Did you know Hiking & trekking could improve your physical & mental health? In this article, we will look at some amazing health benefits of hiking. It is an extraordinary workout for your whole body.
Hiking is one of my favorite activities. I do it on a regular basis. I have been fortunate enough to live in countries where I had ample trails for hiking.
Let’s look at some great health benefits of hiking & how it affects your physical, mental & psychological well being.
Amazing Health Benefits of Hiking
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When it comes to health & workout, I like to mix up things so that it doesn’t get monotonous. For that reason, I have learned Yoga, Taekwando & worked out in the gym under a trainer.
Martial arts for women or anyone, in general, is very beneficial. You are not only working your body but also learning a new skill. Today, I feel proud to show off my Taekwando black belt. It gives a sense of pride & achievement.
I have written an article about Ways Martial arts can benefit women. It discusses the physical & mental benefits of martial arts. You may go through it to check out how it helps you to gain confidence & take back the control of your body.
You may choose to do any physical activity of your choice. The key is consistency & challenging yourself from time to time to increase flexibility, stamina & endurance.
Here are 10 Best health benefits of Hiking, ( physical, mental & psychological)
1. MAINTAIN HEALTHY WEIGHT
Hiking at Grand Canyon, USA
You may wonder if Hiking actually helps in weight loss? is it a good workout to maintain weight? I will say ‘Definitely Yes’
I have seen so many articles on the net about the ‘Vacation Weight’. Frankly, I am a victim too! I found a simple solution when I incorporated a simple activity that I truly love- HIKING.
Vacation Weight can easily be ditched by incorporating fitness activities. I started including hiking in travel plans & found amazing health benefits of Hiking.
It doesn’t require many gears or any training as such. You can easily locate a nature trail near your place & enjoy hiking.
2. IMPROVED BONE DENSITY
People sweat it out the gym, do a ton of weight training to strengthen their muscles & improve bone density. The same can be achieved by hiking.
Hiking involves all major muscles in your body. While hiking, you work with your own body weight while trying to forward or upward. The resistance helps to improve bone mass.
According to The National Institutes of Health Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases USA, a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, exercise helps strengthen bones at any age.
It is beneficial for women as they tend to lose bone mass more quickly than men. With aging, bone mass is lost at a rapid rate. A healthy calcium-rich diet with regular exercise can benefit & prevent the onset of osteoporosis.
3. NATURAL STRESS BUSTER
Any kind of physical activity is a natural stress buster. Take a walk, running, swimming, playing a sport, or exploring nature through hiking or trekking, it brings you close to nature & to yourself.
In today’s fast-paced life, peace & quiet have become a luxury. You are lucky if you can steal some time from your busy schedule to meditate or just sit & relax in peace.
“Do I really need quiet”? A question I ask myself often. There is so much to do. Your mind is always buzzing with a thousand thoughts & ideas. The ‘TO-DO’ list is staring at you. Sometimes you end up just wondering where & how to start?
I found a perfect solution to this. I love outdoors hence combining my liking with my fitness routine has been great. Now I enjoy nature while keeping myself fit. It doesn’t look like a task anymore.
Stress relief is one of the most significant health benefits of hiking. We often pay a lot of attention to our physical health, hardly bothering about the mental well being. Hiking helps in relieving stress to a great extent without putting in any additional efforts.
4. STRENGTHEN MUSCLES
Hiking is a powerful workout involving a number of muscles. It is a great cardiovascular activity that helps you to strengthen muscles & tone your body. It is one of the primary health benefits of Hiking.
The primary muscles involved while hiking. With regular exercise & hiking, you can strengthen these core muscles.
- Hip Muscles – It plays an important part while you perform running, hiking, or climbing activity. The flexibility & strength of this group of muscles is crucial for hiking. Hip muscles support your back, take the pressure off your lower back & glutes.
- Quadriceps –The most important & crucial muscle involved in hiking are quadriceps. Your body’s front movement is possible because of this muscle which is located at the front of the thigh.
