13 Reasons Why Hiking Is Good For You
So, the snow is melting and the outdoor lifestyle is calling. It’s sad, the ski season is over and before we sit in a darkened room and sob, we have to get out in the sunshine and get fit for next season. So we thought we would take the time to discover 14 reasons why hiking is good for you. Together we can make it through until the snow arrives again!
Aside from sticking to a healthy and nutritious diet, another great way to maintain your health and keep that banging body is to exercise. Hiking is one of the best ways to do this. The great thing about it is that it’s economical and has numerous health benefits. Thats why we thought we would put together 14 reasons why hiking is good for you, sharing the knowledge and helping you get out there this Spring/Summer.
Before you leave your house and head out to the trails, you should consult your doctor, especially if you have health problems such as diabetes and heart-related issues or if you are pregnant.
Now, in this piece, we shall go through some of the health benefits that you stand to gain when you make hiking part of your routine. But first, we need to know a few things. So trap yourself in folk, get ready to be learned but like in an easy to absorb relateable way!
The difference between walking and hiking
Hiking and walking are quite similar but have a definite difference. You see, with walking, you are merely putting one foot in front of the other and covering some distance. You could be walking from your couch to the fridge or from the office to your house. Experts have proven that walking has considerable health benefits, including boosting your self-esteem, decreasing depression tendencies and helping to fight off sicknesses. It’s important to note that walking takes place mostly on flat and plain grounds with minimal obstacles.
Hiking, on the other hand, is merely walking but on more mountainous terrains. It involves walking from low altitudes to high altitudes. Usually, it means more energy than walking depending on the terrain you choose. Hiking will get your heart beating faster than walking. Also, when hiking, you’ll need to invest in some special equipment to keep you comfortable throughout the journey. Lets get stuck in!
13 ways hiking is good for your body and mind
Improves your overall health
Laziness and physical inactivity are often linked to numerous health problems, including osteoporosis, obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease and some types of cancer. But here’s the good news. Being physically active can help prevent most of these diseases and prevent premature death. Since hiking keeps you active, it improves your overall health, have you live longer and experience a quality life (1).
Lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease
As we mentioned before, hiking will get your heart beating faster and blood coursing through your body swiftly. You can consider this as exercising the cardiovascular system.
Hiking regularly can help to increase high-density lipoproteins and reduce the triglyceride levels in the body. Readjustments of these levels will help to reduce your chances of developing heart-related diseases and stroke (2).
Improve your blood pressure and blood sugar levels
Yes, you don’t have to pop some pills to keep your blood pressure in check. All you need to do is to go hiking. Here’s what happens. When you hike regularly, your heart gets stronger. This means that it will pump more blood with minimal effort. When this happens, the force exerted on the arteries decreases, and consequently, your blood pressure reduces (3).
In addition to this, hiking will help in controlling blood sugar levels. Patients with type 2 diabetes have high glucose levels in the bloodstream. This is usually because the body doesn’t produce sufficient insulin to break it down, or the body is insulin resistant. Whichever the case, hiking can help in reducing blood sugar levels. How? Well, the muscles can make use of glucose without relying on insulin when you are on the hiking trails. When the muscles use up glucose, the blood sugar levels reduce and the diabetes is controlled (4).
However, before you head out to the mountain trails, consult your doctor. You might need to have your diabetes medication adjusted, especially if you intend to hike regularly.
Increases your energy levels
Now, if you have never gone hiking before, you probably are thinking of how tired you’ll get afterwards. The thought of the fatigue that follows is enough to keep you cooped up in your house. But this thinking is wrong. It’s just the body tricking you into being lazy. Contrary to what many people believe, exercising will not make you tired. Instead, it will gradually increase your energy and make you stronger with time.
The changes occur at a cellular level. The human cells have tiny powerhouses known as mitochondria, which are tasked with the responsibility of producing energy. While it’s true that your diet affects your energy levels, it’s also true that the number of mitochondria you have is affected by how active you are.
Hiking will help trigger the cells to make more mitochondria and in the end, produce more energy.
Fat stores energy that the body needs during physical activities. Hiking will cause your body to tap into these energy reserves to burn calories. The number of calories burned will depend on how much hiking you do. But generally, a man who weighs 154 pounds and is 5’10” will burn about 370 calories during a 1-hour hiking session or 185 calories during a 30-minute hiking session (5).
