Whether you’re heading out under thundering waterfalls or making your way towards the centre of the Earth, hiking will have you hooked. Not only do you get up close and personal with the exhilarating great outdoors, but when you hit the trails regularly and you’ll discover a phenomenal range of perks. Here are five amazing physical and emotional health benefits of taking a hike:
1. It helps your heart
Hiking makes the heart perform better compared to many other physical activities. And this is especially true if you start hiking on uneven terrain and add some elevations. The more uphill hikes you take, the more your heart is forced to work harder and, in turn, more blood will pump through it. Not only does this improve cardiovascular strength but it also goes a long way to preventing heart disease. And the best bit? As your heart becomes more efficient, oxygen and nutrients reach other organs, improving your overall health too.
2. It tones all of your muscles
Taking a hike wakes up those sleepy muscles that may have been lying dormant for years. Once you start incorporating slopes and hills not only are your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and abdominals engaged, but you start toning your whole body. Choose shoes that optimise traction when walking uphill and you’ll get an even better workout. The health benefits of toning up underused muscles include improved overall balance and stability, a stronger core and more efficient hip muscles – which your body will thank you for as you age.
3. It’s a wellbeing wonder drug
Never has it been more imperative to be in tune with your emotional wellbeing as well as your physical wellbeing. And looking after your mind has been proven to ward off stress, depression and anxiety. Not only is hiking a cost-effective way to get back to Mother Nature, you’ll also discover that the more time you make for the trails the more you’ll increase your happiness and boost your mood by raising serotonin levels.
Coupled with the social interaction elements of hiking (a buddy system is always recommended), another feel-good factor comes from the eco-conscious aspect of walking. Cutting out gas and harmful emissions and using your legs to move you through nature is more environmentally friendly in itself. And choosing to support brands that are leading the way in sustainability can bring even more positivity into your life. Take Nike’s targets for instance. By 2020 they want to send zero footwear waste to landfill and make a 10% reduction in their products’ overall environmental footprint.
4. It doses you up on Vitamin D
Step away from the groggy feelings too much Netflix binging brings and walk out into the wilderness. There are plenty of studies to show city dwellers are Vitamin D deficient, but stepping outside for just 30 minutes a day brings those levels back up to a healthy constant. Vitamin D can help prevent osteoporosis, reduce inflammation and lower high blood pressure, and one of the best ways to get more of it is to get yourself out in the sunlight. Being out early in the day also recalibrates circadian rhythms, which in turn promote better and healthier sleep.
5. It benefits your bones
Walking is a weight-bearing exercise, so the more you hike the better your bone health becomes. Why do you need to protect your bone health? Those bones keep you upright, store calcium and protect your organs. Improving bone density helps prevent fractures later in life and if you’re hiking with young children or adolescents, this is the premium time to strengthen their bones too.
Last modified: August 10, 2019