Hiking is one of the most beloved outdoor activities and it’s understandable why. It’s the perfect getaway from the frantic pace of the city life. The escape we all need from the concrete jungle. We love hiking because of the awe-inspiring views. Because it helps us get in touch with mother nature, with its soothing sounds and the unique smell of fresh air.
These are pretty good reasons to start hiking, right? Well, the great thing about this outdoor activity is that it’s also truly rewarding health-wise. Hiking can help you improve your health not only from a physical standpoint, but mental as well. Here’s how:
Great Cardio Workout
One of the most important health benefits of hiking is the fact it can keep your heart healthy. As you can imagine, this activity involves a lot of walking on inclined terrain. Walking uphill will naturally require extra energy and will make your body work harder than on flat ground. The higher the incline, the more you’ll get your heart rate up. Hiking on a regular basis will help you improve your cardiovascular fitness and hence reduce the risk of stroke or coronary heart disease.
Efficient Weight Loss
Breathe the fresh air. Admire the beautiful landscape. Lose weight at the same time. Yes, this is what hiking does for you. This aerobic exercise can help you get rid of that unwanted body fat while taking in the lovely views. According to CalorieLab, a 165-lbs (75 kg) adult can burn 450 calories in 1 hour when climbing hills with a 0 – 9 pound load. Go uphill with a
21 – 42 pound load and you’ll torch 525 calories in just one hour.
Tones your Muscles
Hiking can be a great way to strengthen and tone your muscles. Going up the hill or mountain, then coming back down can be an effective workout for your lower body muscle groups. These include your quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, abs, gluteal and hip muscles. If you want to have a full body exercise, you can use trekking poles and hence also work your arms, shoulders, chest and back muscles.
Makes Bones Stronger
The bad news is that with the passage of time we slowly start to lose bone density. The good news is that we can engage in physical activities that can help us slow down the process. The best types of exercises to maintain bone density are those weight-bearing, such as walking, jogging or hiking for instance. Hiking places a considerable amount of stress on your bones, since it involves going both uphill and downhill, and therefore can help you increase bone density.
Improves Sleep Quality
We all know how important it is to get a good night’s rest in order to function properly the following day. Well, according to research going for a hike in the middle of nature and staying exposed only to natural light can help you sleep better at night. According to another study, walking in the forest can improve sleep quality for people who suffer from sleep disorders. The positive impact is attributed by scientists to the physical activity, as well as to the mood improvement.
Improves Mental Health
This outdoor activity isn’t only about physical benefits. There are also mental benefits of hiking. A study conducted by researchers from Stanford University concluded that walking in the middle of nature can have a positive impact on our mental health and help us reduce the risk of depression. At the same time, just like any other form of exercise, hiking helps us release endorphins, considered the natural antidepressants. Endorphins reduce the perception of pain and anxiety and help us feel good about ourselves.
Stimulates Creative Thinking
Going for a hike and spending time in a natural setting, away from the modern world, can help you perform better at your workplace and in everyday life. Research has shown that spending time in nature can trigger creativity and improve your attention and problem-solving abilities by up to 50%. Another study, carried out among Danish creative professionals, led to the conclusion that walking in nature stimulates creative thinking and the developing of new ideas.
Tip: Track your Workout
Going for a hike in a natural surrounding should be all about unplugging from technology. No phone, no tablet, no additional gadget. But in certain cases technology can help you make the most of your hike. For instance, it can help you track your physical activity in the outdoors. This way you’ll be able to see the physical progress made throughout the day and take delight in your achievements.
In order to monitor your progress you don’t really have to purchase a Fitbit or a similar fitness tracker. Your phone is more than enough to record your activity. Just download a pedometer app like our own ActivityTracker and you’re good to go. This way you’ll be able to record and visualize numerous fitness stats, such as the steps taken, the distance covered, the calories burned or the total active time.