This is a guest post from Mitch Stevens, founder and lead guide of Southwest Discoveries. Based out of Tucson, Arizona, Southwest Discoveries offers multi-generational guided tours of the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Horseshoe Bend, the Tortolita Mountains, and more. Visit Southwest Discoveries for more information.
15 Benefits of Hiking
If you are finding it difficult to get motivated about exercise and sweating at the gym seems less than appealing, then hiking is your solution! Benefits of people who hike on a regular basis enjoy better overall health, considerably less stress and are more energetic. Enjoy these 15 benefits of hiking today and reap the rewards!
Benefit One – Improve Your Overall Health and Be Fit!
When you maintain a regular hiking program you’ll not only feel great when you hit the trail but you’ll enjoy optimal fitness. The better your condition, the more you’ll enjoy the hiking experience. Whether you’ve considered dabbling in the world of hiking or if you’re an avid hiker, you can appreciate the health benefits of hiking.
Benefit Two – Decrease Your Risk of Cardiovascular Disease!
Recent studies show that walking or hiking for an hour a day can cut a person’s risk of stroke in half. Walking conditions the heart and will help you live longer. Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, including hiking, is safe for most people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (http://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/)
Consistent aerobic exercise, including hiking, helps increase your HDL levels, the good cholesterol, and lowers your triglyceride and LDL cholesterol levels; the harmful components. Thus, your risk of heart disease and high blood pressure is reduced. Take a hike to help keep your cardiovascular system healthy!
Hikers are happier. A walk through a dramatic landscape not only calms you but improves your spirits and can help people with severe depression. Being in the grandeur of nature, free from the pressures of our everyday lives and technology works wonders for stress relief.
For instance, on a late afternoon jaunt at Saguaro National Park in Tucson, one can admire the view. Recent rains freshen the springtime desert and afford crystal clear views of the mountain ranges that surround the area. Saguaro National Park offers just one of many splendid hikes in Tucson, which serves up some of the best hiking in the world!
As you gaze at gigantic cacti, lush green desert and the beautiful sky island mountain ranges in the distance, you will understand what hiking is all about and why it is good for the spirit!
Benefit Four – Prevent Diabetes!
Hiking benefits include reducing your risk of diabetes. Hiking works your muscles, which transfers glucose from your bloodstream for energy. But if you already have diabetes, it is crucial that you talk to your doctor first! Your practitioner may need to adjust your diabetes medications.
Benefit Five – Increase Your Energy Level!
Aerobic activities, such as hiking, provide oxygen to your muscles and other body tissues. This extra fuel helps boost your muscles and lungs and increases your alertness, and energy and endurance levels too!
Benefit Six – Lose Weight!
One of the many health benefits of trekking includes weight management. It is one of the best methods to burn calories and lose unwanted pounds! By following a consistent and enjoyable hiking program, you will keep your weight under control.
In fact, numerous studies have proved that hiking can burn more than 400 calories per hour. It is best to start slowly and work up your hiking duration to approximately 45 minutes daily at a pace of 2.5 miles an hour.
Strong bones are essential to your overall health. Hiking consistently will decrease your chances of developing osteoporosis and arthritis. If you have arthritis, studies have shown that two and a half hours of hiking per week will maintain flexibility in your joints and decrease joint stiffness.
Benefit Eight – Lower Your Cancer Risk!
Like any regular exercise, benefits include lowering your cancer risk. Hiking helps prevent and fight certain cancers such as breast and colon cancer. Your risk of developing lung and other forms of cancer will decrease. (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.3322/canjclin.54.4.190/full)
Benefit Nine – Relief from Back Pain!
Sitting in front of a computer too long can cause back pain. People who walk report significant decreases in back pain. Hiking puts much less stress on your body than running or aerobics and helps build core body strength.
Benefit Ten – Get Your Daily Dose of Vitamin D!
Where to get vitamin D? Increase your vitamin D by taking a hike of course! Vitamin D is a critical nutrient needed to keep your muscles and bones strong and to promote overall good health. Although some vitamin D is available in foods, one of the best sources is the sun. So get out there and take a hike for better health!
According to many studies, hiking outdoors is great for the brain. In a recent experiment, a group of middle-aged people were asked to take three forty minute walks a week for a year. At the end of the twelve month period, MRI scans verified that their hippocampus grew an average of 2 percent. Typically, as people age, their hippocampus becomes smaller, leading to memory loss.
Preventing such shrinkage could improve a person’s memory for years! Moreover, there have been many other recent reports regarding how being in the outdoors reaps huge benefits. Other conditions alleviated include stress, depression, anger and aggressiveness. In fact, our mental health in general is significantly improved by being in a natural environment.
An Iraq veteran who suffers from PTSD and severe depression, attested to the many mental health benefits of hiking. “I find the getting away from everything for just a short while, very beneficial but it goes hand in hand with treatment. I am also introduced to the outside in a somewhat controlled environment. The quietness in which to meditate and do a little soul-searching for the guy I used to be.” So what are we waiting for?
Benefit Twelve – Expand Your Mind, Visit New Places!
Hiking is a great excuse for visiting new places, great for creating excitement, avoiding boredom and opening new synopsis’ in the brain. Instead of planning an ordinary vacation, take a hike! Adventure trips can encompass snow-capped mountains, spectacular canyons, fascinating deserts and verdant forests.
From the forests of the Smoky Mountains, the grandeur of Rocky Mountain National Park to the spectacular Grand Canyon, there is something for everyone in our wilderness lands. Our national parks and wilderness areas offer thousands of trails across millions of acres of public land. Striking vistas will delight nature lovers.
Benefit Thirteen – Tones Your Muscles!
Since hiking can include steep inclines, it is perfect for challenging your body and for toning your muscles. With brisk movements and a steady pace, you can get a full body workout. Remember to stretch before and after a vigorous hike, so that your hamstrings, glutes and quads are toned. The vigorous stretching of yoga can be very beneficial for hikers.
Hiking is not only fun, it helps slow the aging process. In addition to bringing clarity to the mind and vibrancy to the soul, hiking will help reduce your mortality risk.
Research indicates that what was once accepted as a foregone conclusion that aging will lessen your physical and mental capabilities is not true. An article in the American Journal of Public Heath conducted a study regarding mortality risk and moderate exercise such as hiking. They tested two groups of middle-aged men, one active and one sedentary, during a 23 year time period. Their conclusion, the inactive group lost forty-one percent of their aerobic ability while the exercisers lost only thirteen percent.
The take away here is that aging doesn’t dimish our ability to be healthy and active. But leading a sedentary lifestyle will. Yet another excuse to hit the trails!
Benefit Fifteen – Develop Healthy Lifetime Habits!
Another compelling reason to hike is a much improved quality of life. Each time you hike, breathe the outside air, exert and challenge yourself but stay within your capabilities, you will come away feeling better than you did. Your body and mind will feel healthier and your stress level will drop off. Because of this great feeling, you’ll want to hike again. The sport may even become addictive!
As you notice improvements in your mind and body, you may adopt other healthy habits such as eating healthy foods or practicing meditation.
Wrapping it All Up
We have proved that hiking is one of the best forms of exercise and spiritual renewal. We’ve also shown how a steady hiking program will not only get you in awesome shape but it can provide many ways to stay healthy and avoid illness. The physical health benefits of hiking are enormous!
So get started on your hiking plan today and kick-start your journey to longevity!
Here’s to your health.