Hiking is a popular past time. Fresh air, sunshine, spectacular views, and the occasional wildlife encounter are many of the reasons people venture out for a hike. The many health benefits of hiking may be less of a focus, but are a great addition.
Hike for your health. Image courtesy pixabay
There are many reasons to hike for fun and leisure. Below is a list of many of the health related reasons to go for a hike!
1. Lower your blood pressure. Brisk walking for 30 minutes a day, 150 minutes of moderate and 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week is recommended for adults to help lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease. Choose an easy to difficult hike depending on your level of fitness and desired level of exercise.
2. Lose weight.On average a person burns 100 calories for every mile walked. Depending on how fast a person walks, it is possible to burn 200-250 calories per mile when walking 2.5 miles per hour. Add in elevation changes often found when hiking to boost those numbers.
3. Reduce risk of osteoporosis. Hiking increases bone density, as it is a weight-bearing exercise which improve posture, muscles and strengthens bones.
4. Stregthens muscles. Long, brisk walks with good posture and varied terrains can help strengthen muscle. Hiking can easily provide varied terrain.
5. Tones your core. Everytime you lift your leg and move it forward, your stomach muscles contract and strengthen. Your stomach muscles tighten every time you step and this tones them. You can be purposeful about tightening your abdominal muscles while you walk and this will intensify the toning.
6. Vitamin D. Hiking and being out in the sunshine is one way to increase your Vitamin D levels naturally.
Hike to a beautiful view, take a break and meditate. Image courtesy pixabay
7. A form of meditation. Meditation is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “the act or process of spending time in quiet thought; the act of meditating, to engage in contemplation or reflection”. Meditation is known for reducing stress among many other things. Hiking through the natural landscape could be seen as a walking meditation. You could even sit for a bit mid-hike, take in a beautiful view and meditate.
8. Reduce anxiety and stress. Hiking can reduce anxiety in many ways including burning energy, regulating breathing, and providing many sensory distractions from the focus of anxiety.
9. Time to socialize the old fashioned way. Hiking with family and friends is a great way to reconnect with not only nature, but also our loved ones. As a current saying goes, “there’s no wifi in the forest, but I promise you will find a better connection" (author unknown). This could be true for just about any nature hike no matter where you are hiking, just turn off the wifi and connect the old fashioned way! As humans we are social creatures. Social interaction and feelings of connectedness positively affect our overall health. Find some good company and hit the trails.
Hike with family or friends. Image courtesy morguefile
10. Bonus: Taking the kids along for a hike could help foster a healthy habit they might keep up for a lifetime. Plus, it helps them burn off a lot of energy while stimulating their minds with all there is to see in nature. In my personal experience it has taken some time, patience, and practice to hike with small children, but the end result of having little seasoned hikers who enjoy it has been worth it.
Hiking is an activity that can be done in any season almost anywhere in the world. Be sure to dress according to the weather, pack plenty of water and snacks, sunscreen, a trail map, and head out for health and fun.