding is such a large part of my life that I can easily equate my growth and experience on the mountains throughout my life to my personal growth. You may think that sounds like a stretch but I compare my mindset and all the emotions I was experiencing on those early days to where I am today as a person and what I bring to Mountain adventures today.

Think of it like this; the earliest skiing I did I was filled with apprehension and doubt about what each new mountain / trail / day would bring. Poking my head over the edge of a “Blue Square” rated trail to see if it was something I could handle. Then the elation and burgeoning confidence that would follow upon completion of that trail let alone the anticipation of the next slightly more challenging trail experience that I would undergo. My mindset shifted from one of ok I think I am ready for the next adventure to Oh My God get my ass out on the mountain ASAP. That transition took some time to develop but by the time I was a senior in high school skiing was one of my strongest passions.

This growth and depth of skill and understanding continued to accumulate throughout my college years. Once I began my professional career I took my passion for the mountains, which by this point had transitioned from snowboarding to skiing, and brought it with me. When I talk about bringing it with me I mean that I have taught over 30 people to snowboard throughout my life including many friends, coworkers and acquaintances. I have managed to snowboard on 4 continents and enjoy those kinda experiences with people from all walks of life.

Many would say you could equate what I am saying to any sport or activity, however, I feel that the fact that this is a winter sport that compels you to scoff at bad weather and travel to the most difficult of access routes and to head to them in the worst of climate conditions that we encounter. Therefore even skating, hockey, snowmobiling and other winter outdoor activities are not quite on the same plateau. Particularly when you consider that at some of the worst weather of the year you are pushing yourself to get to the top of the mountain and when possible climb higher than any lift service available so that you can poach 100s of vertical feet of fresh untracked powder. So where there are similarities there are also differences. The mountains can be challenging enough to embrace and conquer but don’t discount the flying into small airports in bad climates or taking a 4 hour drive and turning it into an 8 hour white knuckle experience.

Being one that believes in the basic tenets of Buddhism, at least form a psychological and philosophical perspective, I also find that snowboarding and skiing can lead to a grounding zen experience bonding a person to nature and their inner self. When you are on a mountain and through all of the BS of getting there, buying a ticket, queueing up to get on the lift etc… All the troubles, responsibilities and intrepidations of daily life melt away and you become ensconced into the present. Whether you practice attaining this state or just enjoy stumbling upon it the reward in general happiness cannot be dismissed.

As I ramble through this discourse my point is this I am personally one of the happiest people I know in the Winter time and that is shared by a number of the people that I know who feel the same as I about skiing and snowboarding. On the flip side of this I know many people that do nothing but incessantly complain about the long dark winter days and that they haven’t been out of the house in a week. There are cures for the negativity and general malaise that pours from these people but they have to act to alleviate it. Maybe they’ve made being miserable and grouchy during the Winter into the fabric of who they are. My point is this find a passion in the Winter that keeps you enthusiastic and happy while you make it through to the warmer months.

Getting Essential Vitamin D in Winter Time

Man Tanning
Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin, and its essential to maintaining optimal health and a robust immune system. The main source of this critical nutrient is the sun. During hard Northeastern winters, it can be almost impossible to get all the vitamin D we need. Now I am not saying you need to dress for your next mountain adventure quite as risque as the woman in the image but…

Researchers have found that having a vitamin D deficiency can lead to a broad range of (sometimes severe) health problems and also contribute to chronic disorders, which include:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Depression
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension

If you want to maintain healthy levels of Vitamin D, especially if you’re living through a brutal Northeast Winter, or any snowy climate, keep reading to learn about the different ways you can get the vitamin D you need.

The Dangers of Vitamin D Deficiency

According to the journal Nutrition Research, approximately 42 percent of US adults are vitamin D deficient. That’s bad news for health. A variety of health risks are associated with Vitamin D deficiency. Worse, if you’re diagnosed with a serious health issue like breast or prostate cancer, the chances of survival could be much lower than for someone who has normal levels.

According to study author, Kimberly Y.Z. Forrest, there are specific factors which increase your risk of being vitamin D deficient, “Being from a non-white race, not college educated, obese, having low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, poor health, and no daily milk consumption were all significantly, independently associated with vitamin D deficiency.”

Too Little Vitamin D Can Make You S.A.D

Vitamin D deficiency can significantly increase the chances of experiencing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), also called winter depression.

This is a mental condition which can cause people to experience a depressed mood during the winter season. SAD is still a mystery to many healthcare professionals, and there are different schools of thought regarding its cause, but most will agree that it could be at least partly related to a combination of light sensitivity, brain chemistry, and Vitamin D deficiency.

