There’s a saying out there that goes “The most beautiful views come after the hardest climb”; Although this quote is referring to hiking up a difficult mountain, it can also apply to the journey we all face in fitness. We set goals and have great expectations, but not everything worth having comes easy. We have to put in the work to get the results.
The good news is, if you’re looking to reach some personal fitness goals this year, adapting a hiking routine may be the answer! Hiking doesn’t have to be hard to yield some powerful healthy results!
Hiking can provide a variety of benefits, from weight loss to mental clarity. It’s nature’s treadmill in a place where the body and mind can reset, strengthen, and relax all at the same time. So, as the warmer months approach us, let’s trek through some amazing benefits that hiking can play in our fitness life and learn how you can get the most out of nature and your health at the same time this year!
5 Health Benefits Of Hiking
1. Strengthens Core & Develops Abs: No need for sit-ups this time! The core (abdominal muscles, obliques, and lower back) play just as an important role as the lower body when it comes to hiking (and walking!). It’s the core that stabilizes the body as the ground shifts and body balances. Over time hiking can result in a stronger core, flatter midsection and better physical health.
2. Build Strength: Trekking on uneven ground calls for the use of your whole lower body. The glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, as well as all of the muscles in your hips and lower legs are activated at once. As your legs adapt to a hiking routine, your lower body will gain great strength while tightening up hard to firm areas.
3. Weight Loss: Hiking is known as a great calorie burner. The body is working as a whole which in turn will fire up the metabolism. More energy required to move the more calories burned. This great sweat session allows a person to workout longer due to the change in scenery and gorgeous views.
THE FIRST 3 BENEFITS CAN ALL BE MADE MORE CHALLENGING or BENEFICIAL IF YOU ADD A 10lb to 20lb HIKING PACK ON YOUR BACK; DON’T FORGET A SNACK!
4. Lowers Risk of Heart Disease: Activities such as hiking and brisk walking 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. New studies even show that walking or hiking for an hour a day, five days a week, can cut a person’s risk of stroke in half.
5. Reduces Anxiety and Depression: If you’re feeling down, take a hike! The presence of nature around a person with anxiety or depression is shown to help reduce the negative feelings associated with either or. Hiking is known to reduce depression by reducing negative thoughts and feelings. Even just a short walk in the woods is calming and improves physical and mental health.
A “Getting Started” Tip for Beginner Hikers
Simply starting by walking smaller local trails can produce some pretty amazing views in nature without having to worry about getting lost. So don’t feel pressure when just starting out. It’s very important to start out slow, on shorter hikes, in areas that you’re more familiar with. This is the key for adapting hiking as a part of your healthy fitness routine, “start small, start local”.
Get more out of your hiking with these fitness-boosting tips
Graduate to more intense terrain: Our bodies are smart machines: it’s been said that once we have done the same fitness routine for about 6 weeks, the body will adapt and results will come to a halt. This can be avoided by changing up the trail’s intensity. If you are able, try to trek to a higher level of elevation or trails with lots of hills. This will shock your system, burn more calories and improve your physical health!
More UP Hills: Trekking up in elevation, even a small amount, will intensify your heart rate and burn extra calories. Gregory A. Miller, PhD, president of the American Hiking Society says a 5% to 10% incline equals a 30% to 40% increase in calorie burn. The neat thing about this is your body will be burning more calories at rest post-hike, than it would at a slow and steady pace.
Incorporate Hiking Poles: Digging into the ground and propelling yourself forward pushes your upper body muscles to work harder and gives you a stronger cardio and total body workout.
Add weight to your pack through water: When you know you’re ready to step-it-up, try stocking your day pack with extra weight in the form of water. 1 gallon of water weighs approximately 8 lbs.; adding extra water weight has a double benefit as you can hydrate during your hike too! According to Miller, a 10lb to 15lb pound day pack will boost your calorie burn by 10% to 15% while strengthening your lower back muscles.
Let this info be a starting point to set you on the right trail for self-improvement. All you need is a little free time and a sunny day, let the outdoors bring out your motivation and inspiration by taking a walk in the woods, the rest will fall into place. Happy Trails!
– By SJ McShane
Dr. Miller- (President of The American Hiking Society” http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/hiking-body-mind
Cardiac Health and Stroke Prevention- https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/
Hiking fights anxiety and depression- http://news.stanford.edu/2015/06/30/hiking-mental-health-063015/