BACKPACKING BASICS

Benefits of Hiking: How to Make the Hiking Trip Improve Your Health

Hiking in the sunset
Dorothy Tobias
Written by Dorothy Tobias

Hiking is considered as a great source of enjoyment and is a well-known passion and hobby for many people. But this is not the only case; there are several benefits of hiking which can have a positive and fruitful impact on physique and health.

If you are a regular hiker and have the ultimate interest in exploring natural landscapes and beauties, keep reading and you will know how your hiking trip is indirectly playing a role in improving your health. It is worth noting that if you are short of time for exercising or going to the gym, then hiking is the best option for compensating it.

People who are fond of regular hiking stays fit and are in better health condition than people who don’t exercise. It is necessary to be physically and mentally fir in order to have the best outcomes for your hiking trip. The overall benefits can only be achieved when your body conditions and stamina are good enough to overcome the trip.

The Ultimate Starting Strategy

Before starting your hiking trip you must consider your health conditions and shape for the formulation of a long-term strategy. If you have just intended to get into shape, take a slow start and normal walk by gradually increasing your walking time day by day. Change your walking track into a more dogged trail at least once in a week. If you are already in good shape, plan for a thorough regular walk and bringing a variation in the track to the more hard-hitting area.

Walking in the sun

According to a research study of Americans Heart Association (AHA), the slow walking (hiking) is capable of lowering the health risks as much as running. It is, therefore, having more effective results by looking into the planned walking timetable of your hiking and deciding the best strategy for it. Choose the appropriate hiking trail by researching for the best suitable boots which are more comfortable and is recommended for the terrain that you’re planning to traverse.

Creativity and Mental Comfort

We are living in the era of science and technology which has made our lives limited and congested. Technology is one of the core contributors in reduced participation in outdoor activities. A research study published in 2012 revealed that outdoors activities are capable of increasing the creativity and problem-solving skills by almost 50%.

Outdoor hiking activities in an area with open sunshine, green trees and fresh air can enhance and boost the creative ability of the brain. To enhance the creativity and mental capability of your brain, you must choose such terrains which are full of naturally benefiting contributors like trees, grass etc.

Painting in nature

It is also found that walking causes the creative hormones of the body to flow rapidly as compared to sitting. Thus, in order to have a mentally sound and comfortable condition, hiking is one of the best options for you.

Lowering the Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases

Hiking is one of the healthiest activities and has the ability to lower the cardiovascular diseases like stroke, blood pressure, cholesterol levels and heart attack. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), walking regularly for at least an hour a day and five days in a week are capable of lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases like stroke by half.

Thus, trekking in hilly terrains is the ideal activity for burning extra calories and avoiding cardiovascular diseases. Hiking through hilly trails not only reduces blood pressure but also lowers the cholesterol level, diabetes, high risks of heart diseases and stroke. You might be thinking that only uphill climbing is beneficial but this is not true. While going downhill, you will be receiving twice the benefits in comparison to uphill climbing.

Prevention of Cancer

Hiking is not only meant to have a role in the physical and organic health but also helps in the recovery and prevention of cancerous cells. Long distance hiking is believed to improve the antioxidant capacity of the blood which fights off the disease.  Similarly, breast cancer which is very common in women is found to lead to fast recovery and is one of the major health benefits of hiking.

Hikers sitting on rocks

In order to stay healthier and safe from any chronic form of cancers especially the lung, breast and colon cancers, regular hiking and trekking must be a part of your daily exercise routine. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) and The American Heart Association (AHA) after the reduction of tobacco usage (smoking) declared physical activities like hiking as the most effective preventive measure from cancer and other diseases.

Happier Life

Hiking is believed with proven results that it is one of the healthier activities which reduces depression and stress. Hikers are happier and tension-free. Exploring the gorgeous and eye-catching beauty of nature improves one’s spirits and calms the nervous system of the body which plays a vital role in the therapy of depressed people. It makes them feel less depressed, hopeless and suicidal which can bring a revolutionary change in their lifestyle.

For having a happier and tension free life, you are supposed to have a regular habit of hiking and trekking in the areas which are more appealing to you. Such areas where there is a positive psychological effect on your mind should be your hiking spot.

Happy hiker

Most people feel comfortable and peaceful when in nature, others like the silence of remote areas with natural sounds like waterfall and birds etc. Think for yourself, add the specific areas in your timetable and take a step towards a happier life.

Strengthening of the Bones

Bones are some of the most important parts of the body. It is the entire frame on which your body and other organs reside. For a healthier and perfect body, strong and fit bones are essential. The bones not only support the body but also help in movement and other physical activities. Strong bones are therefore necessary for carrying out daily life activities.

Research has shown that a weight-bearing physical activity is one of the easiest ways to strengthen the bones and muscles. Having a weight on the body like a travel bag puts all the pressure on legs and joints which causes the formation of new bone tissues, thus reducing the bone density loss.

No matter whether you are young or aged, hiking is equally beneficial for everyone. If you are a young and energetic individual, hiking strengthen your bones and muscles. It decreases the risk of future orthopedic diseases and problems along with the prevention of accidental fractures and breakage of bones which are quite often in people having weaker bones.

Older man hiking

Certain diseases like osteoporosis and arthritis are very common in aging people so if you are in such a stage of life, light hiking for at least 2 to 3 hours weekly will not only help in bearing the pain but also in improving the working ability of your joints. Such a moderate-intensity hiking activity decreases the stiffness of the joints and maintaining its flexibility no matter which age you belong to.

Boost Your Energy

Hiking is an aerobic physical activity which provides oxygen and fuel (energy) to the body.  Frequent aerobic activity is capable of providing extra energy to the muscles and body tissues. Experts and doctors believe that if you want to double your productivity, exercising during lunch should be part of your daily routine.