The symptoms of SAD can appear like those of major depressive disorder and may include:

  • Decreased energy
  • Increased appetite
  • Increased desire for sleep
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Carbohydrate cravings
  • Irritability
  • Weight gain

A reason why Vitamin D deficiency could cause SAD is that it naturally boosts serotonin, the brain chemical responsible for processes like digestion, mood, sleep, and hunger. When humans experience a drop in serotonin levels, our mood drops, and we may experience cravings as a way to increase those levels. Carbs, as well as nicotine or caffeine, will briefly increase serotonin levels to improve our mood temporarily. Unfortunately, we eventually get desensitized to all this excess serotonin, which can cause cravings to intensify.
Besides excess abdominal fat, other signs of Vitamin D deficiency may include depression, persistent musculoskeletal pain, frequent chest colds, inflammatory diseases, and even some autoimmune diseases.

How Does the Body get vitamin D from the Sun?

The body synthesizes large amounts of cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) when skin is exposed to sunlight. The minimum time needed to make vitamin D depends on the skin color of each person. Individuals with very light skin may need only 10 minutes in the sun to stimulate the body to produce vitamin D. Those with very dark skin could require up to 30 minutes or longer to make a significant amount of vitamin D.

But, on average a person will need about 15-20 minutes of sun on face arms and legs about three times a week for the body to produce enough vitamin D. Of course, the more skin that’s exposed, the more vitamin D you’ll make. You don’t need to risk sunburn or even get a tan to get the vitamin D you need.

A crucial factor that affects the amount of vitamin D you make is the time of day. The optimum time of day to be in the sun for the skin to make the most vitamin D is about noon when the sun’s rays strike the ground most directly.

Does Summertime Vitamin D Last through the Winter?

Yes, it’s possible for the vitamin D your body makes from sun exposure to meet most of your needs all winter long. But, possibly doesn’t mean it will.

For this to help you, you need first to get enough vitamin D during the warm weather months. Unfortunately, many of us just can’t. Most Americans are vitamin D deficient even in the summer months for a variety of reasons:

  • Working all day at indoor jobs
  • Slathering on extremely high SPF sunscreen anytime they go out
  • Actively avoiding the sun from fear of skin damage

So, the majority of us get nowhere near the amount of vitamin D we need in the summer, and yet we depend on this hypothetical vitamin D surplus to keep us healthy all winter.

If you live around the northern circle of latitude that’s 37 degrees above of Earth’s equator, the sun’s rays just don’t hit your location at the optimal angle to get vitamin D producing rays on your skin during fall and winter, making vitamin D production from the sun impossible. Visualize a line across the US from Northern California to Pennsylvania; anyone living over this line had better look for alternative sources of Vitamin D from November through March.

The bottom line is: If you’re well-tanned from the sun at the beginning of winter from lots of daily sun exposure over the summer, then you may indeed have enough vitamin D stored to make it through to spring. If not, then its likely that you’ll need to find another way.

If You Think You’re Vitamin D Deficient, Consider Getting Tested

If you suspect that you’re vitamin D deficient, consider having your blood levels checked by your doctor. Recent studies indicate that it’s best to maintain your vitamin D levels above 30 nanograms/milliliter. Someone who has levels below this amount may need to consume a higher dose vitamin supplement but only do so on the advice of your doctor.

Now That You Know Here is How to Eliminate it or Avoid It Altogether

Although it sounds challenging to be able to do it’s not that hard. The key is to get outside during the winter and allow some sunlight on your skin. This doesn’t mean that you have to join a polar bear club and go skinny dipping in a frozen lake every Winter. What it does mean is that you should take advantage of that Sunny Winter day and take your hat and hood off if it’s warm enough and let that sunshine in. Having a Winter sport that you are passionate about really helps.
Even Indoor tanning is better than nothing and will produce Vitamin D for you.

Ways to Get Vitamin D without the Sun

Eat healthy, vitamin D rich foods like these every day:

  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Mackerel
  • Mushrooms
  • Eggs
  • Cheese

Other good sources are, vitamin D fortified milk, yogurt, and vitamin-fortified orange juice.

Of course, the quickest and easiest way is to take a vitamin D supplement year-round. It’s best to ask a doctor regarding the most effective amount to take. Although, for people with healthy vitamin D levels, 1,000 to 2,000 International Units (IU) of vitamin D every day will help maintain optimal levels.

Use your newfound awareness of Vitamin D and how your body creates and uses it to help you feel healthy and happy this Winter.

Vitamin D | The Sunshine Vitamin

vitamin D supplementsWhat if you found out one vitamin can do all this:

  • Fight disease
  • Reduce depression
  • Boost weight loss
  • Protect against diabetes
  • Stave off heart disease

And is critical to the maintenance of optimum health?
Now, what if I told you that this vitamin is given away at no cost during part of the year?
I can understand if you’re skeptical; but you’ll understand shortly – read on to discover what this vitamin is, what it can do for your health, the dangers of missing out on this essential substance, and of course, the best ways to get your daily requirement of this, literal, foundation of human health.

