7 healthy benefits of hiking you need to know

Hiking is one of the most popular forms of exercise in the United States. However, it is more than just a full body workout; it’s also a great opportunity to spend time in nature, clear your mind and improve your sense of well-being. Plus, hiking is a fully adjustable workout, and you can start on an easy trail and progress to a full-fledged mountain hike no matter how long you progress!

It’s an activity that can be done just about anywhere. Because the high season for hiking in national parks around the United States varies in climate and affordability, you can easily adjust your hiking plans according to the seasons and see beautiful areas across the country. It’s a great way to experience nature at its own level and a perfect excuse to cut yourself off from the noise of the modern world!

7 reasons why you should hike often

1. Full Body Conditioning

Studies show that by moving your largest muscle groups in challenging ways while hiking, you’re pushing your heart and lungs to work harder and get stronger with every step. It can help prevent diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes. Burning calories while hiking is a great way to lose weight and build muscle tone. And an attractive side benefit of staying active on the hiking trails is reducing the effects of arthritis and osteoporosis. By keeping your joints agile and increasing bone density, you avoid the negative impact of a sedentary lifestyle without risking injury. And, of course, the increased blood flow and breathing on even a moderate hike improves your mood and eases anxiety. It’s good for literally every part of your body!

2. Improved lower body strength

The hike activates your legs and spine for an unparalleled lower body workout. The result of all your avant-garde? Stronger quads, hamstrings, glutes, and a stabilized lower back better prepare you for even more rides. Increased balance and reflexes are added bonuses that ensure your hiking benefits carry over into your daily life, even when you’re not hiking. You will notice more ease when taking stairs, improved lifting capacity and increased power for other lower body activities. You can even find trails that maximize your leg workout with incline areas for an added challenge.

3. Sun and fresh air

Nothing beats exercising in the sun while breathing in the fresh air! When exposed to the sun, your skin creates much-needed vitamin D. Sun exposure also releases serotonin, which is a brain chemical that helps you feel calm and stay focused. It also helps balance your circadian rhythms, which improves your sleep.

Combine all of these sun-centric benefits with an hour or two spent breathing clean air, and you have a recipe for good health and improved well-being that brings you the best that hiking has to offer. However, a note of caution – even with the advantage of vitamin D production in your favour, remember to use sunscreen when hiking to minimize the harmful effects of sun exposure.

4. Exposure to nature

Beyond the physical benefits of hiking, being surrounded by natural surroundings enriches your overall quality of life. Taking time away from urban and suburban areas and re-engaging in moments spent among towering trees, majestic mountains and refreshing forests reminds us how deeply our roots are in nature.

Depending on the trails you choose, you can observe wildlife coming and going from their habitats, find hidden, photo-worthy nature vistas tucked away around every corner, and be reminded of the endless beauty that surrounds you. Moving through these environments restores your place in the natural world in a way that few other outdoor activities can.

5. Mental calm

Studies have proven that being in nature has a positive impact on mental health. The change of environment, return to natural sounds and rhythms, and immersion among the elements help soothe mental noise and provide a sense of well-being that indoor activities cannot match. There are sights and sounds that provide smoother rhythms that your autonomic nervous system can synchronize with; the result is a feeling of well-being fueled by the endorphin rush of exercise and the serotonin released by the sun. Put them all together, and you have a formula for happiness that will put hiking at the top of your list of favorite exercises.

6. Social interactions

Finding other people who enjoy hiking as much as you can add a much-needed element of social interaction to your weekly routine. Having a friend or two on your hikes or joining a hiking team not only gives you someone to share your experiences with, but it also helps you bond in a natural environment that tends to be different from other environments. . Experiencing nature with others is an additional opportunity for bonding that many people discover when they expand their hiking circle to include other hikers who enjoy outdoor activities just as much.

7. Scalability

Because hiking in its most basic form involves nothing but walking, you can tailor your hiking excursions to be as simple or complex as your physical abilities and sense of adventure l require. Whether you’re hiking a simple paved trail through a wooded area in a local green space or planning a multi-day hike in a national park, all options are valid! Once you’ve mastered simpler hikes, you can slowly progress to finding new trails to explore, challenging yourself with each subsequent path. Be aware of limitations that cannot be overcome, such as pre-existing heart, lung or circulatory problems and injured limbs or joints. It is always important to consult a doctor when developing your hiking activities.

Tips to prepare for your hike

Because the hike takes place in an outdoor setting where conditions can be unpredictable, be sure to do the following when preparing for your hike:

  • Research and plan your hike before you go to make sure you know where the starting points are, the total length of your route and the level of difficulty.
  • Bring a fully charged cell phone and always let someone know where you are going and how long you will be away in case of an emergency on the trail.
  • Protect your skin from harmful overexposure to the sun by using sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and reapply as needed
  • Choose boots, insoles (if needed), and clothing appropriate for the climate and terrain you’ll be hiking in, and remember to dress in layers so you can adjust for comfort and coverage when the temperature changes.
  • Stretch your legs and back for 10-15 minutes before going outside to warm up and relax your muscles.
  • Bring healthy snacks to replenish your energy stores and drink water or workout drinks with added electrolytes frequently while hiking to avoid dehydration.

How to choose the best hiking trails

Trail runner in aerial stride, on mountain ridge.

Choosing the best trails for your hiking activities means you have a wide variety of terrains and locations to choose from, whether it’s a local park or a cross-country hiking location. Be sure to research the trails you intend to hike before you go. If a nature experience is key on your perks list, follow the weather and look for scenic trails that showcase wildlife, greenery, and seasonal attractions.

National parks are incredible maintained environments tailor-made for great hikes; if there is one in your area, check the hours, necessary permits and prices. You can also find interesting seasonal or holiday discounts. Once you’ve chosen your trail, be sure to download or print the maps and directions to follow. And be sure to check the difficulty level of the trails you’ll take to get the most out of your hiking adventures.

How to motivate yourself for a hike

Hiking tends to inspire a dedicated response from people who make it an integral part of their wellness routines. You are your only competition, and the more you participate, the better you will get and you will be surprised at how much you can accomplish. And because the basics require no equipment other than shoes or boots suitable for the chosen terrain, hiking is an activity accessible to everyone, regardless of age. Get your friends and family in on the action to increase the fun, or seek out local hiking groups that can help you feel a sense of community while hiking. Even if you go it alone, remember that if you can walk, you can hike… and if you can hike, you can gradually become a better hiker and climb to greater heights as soon as you are. ready !

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