Since hiking gives energy to every cell of the body, it does not only help in strengthening the muscles and lungs but also improves blood circulation. The oxygen supply to your body cells will make you feel more lively and alert. So if you are short on energy and looking for an activity that will give you a boost, start hiking today and you’ll feel the difference in just a few days.

Gain Vitamin D

Vitamin D is one of the essential nutrients for a healthy life, strong bones and muscles. It is present in most of the foods that we consume. However, one of the cheapest and readily available sources of Vitamin D is of course, the sun. Vitamin D deficiency adversely affects the bones, muscles as well as the immune system. Thus, it is important to maintain the proper level of Vitamin D for good health.

Girl hikers

Hiking is one of the continuous and consistent sources of Vitamin D. Your time outside while enjoying the sun is actually giving you a good amount of Vitamin D. With regular hiking, you are not just enjoying yourself but you are also getting a good dose of Vitamin D. It’s a win-win.

Socializing with People

Whether it be for enjoyment or improving one’s health, hiking is definitely not an activity that should only be enjoyed alone. Although most people prefer to hike alone for the peace and quiet, hiking has always been fun when you’re in a group. Most people consider group hiking to provide the best kind benefits in terms of enjoyment and health.

Group activity gives the benefit of being able to interact with other people. Due to busy life routines, it is almost impossible to spend time with friends and family. It is hard to have a vast social circle and hiking is somehow providing this very opportunity to everyone.

Group hiking

To make your hiking trip more fun, consider going out with groups or friends depending upon your trekking plan and their availability. There are several hiking groups that are full of people with diverse hobbies and personalities. This will really help you in exploring and experiencing new people, their ideas and mindsets.

If you are just planning to start hiking, going with a group can do wonders for your enjoyment. Hiking groups have people who are either professionals or passionate hikers and this will not only help you meet new people but it may also help improve your hiking skills as a whole. Group hiking can also make your trip not just fun but safe as well.

Improve Your Sleep Ability

Sleeping disorder is very common these days and there are numerous reasons behind this. Most people don’t get to sleep continuously while there are those who can’t manage to sleep at all due to factors like stress and insomnia. A healthy human being is supposed to have at least 8 hours proper sleep in 24 hours.

But according to a survey, 20% of Americans are reported to have less than 6 hours sleep. Core reasons for being deprived of comfortable sleep are anxiety, stress and  being engrossed in gadgets like the computer, mobile phones, TV and more.

Sleeping under the stars

Regular hiking activity is capable of reducing sleep disorder by almost 50%. If you are one of those people who is deprived of the peaceful sleep for years, hiking is going to help you improve your sleeping schedule. Plan for a long hiking trip to places where you can relax and find peace.

Sleeping under the sky in a natural environment will comfort your mind and will psychologically boost your sleeping ability. Being away from the buzz of the city and waking up with the gaze of the sun is going to help in amending your sleeping habit. Sleeping early in the night and waking up in the early morning is a proven strategy for a healthier and happy life.

Hikers Live Longer

This must be a surprise for you but this is a fact and medically proven. According to a research of 23 years period published in the American Journal of Public Health, it revealed that the mortality risks for people lacking the involvement in physical activity are increased 40-41% more than those who participate in physical activities like hiking.

On the peak

Now it is up to you, if you want to increase the chances of living longer then there is no excuse for you to start hiking right away. You do not need to have several hours of vigorous aerobic activities like hiking in order to avoid premature death. But in fact, at least 2-3 hours physical activity in a week is enough to see beneficial results.

To summarize

Summarizing the overall discussion, hiking is not just a source of fun and enjoyment but also a big contributing factor in letting you live a healthy and fit life.

Hiking is improving your life and health in many ways like:

  • Avoiding cardiorespiratory and cardiovascular diseases
  • Improving mental ability, creativity and alertness
  • Treats anxiety and depression
  • Reducing obesity and weight
  • Strengthening of muscles and bones
  • Reducing the loss of bone density
  • Improved quality of life
  • Improved sleeping habit
  • Lowering the risk of chronic diseases
  • Better socialization
  • Preventing early death

Hopefully, now you have a full grasp on the overall benefits of hiking with regards to your health and fitness.

Camping

If you have already started then let us know, how was your hiking experience? What problems did you face when you first started? Are there any positive changes in your health and life? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dorothy Tobias
Dorothy Tobias

Dorothy is a full-time writer, who loves traveling, good food, and understands the beauty of a night spent under the stars. She likes to discover new experiences wherever she goes and she feels most comfortable in her tent, with her favorite sleeping bag. Dorothy started camping with her family when she was 4 years old and remained loyal to the practice throughout the years. Today, she is an experienced backpacker and camper and knows everything there is to know about products in this niche.

  • Jason Marnecheck

    I got into hiking because I wanted to live healthier and enjoy a more active lifestyle. I wanted to track my progress so I picked up the Fitbit Charge 2 to track how well I’m doing and to keep myself motivated. It’s easy to use and navigate. No complaints from me!

  • Dorothy Tobias

    Hi there Jason! Isn’t the Fitbit great? I love this brand and I’ve been using their fitness tracker ever since it came out in the market. Keep up the healthy lifestyle and don’t forget to keep on sharing your tips. <3

  • Sean Campbell

    If you want to get a handle on what the benefits of hiking are, I’d suggest finding a copy of Long Distance Hiking. It’s a great book for aspiring thru hikers, and has good lessons on such topics as avoiding injuries and how to deal with them if you do get injured.

  • Dorothy Tobias

    There are tremendous benefits given to our bodies when we walk during a hiking trip. We must ensure, however that prior to the trip, our body is conditioned to walk long hours. It’s great to stay fit with walking!
    Thanks for the comments Sean and enjoy your stay.

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