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
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
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.
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
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!