The Sunshine Vitamin

The sunshine vitamin DIf you haven’t guessed by now; I’m talking about vitamin D, also called the ‘sunshine vitamin.’
What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble secosteroids responsible for facilitating the intestinal absorption of essential minerals such as; calcium, magnesium, phosphate, and zinc. Vitamin D also has other (critical) biological effects in humans. It can be acquired through diet or exposure to UV radiation (sunlight).
But this just covers the basics – research has discovered that this nutrient has an extraordinary level of influence over our health. Let’s start by taking a look at the consequences of not getting enough.

Deficiency Dangers

We only need to go back a little ways historically to see that rickets; a skeletal disorder that’s caused by a lack of vitamin D, calcium, or phosphate, was once a common health problem in northern Europe and the UK. Vitamin D is vital for the body to metabolize the building blocks of strong, healthy bones. Rickets sufferers will experience symptoms like; weak and soft bones, retarded growth, and, in severe cases, skeletal deformities.

Vitamin D deficiency makes it almost impossible for the body to maintain sufficient levels both calcium and phosphate. When this happens, the body will produce hormones that leach calcium and phosphate from your bones. When bones lack these minerals, they inevitably become weaker and softer.

3 Risk Factors to Look Out For:

  • Geographic location: Your body produces vitamin D when you’re exposed to sunlight, so living in an area with little sunlight will put you at risk for vitamin D deficiency. Also, people who spend much of the day indoors are at risk.
  • Diet: You will have a greater risk of deficiency if you eat a vegetarian diet that doesn’t include fish, eggs, or milk. Having an allergy to milk sugar (lactose intolerance) is another risk factor.
  • Skin Color: darker skin does not react as strongly to sunlight as lighter colored skin; consequently individuals with higher melanin levels need much greater time exposed to the sun to produce the vitamin D they require.

To Stay Heart Healthy

Vitamin D is heart healthyNumerous studies have discovered a direct correlation between vitamin D deficiency and a significantly higher risk of heart disease and hypertension in adults. One reason for this has to do with vitamin D’s role in calcium absorption; contrary to popular belief an atherosclerotic blockage is mostly composed of calcium and not fat. Vitamin D deficiency may create a situation where excess calcium in the blood comes to rest in the cardiac arteries rather than being used for bone metabolism.

Low vitamin D levels have also been shown to be a risk factor for hypertension. Increasing serum vitamin D levels has consistently lowered blood pressure in individuals suffering from a diagnosed deficiency.

What about Diabetes?

Current research has linked low vitamin D levels with the development of insulin resistance which can result in diabetes. Preventing insulin resistance is important to head off this, frequently debilitating metabolic disorder. Studies have shown that test subjects given a daily dose of vitamin D equivalent to ten times the amount found in the average multivitamin increased their insulin sensitivity by almost 40%. This is a remarkable improvement according to researchers.

Stay Lean with Vitamin D

Scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have discovered that a calorie restricted diet for weight loss is far more efficient for individuals who maintain healthy blood levels of vitamin D. All the women in the study who took supplemental vitamin D (2000 IU) and reached ‘replete’ levels of vitamin D (they had optimum levels) lost close to 30% more weight over a one year period than those who didn’t raise their blood levels to this point.
To maximize your weight loss efforts; you need to do more than increase your intake of D, you need to take enough to achieve a healthy blood level of this ‘super’ vitamin.

What Else can it Do?

The list of vitamin D benefits is incredibly long, and more benefits are being found every year – but here is a short list of what research has shown that this nutrient can do for you:

  • Lower risk of cancer
  • Reduces depression
  • Increased sense of well-being
  • Increased muscle strength
  • Fewer asthma attacks

What Foods Are Vitamin D Rich?

What foods are vitamin D richBesides getting sufficient exposure to sunlight or taking a daily supplement – there are many foods you can include in your diet to ensure that you’re getting enough:

  • Salmon, tuna, mackerel, and other fatty fish are rich in vitamin D
  • Beef liver is an easily found, and incredibly rich, source of D
  • Stop throwing away those egg yolks! Egg yolk is an great source of dietary vitamin D
  • If you love cheese – enjoy it in the knowledge that it provides your body with this essential nutrient
  • Cod liver oil is how many people have traditionally maintained healthy vitamin D levels
  • Shiitake mushrooms will bring a little more sunlight (vitamin) into your life
  • Milk and yogurt provide significant amounts as well

How About Supplements?

