Did you know that people around the world are so inactive that it can lead to various health challenges? We are becoming increasingly sedentary – both at work and in everyday life. New technology and the development of society simplify our physical everyday life, which in turn leads to different types of health challenges.
In this article, I want to focus on hiking health benefits. Even though society is set up for a less active everyday life, we can make sure that we get the physical activity body and mind need to function optimally.
Let’s tie our shoelaces and explore the world together – Let’s go hiking!
Physical Health Benefits Of Hiking
I think it’s needless to mention that you will experience the physical health benefits of hiking, but I’ll get a little deeper into exactly what those benefits are. You might be surprised by what physical gains you can make by hiking. Weight loss is of course one obvious benefit of hiking, but there’s just so much more to it than that.
Hiking is Healthy For The Heart:
Hiking can lower the risk of heart disease and is great for cardiovascular health. If you include some uphill hiking in your route, your cardiovascular fitness will benefit even more as it will force your heart to work harder. You can experience better blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and cholesterol, which are all part of the cardiovascular system.
Hiking Build Muscles:
One very good benefit of hiking is that you will build muscles. You will build strength in your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and your hips, and lower legs. Walking in uneven/ rough terrain will improve your core muscles. If you bring trekking poles to the hike, your arms and back muscles will be strengthened as well. Many hikers prefer to bring a backpack to add some weight – Be sure to choose a backpack that is comfortable to wear and, is designed for this type of activity.
If you want to challenge yourself, even more, you can bring a car tire/tractor tire. You will need a belly belt with good support and a fastening device. This activity is great for strengthening almost every major muscle group in your body and improves your condition real quick. Also, people struggling with weight issues can really benefit from this activity. Always remember to start easy, and increase the weight gradually when your body is ready for it.
Hiking Can Help Boost Your Bone Density:
Hiking reduces the risk of osteoporosis, fractures, and injuries. Daily walks or hikes (30 – 40 min) will help strengthen the bone density. Walking uphill has a greater effect on bone density than hiking along a flat trail because this is a weight-bearing exercise. When hiking uphill you work against gravity, which is a big factor in bone density strengthening.
Hiking Helps Improve Balance:
When you hike (especially in rough terrain), the brain works strategically to find the best alternatives for where to step. The brain decides which rock is best to jump from, and where to jump to, constantly during the entire hike. This in turn means that your balance will improve over time. Balance and coordination are great health benefits of hiking.
Psychological Health Benefits Of Hiking
Research has shown that hiking has a great positive effect on our mental health. It has not always been as easy to understand why this has such a big impact on our mental state, but new research reveals a couple of interesting factors that I want to show here.
Nature alleviates stress and worries and puts us in a better mood. This has been shown by several researchers, including Gregory Bratman at Stanford University in California.
He has taken research a step further, by showing what happens in the brain when we are out in nature. It turns out that walks in nature lower the blood flow in the parts of the brain that provide the greatest activity for worries and thoughts.
He found this in a study of 90 healthy adults. They were first asked to describe their mental health in a questionnaire before the blood flow in the subgenual prefrontal cortex (part of the frontal lobe of the brain) was scanned. This is where the greatest activity is when one is worried or has negative thoughts.
Then half the people went for a 90-minute walk in a green, quiet park in Stanford. The other half walked next to a noisy, hectic freeway in Palo Alto. Whoever went where was drawn. They were not allowed to go with anyone or have music on their ears but were allowed to go at their own pace. Right after the trip, they repeated the brain scan and the questionnaire.
What The Study Shows:
The results showed that the people who walked in nature had a markedly slower blood flow in the subgenual prefrontal cortex. At the same time, it turns out that they have fewer worries and negative thoughts. For those who had walked in the city, the results were unchanged.
Conclusion: Even short walks in nature, change the brain and have a measurable and positive effect on negative thoughts, and accessible natural areas may be crucial for mental health in an increasingly urbanized world. Nature is good medicine for our mental health.
Different Terrain – Different Health Gains
Not all of us are able to hike mountains and rocky trails – It’s not a given that you have health that allows it. However, walking and hiking – even strolling in nature will do you some wonders.
Rocky And Challenging Trails:
Hiking rocky trails or other challenging terrains will help you improve balance and coordination. Your brain will be connected to all times, as you find the right place to navigate, so this is a win-win hike where both physical and psychological aspects are working together.
Mountain hiking will demand even more of you, as this is a tougher activity where all muscles are being used. It’s a great way to improve fitness and strength. Hiking is a perfect activity for you if you want rapid progression in physical shape. Also when you reach the top of the mountain, you will get your prize – The magical view!
Research shows that just 30 minutes of walking a day, in a natural environment, gives us great mental health benefits. It is entirely possible to improve condition and strength on flat ground as well.
Add some interval sessions to the hike, where you increase the speed a few minutes. This will increase the heart rate and eventually improve fitness and strength in the legs.
Walking With Trekking Poles
Walking with trekking poles is good training – At least if you do it the right way. It’s important to learn the right technique so that you avoid overloading your neck and shoulders.
If you have never used trekking poles before, this can seem a bit backward and difficult at first. However, it does not take many hikes before the technique is in place, and you get extra benefits from the exercise.
The forest is a good place to start, ideally on a slightly uphill slope as the technique is easiest to learn in this type of terrain. The poles are used more actively uphill than on the flat ground.
How To Walk With Trekking Poles – A Small Introduction:
- Flat ground: Place the poles slightly in front of the body and at the heel of the front foot, so that you automatically take long steps and use your upper body more. Move your hips forward and have a more upright upper body.
- Uphill slope: Keep your body leaning forward more than on a flat surface. Use the poles actively and you will automatically extend the step. On the uphill, use the muscles in the arms, back thighs and add a little extra.
- Downhill: Take shorter steps. Keep a little bend in the knees at all times. The leg should not be stretched out in the kick. Lean back a little and place the poles behind you. Brake with your feet by placing the heel in the ground first.
- In general: Walking with poles, you need to go at a fast pace and take long strides. The poles should be guided in the ground, not bumped. Lower your shoulders and look ahead. Have a firm grip around the poles when you put them on the ground and release them as the arm slides backward so that you end up holding the pole with your thumb and forefinger.
You can buy trekking poles on the internet, but if you need guidance you should go to a sports shop to get assistance.
It’s a fact that hiking is good for your health – Both your physical and mental health.
If you want to improve fitness and strength, there are countless opportunities in nature: Mountain hikes, rocky and tough terrain hikes with a lot of uphill, beach hikes, etc. If you also add interval training to the hike, the progression will be even faster.
If you want to get in better shape – Both mentally and physically, it has been proven that walks in nature work wonders. All it takes is 30 minutes in nature each day to increase your overall health.
The conclusion is that no matter where you choose to hike – Whether it is mountain hikes or more easy hiking trails, you will achieve results in the form of health benefits.
All activity is better than none, and many small hikes are good as well as the long and slightly tougher hikes.
Lace-up your shoes and get out into nature. I promise you, you will not regret it.
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