Hiking outdoors has plenty of perks: nice views, fresh air, and the sounds and smells of nature.
It’s good for you, too.
Hiking is a powerful cardio workout that can:
Lower your risk of heart disease
Improve your blood pressure and blood sugar levels
Boost bone density, since walking is a weight-bearing exercise
Build strength in your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and the muscles in your hips and lower legs
Strengthen your core
Help control your weight
AND Boost your mood.
“Research shows that hiking has a positive impact on combating the symptoms of stress and anxiety,” says Gregory A. Miller, PhD, president of the American Hiking Society.
“Being in nature is ingrained in our DNA, and we sometimes forget that.”
Here’s what hikers can teach the rest of us about leading a happier, healthier life.
Hikers are creative.
Research shows that spending time outdoors increases attention spans and creative problem-solving skills by as much as 50 percent.
Hikers are seriously fit.
Hitting the trail works out your body as much as it does your brain. Just one hour of trekking can burn well over 500 calories, depending on the level of incline and the weight of the pack you’re carrying. Hiking is a great way to get a serious workout without putting too much pressure on your joints.
Plus, tramping through the trails on a regular basis decreases blood pressure and cholesterol. Logging cardio in the form of hiking can lower blood pressure by four to 10 points, and reduce the danger of heart disease, diabetes and strokes for those at high-risk. And don’t lose heart if you’re not out of breath on the way back. Both the ups and downs have benefits when it comes to lowering cholesterol, but hiking downhill is two times more effective at removing blood sugars and improving glucose tolerance.
(Snake trail near a watering hole – if you are wondering what that is)
Some research suggests that the physical benefits of hiking extend far beyond cardiovascular health, and may even go as far as to help cancer patients recover. In a study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine researchers measured oxidative stress (thought to play a role in the onset, progression and recurrence of cancer) rates of women with breast cancer and men with prostate cancer before and after hiking.
Hikers are happier.
Research shows that using hiking as an additional therapy can help people with severe depression feel less hopeless, depressed and suicidal. It may even inspire those suffering from it to lead a more active lifestyle.
For those who don’t suffer from depression, hiking still offers mental benefits. “Being out in nature, away from the business of our daily lives and technology, can allow people to connect with themselves and nature in a way that brings about peace and a sense of well-being,”
“Details of the many walks I made along the crest have blurred, now, into a pleasing tapestry of grass and space and sunlight.”
– Colin Fletcher