- Hamstrings – For a smooth knee & leg movement, you will need strong hamstrings. It is located on the rear upper thigh. It works in combination with quadriceps to make forward movement. Quads & hamstrings bear the maximum strain when you hike or run.
- Calves – Calve muscles are located on the rear lower leg. It is crucial for the movement of the lower leg while performing any activity. Hiking put a lot of strain on calve muscles especially if you are hiking on steep mountains or carrying a heavy backpack.
- Glutes – get those toned & strong gluten by hiking to your favorite places. You glutes get a great workout when you walk or hike uphill. Additional calories are burnt if you are carrying some weight. Glutes support your body weight & any additional weight like the backpack you are carrying.
- Abdominal – You need strong abdominal muscles for hiking. It helps to support your body weight, back & keep a correct posture while walking uphill. Strong abdominal muscles help to minimize the risks of back injuries.
Try mixing your weight training schedule with a few outdoor activities. You will be amazed to see the health benefits of hiking without investing too much in equipment & gears.
5. PREVENT DIABETES
The Global Diabetes prevalence is estimated to be 463 Million people. As we all know, Diabetes is a condition & we DON’T have a cure for this disease.
Diabetes is a heredity disease as well as can be caused by poor lifestyle & unhealthy eating habits. The majority of the population suffering from diabetes has acquired it due to their lack of physical activities & poor dietary habits.
Like all other physical activities, Hiking helps prevent the onset of type 2 & insulin resistance in diabetes. It is one of the major health benefits of hiking.
When you perform any physical activity, your heart rate & breathing increases. This in turn increases the uptake of sugar by muscles thus lowering your blood sugar level.
Diabetes can be prevented by regular exercising & making healthy lifestyle choices. Studies have shown that it is even reversible provided you follow a regular exercise & diet regime.
6. TONED BODY
‘A skinny body is not a fit body‘ Most of us make a mistake of comparing the weight = fitness. Although maintaining healthy body weight is crucial yet it is not the only criterion to check fitness.
A fit body means a toned body, flexibility, agility & strength. There are many factors that determine fitness. Your age, gender, body type, stamina among others.
Fitness is what your body is capable of doing for example a simple 2.5 km jog can tell a lot about your fitness. Depending on the speed, time taken one can determine fitness level. Less time taken is a sign of fit body & more time duration means there is a scope of improvement.
One of the health benefits of hiking is a toned body. It keeps your weight in check, reduces body fat & helps to gain muscle mass thus toning your body.
7. LOWER BLOOD PRESSURE & CHOLESTEROL
Do you know physical activities like Hiking can lower your blood pressure up to 10 points?
Saejong Park (Ph.D.) of the Korea Institute of Sport Science in Seoul suggests that Brisk walking 40 mins a day can considerably lower your blood pressure & help prevent heart problems. If you are busy, you may take short brisk walks for 10 mins 3-4 times a day to keep yourself active.
Among many other health benefits of hiking, keeping cholesterol & blood pressure under control is especially important for people above 35 years. Most people in this age group develop some or other lifestyle problems. Hiking, being a complete body workout, helps to keep the body fit & prevent lifestyle diseases.
You need a lot of muscle strength to walk uphill. It is good to start by conditioning your muscles before taking up any major physical activity.
8. IMPROVE BALANCE
Our sense of balance decreases with aging. Have you ever wondered why you don’t prefer roller coasters or swings any more? Why you feel dizzy when you suddenly get up or start running?
Most seniors have body balance issues. Most of the cases of bone fractures, nasty falls, etc are caused by poor body balance. With aging, our vestibular system ( in the inner ear responsible for body balance) & nervous system deteriorate causing major balance issues.
It is one of the important health benefits of Hiking that it improves you balance & strengthens the lower limbs. Any exercise that strengthens your muscles is worthwhile. It gives agility & mobility to your body & improves overall fitness.
9. STRENGTHEN THE CORE
When we discuss the health benefits of hiking, core strength & bone density always comes up. Since hiking is a weight-bearing exercise that involves your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and the muscles in hips and lower legs, it helps to boost bone density & strengthen your core.