Increases your bone density
Believe it or not, your bones are alive. You can think of them as tissues. Hiking regularly triggers the formation of new bone tissue and strengthens them. Like muscles, bone tissue also responds to progressive overload and stress. When you periodically exert pressure on the bone, the body responds by enhancing and adding to its density, enabling it to withstand the overload.
Hiking will exert direct pressure to the bone, and the above results will be experienced in a short while. Moreover, arthritis is alleviated as your joints become more fluid (6).
Most youngsters don’t appreciate the importance of developing their balance. Balance becomes more and more critical as you age. The elderly often suffer balance-related falls.
When you are new to hiking, you’ll notice that you’ll often trip and have a hard time balancing on the rocky trails. But with time, you’ll get the hang of it, and you’ll be navigating uneven ground with the finesse and balance of a ballet dancer (7).
Lowers risk of cancer
Hiking will help to reduce your risk of developing certain types of cancers, including lung, blood, colon, bladder, rectum, neck, head, kidney, and breast cancers. Additionally, hiking and being physically active can help improve the quality of life during cancer treatments (8).
Elevates your mood
After a hike, you’ll notice that your moods will improve drastically. Even if you are feeling under the weather or are just having a bad day, going hiking will lift your spirits. What happens is that the body produces endorphins, which help in fighting mood swings, depression, and anxiety (9).
If you experience problems sleeping at night, rather than popping some sleeping pills, you should go hiking and make it a regular activity. Hiking will help you fall asleep faster and feel refreshed when you wake up. It achieves this by reducing your stress levels, which is the number one cause of insomnia. Once the stress is out of the picture, you fall asleep with ease and sleep like a baby (10).
It gets your creative juices flowing
You probably are thinking this is a little bit far-fetched. But trust us, it’s not. Hiking will improve your creativity. It helps to stimulate the Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor, which in turn stimulates the growth of new brain cells in a region known as the hippocampus, which is linked to long term memory. However, with the new brain cells and improved survival cell rate, hiking can help in improving your imagination and creativity (11).
Longer life expectancy
Helps you to appreciate nature
Hiking is done in mountainous and hilly regions where you are bound to get a great view. It is also done in forests where the air is fresh and clean. Overall, after a few hiking sessions, you’ll be addicted to earth’s beauty. You’ll discover things you would never have seen otherwise like hawks gliding in the sky above, squirrels scurrying on your path, as well as deep and thick tree roots in your path.
The more time you spend on these trails, the more you learn to appreciate nature (13).
4 Quick Tips for Beginner Hikers
While hiking is a fun, low impact outdoor activity, it often comes with several unpredictable variables. To enjoy it to the fullest, you need to be prepared for anything that might happen. As a beginner, here are some tips that will help you prepare for your hiking sessions:
Pick a hiking trail that has a shorter distance than what you’d typically walk on flat ground. Remember, hiking requires more energy than walking. So start small. To estimate the time it’d take you to complete a trail, go with a pace of about 2 miles an hour. With every elevation gain (1000 feet), add an extra hour to the estimated time. Once you’ve completed the trail a couple of times, you’ll have a rough idea of how long it’ll take you to complete.
Pack the essentials. Luckily, modern hiking essentials have evolved from a list of items to a list of systems. So it’s easy to pack light. The systems you pack should keep you safe even when you find yourself stuck on the trail at night. Your trail shall determine what items and systems you pack for the hike. But generally, here is what you will mostly need;
- Sun protection
- Navigation (compass and map)
- First aid supplies
- Repair tools
- Extra food
- Emergency shelter
The list may look long, but once you niche it down to your trail, it won’t look so long.
Tell someone where you are going
It is essential that someone who’s not on the hike knows where you’ll be. They should know every detail about the hike, including the trail you’ll be on, the timings and when they should be worried. When providing this information, give yourself some cushioning to enjoy the view, to hike slowly or deal with a sore ankle.
Say hello to your fellow hiker
It’s common courtesy to greet fellow hikers. There are high chances that you’ll often be meeting on the trail. So you better forge a friendship earlier sooner than later as it helps to make hiking fun and something to look forward to.
Hiking can be a daunting exercise, but if done right, it is fun, engaging and rewarding. Look for ways to make it enjoyable. If you can, have a friend to hike with and try out new trails with whenever possible. When you make it part of your exercising regimen, you’ll find that the benefits mentioned above will be a bonus to the fun you have.
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Hey, I’m Angelica A Pro Freerider and content producer. I love to write about adventures, inspire people to get outside and discover. Lover of big mountain snowboarding, wine and dogs!