Whether you’re already an avid hiker or new to hiking, you’re probably curious about how this type of exercise can benefit your physical and mental health. The good news is that hiking has many health benefits.
Does hiking tone your body?
Is hiking a good way to lose weight?
Countless studies and research have consistently shown that regular exercise not only improves our overall health and fitness, but also prolongs and improves the quality of our lives. Because it is considered a “total body workout” and a way to practice mindfulness, studies show that the benefits of hiking include strengthening the lower body, relieving stress, preventing obesity and heart disease, and more.
What is hiking?
Hiking is a recreational activity that involves walking in nature. Unlike walking, hiking is walking for pleasure and exercise. It is considered one of the most popular outdoor activities in the world. Hiking usually involves long and sometimes vigorous walking, usually on country trails or hiking trails, on outdoor hills or in the mountains, but it can also include easier hikes on flatter paths created by the male. A “trek” is a bit different from a hike because it is more difficult, requiring a longer journey that spans several days or even weeks. You can hike just about anywhere there are hills.
The benefits of hiking
What are the benefits of hiking for your body?
Becoming a hiker can help your health in many ways, including toning your legs and back and reducing stress. Here is more information on the many benefits of hiking (safely, of course!):
1. Strengthening the lower body and back
Hiking is a low-impact form of aerobic exercise that can help strengthen muscles and bones, especially in the legs and back. If you walk a lot, take steps and climb hills, it’s even better for increasing strength and muscle mass, and when you walk on uneven surfaces, you work your core and improve your stability. This form of exercise is also effective for improving balance and range of motion, as the more difficult climbs may require you to periodically stand on one leg, lie forward, etc.
2. Improved endurance and heart health
Regular physical exercise reduces the risk of dying from coronary heart disease and also lowers the risk of a number of other chronic diseases. For example, regular physical activity, such as hiking, lowers blood pressure and may help prevent the development of colon cancer, diabetes and high cholesterol in some people. Most of these positive effects are due to hiking’s ability to raise the heart rate and work the lungs, which improves circulation and oxygenation. Hiking can also help decrease stress-related inflammation and reduce weight gain, which benefits overall health.
3. May Help You Lose Weight
Like other forms of exercise, hiking can help you control your weight, for example by reducing excess body fat or preventing unwanted weight gain. Research shows that, on average, you can burn between 80 and 100 calories for every mile you walk (you expend even more energy if you have a larger body mass or walk uphill). If you walk for about an hour at a moderate or brisk pace, you can burn several hundred calories, which can benefit your waistline and overall body composition.
4. Helps Reduce Stress
The hiking experience is unique, according to research, and brings benefits that go beyond what is obtained by doing conventional exercise. Not only does it oxygenate your heart, but it helps keep your mind sharper, body calmer, creativity more lively, and relationships happier. Research suggests that physical activity and time spent in nature have synergistic effects, which means the two are even more powerful when done together. Studies show that spending time in nature gives most people mental relief from stress, depression, and symptoms of anxiety, especially if they also exercise or are active in the open air, for example in “green spaces”.
Hiking (and just walking, too) releases feel-good chemicals into our bodies, including endorphins, which are known to improve our mood and fight pain. Exercise and time spent outdoors also have other effects on the brain that decrease tension, depression, rumination, and worry, and improve problem solving and a sense of connection (“the feeling of to be small in the presence of something bigger than oneself”). Becoming a hiker can also improve your sleep by making you feel calmer and more tired, which translates to a clearer mind and more energy the next day.
5. Promotes Brain Health and Cognitive Function
Not only can hiking improve your mood, but it’s also been associated with other mental health improvements, such as greater creativity, better memory recall, and better problem solving. A number of studies have shown that outdoor exercise can promote mindfulness, better self-awareness, and improved sensory perception (of sights, smells, and feelings). Researchers found that hiking engages parts of the brain designed to help you orient yourself in your surroundings, including the retrosplenial cortex and hippocampus, which aid in memory. Hiking can also have a beneficial social component if you choose to involve others, such as hiking with a partner or joining a group that regularly hikes together. This can promote a greater sense of connection and reduce loneliness, which is linked to better mental health. Some studies have even found that exercising outdoors can help your relationships by making you more empathetic, helpful, open-minded, and generous.
6. Decrease the risk of osteoarthritis and loss of bone density
Besides making you stronger, the benefits of hiking also extend to your bones, joints, and connective tissues. Hiking is a low-impact activity that shouldn’t add much stress and strain to your joints, but it is a form of weight-bearing exercise, which means it strengthens your bones. Weight-bearing exercises can help relieve pain associated with osteoarthritis, as long as you don’t overdo it. They are also recommended to prevent osteoporosis and loss of bone density, which can increase susceptibility to breaks and fractures.
Quantity to do + potential risks
The type of hiking that is best for you depends on your skill level and general physical condition. People who are more active and more stable in the lower body can benefit from the incline of hills and steeper trails, while those new to hiking are better off sticking to flatter, dirt roads. to less strenuous trails. To reduce the risk of falling or injury, always wear quality shoes when hiking. Be careful when walking on slippery dirt or mud, on very rocky paths, or under overhanging branches. Follow trail markers if possible and watch out for wildlife that may be in the area and cross your path.
If you are going on long hikes, prepare the equipment you will need, such as water, in advance and always practice “good hygiene” (regular cleaning of water and cooking utensils, and frequent cleaning hands).
Can we go hiking every day?
If you don’t suffer from injuries, are not exhausted or are not exerting too much effort, hiking (or just walking uphill) can be a good type of exercise to do almost every day. . For more vigorous and longer hikes, allow yourself time to rest between hikes to help your muscles and joints recover. Overall, it’s best to listen to your body to avoid overtraining. However, experienced hikers can usually do some form of daily hiking without injury.
Whether you’re an experienced hiker or new to this type of exercise, you can reap physical and mental benefits from hiking. Not only does it help improve aerobic fitness and endurance, but it is also a natural way to relieve stress. Benefits of hiking can include improved resistance to anxiety and depression, strength, bone density, balance, heart health, and weight management. There are endless places to hike, depending on your skill level: trails, mountains, steep hills, etc. Start with easier, shorter hikes, then increase the intensity and duration as your body adapts.