A lot of research has consistently confirmed that regular exercise not only improves your overall health and fitness but also lengthens and improves the quality of your life. Hiking is one of the lowest impact sports, meaning you do them with less stress, strain, and pounding on your joints and body. At the same time, you derive all the cardiovascular benefits of other aerobic activities. One of the benefits of hiking is that it helps reduce the risk of death by coronary heart disease. Besides that, it also decreases the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and colon cancer. It also helps control weight loss and contributes to healthy bones, muscles, and joints to help relieve arthritis pain.
Generally, exercises, including hiking, can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. This aerobic exercise is often associated with fewer hospitalizations and physician visits. Below are the health benefits of hiking to help reduce the risk of various health issues;
1. It helps control weight
Like all other exercises, hiking is also one of the best ways to lose weight and stabilize cholesterol levels. You burn roughly 100 calories for every mile you walk though the amount you burn depends on factors such as your weight, gender, and intensity of the exercise. You may burn around 300 to 350 calories per hour if you’re walking at a rate of 3.5 miles an hour. In addition, it’s been confirmed that people who lose weight through hiking or walking maintain the loss and continue to lose more weight, while those who lose weight through dieting tend to gain weight again quickly.
2. It prevents or controls diabetes
The increase in diabetes is often caused by a lack of physical activity/exercise and an increased rate of obesity. Hiking can help reduce the amount of insulin a person needs, especially for a person with Type I (insulin-dependent) diabetes. People with Type II (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes can easily reverse the course of the disease through diet, exercise, and weight loss. In addition, hiking regularly also lowers your blood sugar levels and gives your muscles a workout ( this moves glucose from your bloodstream for energy).
3. Hiking is good for the heart
If you are concerned about your cardiovascular health, hiking can be a great way to improve your heart health! Hiking is an excellent exercise for heart health, as even light hiking can help raise the heart rate to a moderate level. This helps improve endurance and aerobic fitness. Hiking also helps improve markers associated with cardiovascular health, such as cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. In addition, researchers have also confirmed that regular hiking can significantly improve glucose tolerance, reduce bad cholesterol levels, and hypertension in people.
4. Hiking helps build muscle
Hiking is a great exercise for every major muscle group in the body, and it helps improve your balance by building and stabilizing muscles in your legs and core. It also strengthens other muscles of your body, including the arms and back. Your arm and back muscles get strengthened through carrying a moderate-heavy pack or through the use of trekking poles. Hiking uphill engages your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves, while hiking downhill engages your ankles, hips, and core. So, if you’re not really interested in going to gyms, you can give hiking a try to help build your muscles.
5. It boost mental well-being
Hiking communes with nature, and lots of research support that connecting with nature improves mental health and wellbeing. The various experiences derived from nature during hiking can make you feel happy and reduce your stress level. A good example is forest bathing which is commonly practiced by the Japanese. It involves taking a hike in the woods to reconnect with nature and disconnect from the digital world. This feeling can melt away stress and elicit a more positive outlook on life. In addition, recent research also shows that using hiking as an additional therapy can help people with severe depression. It may even inspire those suffering from depression to lead a more active lifestyle.
Although the benefits of hiking to our health are numerous, it’s best to take safety into consideration.
Safe Hiking Tips
- Bring a friend: It’s best not to hike alone, especially on unfamiliar or remote trails. A friend or group can help you navigate and assist if you get hurt.
- Know before you go: It’s important that you familiarize yourself with the trail map before hiking. Also, check the weather, pack, and dress accordingly. If storms are a possibility, rethink your plan.
- Avoid venturing off the beaten path: It’s important to stay on marked trails regardless of how familiar you think you are with an area.