Hiking has many great benefits: fresh air, scenic views, and the overall serenity of nature. But perhaps the best perk of hiking outdoors is how healthy it is for your body and mind.
Hiking is an effective cardio workout that can lower your risk of heart disease, improve your blood pressure and blood sugar levels, boost bone density, build strength, improve balance, control your weight, and boost your mood according to WebMD.
The physical advantages of hiking are a bit more obvious, but its positive impact on our mental health is just as important says Gregory A. Miller, PhD, president of the American Hiking Society.
“Research shows that hiking has a positive impact on combating the symptoms of stress and anxiety,” Miller said. “Being in nature is ingrained in our DNA, and we sometimes forget that.”
Hiking is one of the best ways to improve your overall health. Those who take to the trails on a regular basis are at a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes. They also burn more calories and experience an increased energy level. Studies also show that hiking can prevent insomnia and lead to a better night’s sleep.
To get into hiking as a regular workout, you’ll want to first start slow. Pick a short, local trail that is meant for beginners. Gradually work your way up to more difficult trails with more uneven terrains.
Also, don’t forget to use hiking sticks. When you dig your hiking sticks into the ground and push yourself forward, your upper body muscles get a better workout. To intensify this workout, find hills to hike up. Even a small hill can increase your heart rate and help your burn extra calories. Besides hills, hiking uneven terrain can boost your balance and give your stabilizing muscles some great exercise.
As you become more comfortable with hiking, start adding more weight to your hiking pack in order to push yourself further. Packing extra water is a great way to add weight to your pack while also ensuring that you stay hydrated. A 10-pound hiking pack can increase the rate at which your burn calories by about 10 to 15 percent while also strengthening your core.
Like virtually all forms of exercise, it is important to get into a routine and hike regularly in order to keep your hiking skills and fitness level sharp.
Some basic hiking safety tips to keep in mind are to hike with a friend and do your research. It’s best to bring a buddy with you to hike, at least at first. This is particularly important on unfamiliar or remote trails. But when it comes to unfamiliar territory, you should do your best to review the trail map ahead of time and make sure you’re aware of the weather before embarking on your hike. If rain is in the forecast, either reschedule your hike or pack plenty of water-resistant gear.
Now that you know the many benefits of hiking and how to enjoy this great outdoor activity safely, you can be on your way to living a happier and healthier life.
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