Core strength is more of a requisite for hiking than its result. You need a strong core to move upwards. When you walk uphill, the muscles of your lower body & core engage to push it forward.
In order to improve your core strength, you must follow a simple home work out routine for 10-15 minutes. Some simple core strengthening exercises can be performed at home with or without any type of equipment. It should be done 3-4 times a week.
Once you feel that you are improving your core strength, utilize it for hiking which will further enhance the muscle’s power of the core.
10. LOWER RISK OF HEART DISEASE
Pic for reference
Did you know that one of 4 death in the USA is because of a heart attack? According to the CDC ( Centers for Disease Control & Prevention), nearly 647,000 people die of heart diseases in The USA alone.
Doctors recommend taking regular breaks from work, walk or jog a little if you can, stretch your body before getting back to work.
Our sedentary lifestyle, poor health & eating habits, pollution & stress had considerably increased the risk of getting heart diseases.
As you must’ve read above, among many health benefits of hiking, it helps to lower cholesterol, blood pressure thus greatly reducing the chances of heart disease.
As a general rule of thumb, everyone should exercise at least 30 minutes a day. The aim is to increase your heart that in turn will increase the blood circulation throughout the body improving your body health.
Why does Hiking feel so good?
Traveling & hiking can go hand in hand. In fact, I have discovered some amazing places just because I decided to take an offbeat road & hiked my way to unique places. I, not only explored great places but also enjoyed the amazing health benefits of hiking during most of my trips.
If you look at it from the scientific point of view, any physical activity increases your heart rate which in turn release Endorphins, natural hormones that make you feel relaxed & happy. That’s the reason why you feel good after exercising.
If you are an outdoor person, Hiking is just perfect for you. Nothing beats the gorgeous view from the top, wind in your hair & fresh air. The unpredictable terrain challenges your body & mind.
Hiking has a huge positive impact on your physical & mental health. It takes the feel-good factor to a whole new level. Try to accommodate hiking in your travel itinerary & see the positive changes.
Safe Hiking Checklist
You can get maximum health benefits of hiking if you follow these safety measures. It will help you to enjoy the trip without any injuries or accidents.
Hiking is a wonderful fitness option. Whether you hike on mountains or natural trails, your body always responds positively to the workout & natural surroundings.
Here is a Safe Hiking Checklist before you plan a trip.
1. Keep enough Water
It is so important to keep your body hydrated while performing any physical exercise. It not only increases your performance but also avoid fatigue.
Taking a small quantity of water at regular intervals is recommended.
2. Hiking with a buddy
It is always a good idea to hike with a friend or a group. It is a great idea considering the safety point & improving social interaction. Reap the health benefits of hiking with your family or friends.
3. Wear proper hiking gear
Wear light & appropriate hiking gear. It should be comfortable, suitable for the weather & geography & keep your body dry and warm ( if required).
It is a good idea to invest in quality hiking gears if you are really serious about the sport. Get the maximum health benefits of hiking while minimizing the risks of injuries.
4. Start Short Trips
Hiking is for everyone. You need not start big. Check out the hills & natural trails in your area, join a hiking group or short term training. Get maximum health benefits of hiking by conditioning your body & mind.
5. Train your muscles
While hiking is a full-body workout, it mostly uses your leg muscles. It is advisable to start training your muscles before a hike.
It will reduce the chances of injuries & make your hike a pleasant experience.
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One of the most important health benefits of hiking is that it is a complete body workout. It involves all major muscle groups of your body thus improving overall fitness, flexibility & strength.
Start small, go for hiking & trekking. If required, join a group or take a short training to gain confidence. You will be amazed to see the health benefits of hiking in your health & fitness routine.
Apart from being an awesome workout, Hiking is also a great group activity. There are many dedicated groups & clubs on social media. You can always find one near your place. It will help you get into great shape while you make friends with other health & fitness enthusiasts.
Tell us about your favorite/dream hiking trip in the comment section below. I would love to hear about your experience. Happy Hiking!