There are several types of vitamin D, but only two are important to humans: D2 and D3.
Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) is created by plants, and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is synthesized by the body when your skin is exposed to ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays in sunlight. The biologically active form of this vitamin is calcitriol, which is synthesized in the kidneys from either D2 or D3.
Of the two types of vitamin D, D3 is the most efficient form that you can consume to maintain healthy levels of this nutrient in your body – so read the labels of that pill bottle and make sure that you’re taking the most active form of D to maintain your health during the winter months when you can’t get enough UV exposure on your skin to make your own.

Health Benefits of Hiking

hiker in mountains
While the benefits of physical exercise are well-known, what most of us don’t realize is that we don’t need a strict schedule or a local gym to enjoy them. Just taking a long walk in the great outdoors provides all the health benefits of a more structured fitness routine with a lot less boredom!

Here are a few of the extraordinary health benefits of hiking, after you’re done checking them out, you’ll know why the next time someone tells you to take a hike – you should!

Become a Calorie Burning Machine

Depending on the level of incline, the weight you’re carrying, and the condition of the terrain you’re covering; hiking can burn over 500 calories per hour; without risking your joint health.

Hiking is a highly safe activity that offers incredible bang for your buck when it comes to losing weight.

Want to turbocharge your calorie burning? Then head for the hills – studies have shown that just being at a higher altitude will result in weight loss.

A large group of sedentary, obese individuals were taken to an altitude of almost 9000 feet for a week and allowed to eat whatever they wanted while doing no other exercise than walking – and lost more than three pounds on average. Even more impressive is the fact that they maintained most of their weight loss after returning to sea level.

Hiking is Great for Joint and Bone Health

trail through woods
Hiking will prevent osteoporosis and even reverse the condition by slowing the rate of calcium loss and ultimately increasing your bone density. According to a study by the University of Washington; women suffering from osteoporosis who walked for at least one hour three days per week experienced significant increases in bone density over 9 months.

Hiking is also a weight bearing exercise that is extremely low-impact on your knees and hips. If you want to enjoy all the benefits of cardio training without the risk of injury usually associated with long distance running or aerobic dance workouts – hiking will do it all.

Reduce Your Blood Pressure

Man watching sunset
Over one in every four Americans suffers from some degree of high blood pressure. Frequently referred to as the “silent killer,” since the symptoms are easy to overlook, it will often lead to heart attack, strokes, and many other serious health issues.

Regular physical exercise (like hiking) can lower your blood pressure between 4 to 6 points, and the weight loss associated with exercise will reduce your blood pressure another 5 to 20 points!

Lower blood pressure will reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and even help preserve your vision since high blood pressure can lead to hypertensive retinopathy.

trail through desert

Reduce Anxiety Levels and De-Stress

Stress increases levels of adrenaline and cortisol in the body as our “fight or flight” response (over) reacts to the stresses of modern life. Without a way to clear these stress hormones from our systems, we can quickly become chronically tense and perpetually anxious.

Chronically high stress levels have been implicated in a wide range of health problems and psychological issues like:

  • Memory problems
  • Weight gain
  • Problems with your digestion
  • Depression
  • Headaches

Hiking stimulates your body to produce euphoria-inducing endorphins while reducing stress hormone levels, resulting in lower anxiety levels and decreased nervous tension, relieving the negative effects of stress.

Hike to be Happy

As mentioned before, physical activity will stimulate your body to produce naturally occurring pain relieving/euphoria-inducing endorphins. Magnifying this effect is the mood lifting effect of being in a beautiful, outdoor environment and getting out of your daily routine.

What could be worse than making the same trip every day from home to office, staring at a computer screen all day, and then staring at your phone and TV screen all night?

Go hiking and break the routine! Your daily commute is so soul crushing because you see the same old things – every day – on your journey to and from work. Rather than spending your life trudging from your doorstep to your office desk – enjoy the prospect of open vistas, gorgeous views, and the delightful smells of walking a meandering country path away from your normal environment.

Go hiking to enjoy the mood elevating effects of both physical activity and being immersed in the beauty of nature.

Do I Need To be Fit before I Hike?

Absolutely not! The point is to enjoy hiking as means to better health. Being overweight won’t prevent you from reaping the benefits of hiking – you’ll lose weight and feel better, but if you’ve been sedentary for a long time you should take some precautions:

  • If you’re older, suffer from hypertension or have other health problems check with your doctor first
  • Start with easy hikes. It’s easy to overdo it in the beginning and end up so sore you won’t want to get out there again
  • Stay away from steep/rough terrain until you’re in decent shape
  • Wear the proper foot gear and bring enough water

What Are You Waiting For?

Anytime is the best time to get outside and enjoy the benefits of hiking. You say that you don’t have the time to drive out to the shore or mountains? Step out your door, pick a direction and get moving.

We all have access to streets, neighborhoods or paths were we can spend an hour enjoying being outdoors while getting all the benefits of hiking. Don’t wait for the perfect place, day or weather; get outside and get moving!