The Exercise and Health Benefits of Hiking

The Exercise and Health Benefits of Hiking

When people travel to exotic lands, they often choose to explore their new surroundings by hiking through the foreign landscape. Hiking is a relaxing and fulfilling way to take in the sights, sounds and smells of the natural environment. In addition to enhancing your travel experience through the eyes, ears and nostrils, hiking also fosters numerous health benefits.

In essence, hiking is an exercise for your heart. It can decrease your risk of stroke, type II diabetes and coronary artery disease by strengthening the respiratory abilities of your blood vessels, heart and lungs. Hiking also improves your ability to regulate your blood pressure and blood sugar levels. As with other aerobic exercises, hiking can also reduce your risk of high cholesterol, triglycerides and specific types of cancer (specifically, colon cancer, breast cancer and perhaps endometrial and lung cancer).

Walking the trails also exercises your body, which can stimulate weight loss. For example, a person weighing 150 pounds can burn up to 370 calories per hour while hiking. In addition, you can strengthen various muscle groups, including your hips, legs and (the ever-popular) glutes. Moreover, your shoulders arms, neck and hips will all experience an intense upper body workout. Your outdoor treks can also unwittingly tighten your core. Lastly, unbeknownst to most, hiking can either increase your bone density or slow its deterioration.

Much of the analyses on the subject ultimately conclude that your mood can ameliorate your physical well-being. By way of extension, hiking and everything it entails can help lift your spirit by reducing stress and strain. The President of the American Hiking Society Dr. Gregory A. Miller once shared that “[b]eing in nature is ingrained in our DNA, and we sometimes forget that.” In support of this mantra, several studies have indicated that hiking enables you to sleep better at night and decrease your risk of early death and depression. In fact, someone who spends seven hours each week participating in physical activity lowers their risk of early death by 40% as compared to someone who spends less than 30 minutes per week doing so.

At least one research project has concluded that detaching yourself from technology by spending time enjoying nature can also improve your creative problem-solving abilities and lengthen your attention span. For example, famed poker player Eugene Katchalov has described instances when he took a break from the casino tables to squeeze in a hiking workout. Perhaps this is Katchalov’s hidden secret for subsequently dominating the poker tables with refreshed Zen and focus.

So, not only does traveling enrich your life experiences, but you can also interlace hiking with your voyages to reap multiple health benefits without even realizing it. Whether it’s hiking through the mountains or exploring a rainforest, the resulting exercise will nourish your body and soul. On your next trip, let’s hope that this discussion will motivate you to think of creative ways to work an outdoor adventure into your schedule. Enjoy your hike (and its benefits)!

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2 Comments

  1. January 29, 2018 / 7:58 pm

    Aw yeah! I was a real certified city kid before I moved to Switzerland. Not that into hiking– but boy that has changed, and not just because it’s one of the few cheap/free things to do here. It’s the endorphin rush that does it for me. Super important to my overall well being, especially in the winter.

    • January 30, 2018 / 5:11 am

      Love being outside so much! So great for my psyche as well — thanks for reading!

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