The Many Health Benefits of Hiking
Hiking is not only a much-loved hobby for many, but it’s also an activity with a plethora of health benefits. From improving your physical health to promoting mental wellbeing, hiking is one of the best things you can do for your mind, body and soul. Plus, it’s great fun as well.
Today, we’ll be looking at some of the top health benefits of hiking. Best of all, you’ll start to see these benefits no matter what you’re doing. So, whether you’re already an avid hiker or looking to go on your first outdoor adventure, you’re on your way to being a better and healthier you.
Stress be gone
Hikers will tell you - it’s a fantastic cure for stress. In today’s busy world, most of us are dealing with the stress that comes from juggling work, family and other commitments. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in everyday life and let that stress deeply affect you.
Hiking is an effective stress reliever for a number of reasons. Firstly, the great outdoors and green spaces have been proven by a number of studies to improve mood and reduce stress. Similarly, getting your heart rate up and those endorphins flowing is also a natural stress buster.
Not to mention, hiking brings you face to face with the beauty of our world, which is sure to make you smile. It’s also a chance to meet like-minded people who are out enjoying the beauty of our world - and as social creatures, us humans love meeting new people and enjoying some engaging conversation.
Stronger bones and muscle
Even though it might often feel like a leisurely stroll through nature, hiking helps to slowly strengthen your body. In particular, studies have shown that hikers have stronger bones and muscles than their sedentary counterparts.
This is because being active and moving your body promotes better bone density, especially if you’re occasionally conquering those inclines! In addition, hiking uses a huge variety of muscles, strengthening them and building better muscle function.
Over time, you’ll see your strength grow and it’s inspiring to track your progress. In addition, you’ll feel great knowing that you’ve significantly reduced your risk of conditions such as osteoporosis.
Better cardiovascular health
One of the most common and serious problems affecting people is cardiovascular health. Sadly, heart disease remains a huge issue, with issues from heart attacks to high cholesterol affecting hundreds of millions of people around the world.
Luckily, hiking is a simple and effective way to improve your cardiovascular health and significantly reduce your risk of health problems. Hiking is so much fun that you might not notice that it can also push your body - for example, walking up a hill is sure to get your heart rate elevated.
Over time, this leads to better fitness which is a leading protective feature against heart disease. It’s no surprise, then, that several studies have shown a link between regular hiking and reduced hypertension and cholesterol.
Improved memory function, sleep and concentration
Have you ever felt like you’re in a bit of a brain fog? If so, you’ll be thrilled to hear that hiking is an effective way to improve your concentration and memory.
When engaging in physical activity such as hiking, blood flow to the brain increases. This means your brain receives more oxygen and nutrients, leading to improved cognitive function. The result? You’ll have a better memory, better focus and be less prone to the dreaded “brain fog”.
Similarly, research has confirmed what many hikers have said for years - you sleep better if you’re regularly adventuring in the great outdoors. Truth be told, they haven’t quite pinned down the why behind this one, but leading theories include the benefit of sunlight on our circadian rhythms.
Improve your Vitamin D levels
Vitamin D is crucial to healthy bodily function, and deficits can cause problems including fatigue, joint pain, anxiety and poor immune function. It’s concerning, then, that over 40% of adults in the US are believed to be Vitamin D deficient.
Luckily, getting your weekly dose of Vitamin D is easy - you just need to go outside! The most effective way to get Vitamin D is from the sunshine, and there’s plenty of that to enjoy while hiking.
Of course, you’ll want to be sun smart while out on the trail, but so long as you have sunscreen you can soak in the rays. You’ll feel better, brighter and happier for it!
Ward off sickness
As you can see, there are many health benefits to hiking. Yet another is that studies have shown that regular hikers have improved immune function, meaning they get sick less and feel better overall.
Japanese researchers found that even a moderate hike in nature saw an increase in participants’ white blood cell count, which can assist with better immune function. Interestingly, they didn’t observe the same results in city walks, suggesting it’s the beautiful green spaces that are really great for our health.
As you can see, the health benefits of hiking are many and varied! Don’t just take our (and the scientists’) word for it, ask any hiker and they’re bound to tell you - you’ll feel happier, healthier and more alert for going on some outdoor adventures.
If you’re already an outdoor enthusiast - keep it up! The more regular your hikes, the more benefit you will see.
If you’re just looking at getting started, there’s no need to feel intimidated. Nowadays, there are so many different hikes and trails for people of all abilities - you can start as small as you want, as every step you take will be helping you be a better you.
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