Is Hiking Good For You? | 6 Healthy Reasons To Walk in Nature
Have you ever heard the question “is hiking good for you?” I have to stop now.
Hiking. Just typing it makes me want to grab my backpack and immediately hit the nearest mountain. If you are like me, then it’s easy for you to feel the same way too. Yes, trekking is possibly the best experience that one could have in nature, no matter how fun picnics could be. Besides being a highly enjoyable activity for all nature lovers, hiking also brings some amazing health benefits.
For instance, it acts as a whole body fitness except that it’s far more entertaining than being stuck between the four walls in the sweaty gym. Probably you’ll agree that the best view you can have in the gym is someone’s attractive body (gotcha). However, walking on a picturesque mountain path offers plenty of mesmerizing sights. The best part is that you are still exercising, so you can easily get rid of the gym guilt.
In this article, I will try to depict some of the most common and scientifically proven benefits that walking outdoors could have, especially if done regularly. I rush to say that I speak from my personal experience. In fact, that’s why it makes me want to do it again and again.
Without further ado let’s start by saying that the first thing you feel while deep in nature is that…
The Air Is So Fresh
Did you know air pollution is the reason for 7 000 000 deaths mostly caused by lung cancer, heart disease, and severe respiratory infections? And that’s yearly. I know, it sounds insane, but it’s sad and it’s true. I live in a big city myself and this statistic doesn’t make me feel comfortable at all.
That brings us to the main point. We all need a breath of fresh air and the best place to get it is up in the mountains. For me, that’s the first thing that strikes me when I go for a hike. The difference is often stunning and it’s impossible not to feel it with every cell of your body. Now, allow me to pump your motivation to go somewhere among the greenery by mentioning just some of the benefits of fresh air:
- It smells and feels so good
- It cleans the lungs – the fresh air enhances lung activity by increasing oxygen levels. This helps the release of airborne toxins and the whole body functions better. The result is more liveliness and fewer bacteria.
- It has benefits for the digestive system. That’s right – bigger oxygen quantities help food digestion which in its turn aids losing weight.
Burn Calories, Burn
That’s my favorite part. Whenever I feel clumsy or slightly overweight, I know that hiking for several days will bring my good shape back. It’s simple – walking, hiking or trekking, call it whatever you like, is motion. And motion seamlessly burn those nasty calories that hurt not only our physical shape but our self-confidence, which is, if you ask me worse.
Hiking, especially uphill and downhill can make you sweaty and burn a good amount of calories. It acts as a perfect cardio exercise. Of course, it all depends on different factors such as the weight of your backpack, the terrain, your body weight, etc. According to livestrong.com, a 160-lbs hiker burns around 440 calories per hour of walking. The heavier you are, the more calories you burn.
A small piece of advice from me, based on bad personal experience – let that not fool you or calm you down. The fact that you burn many calories doesn’t mean you have to feel motivated to eat excessive quantities of junk food, especially during hiking. It’s a terrible idea and still, not good for your health.
Hiking Is Good For Leg Muscles
I admit that I am one of those people that occasionally skip leg day in the gym. However, I can live with it. Moreover, my legs are in excellent shape because I regularly hike at trailheads with high elevation – usually peaks.
It’s an excellent way to pump all leg muscles and build strength and endurance. Hiking is good for quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, hips, and calves. It also stimulates bone density.
To avoid traumas, though, it’s highly recommended that you warm up well before long walks. In addition, don’t count entirely on hiking itself to build your leg muscles. Train them regularly so you can rely on them when the time for a hike comes.
Your Heart Will Thank You
I am far from the thought that I am reinventing the wheel by saying that cardio exercises are beneficial for the heart. As outlined above, trekking in nature is a powerful cardio workout. When walking for hours on those green trails that we all love so much, our heart rate increases. The most important muscle in our body functions in full potential, thus supplying blood and oxygen to all organs.
When making your heart work, by exercising it, not only the heart is happy. The whole body is. Here’s why:
- Hiking significantly reduces the risk of heart illnesses including cardio-vascular diseases.
- It regulates blood pressure
- It regulates blood sugar levels
Remember that your cardio intensifies when you walk on terrains with high elevation such as hills. So choose the peak nearest to you, go, and conquer it. You want a healthy heart, do you?
Say Goodbye To Stress
Remember the disturbing statistic from above about the staggering amount of deaths that the air pollution causes on an yearly basis? Well, the things aren’t prettier when it comes to the victims of stress. In fact, the picture is far uglier. Based on studies made by the Center for Disease Control, 110 000 000 people die from stress-related reasons every year. That’s huge!
I am among the billions of people who have a stressful office job. The worse thing is that often, we don’t even realize that we are stressed. It’s because we are so used to feel this way that we consider it as our normal state of being. Until it’s too late and complications arrive.
That’s why I started going to the gym three days per week and I also increased my hiking trips on weekends. Exercising changes everything. Hiking changes everything. Walking high among green nature works as a therapy that destroys stress. Looking at those nice views, sensing the smells of greenery, hearing the birds sing, and experiencing the sounds of nature makes the whole difference.
It is proven that as a serious physical activity, hiking boosts the hormone of happiness serotonin. Being an important neurotransmitter in our body, it is directly responsible for the mood. Furthermore, when sweating and breathing hard while enjoying hiking the levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline decrease. It’s just another reason why trekking in nature is so effective for dealing with depression and anxiety.
To expand the topic more, it’s worth mentioning a scientific fact – the simple activity of looking at a beautiful nature view, acts as a stress-reliever.
Hiking Stimulates Brain Activity
Just like the trendy floatation therapy, hiking is good for our mental health. It’s proven that intense physical activity has stimulating effects on the human brain. How? When exercising outdoors this stimulates the production of important chemicals in the brain that are responsible for the generation of new blood vessels and brain cells.
As a result, (and this is scientifically tested) people who exercise more tend to have bigger prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex. These parts of the brain control memory and thinking. See, that’s why I love hiking – it makes us smarter among all other things.
Establishing an exercising habit that gets your heart pumping like hiking, for instance, would definitely improve cognitive skills. So what are you waiting for? Grab a backpack and go do it!
There you have it. All the healthy motivation you need in order to plan your next hiking trip in nature. As mentioned above, walking outdoors could have powerful benefits for our entire physical and mental wellbeing.
How often do you go hiking? How does that make you feel? Leave a comment below!