Hiking – A complete workout for the body and mind
While hitting the gym and maintaining a healthy diet are great ways to improve your fitness, there’s nothing quite like traversing an outdoor terrain as you take in the beautiful sights and sounds of Mother Nature.
Anyone who has hiked can attest to the feeling of tranquility and accomplishment that comes from a good hike, but often overlooked are the numerous physical and mental health benefits that accompany this exciting outdoor pastime.
THE BENEFITS TO YOUR BODY
- Helps lose weight
When you consider that an activity as simple as walking can help burn calories, it becomes easy to understand why hiking is a great way to lose weight. The rough, uneven terrain and steep inclines require your body to put in more effort than if you took a stroll around your neighborhood.
In fact, research suggests that your body uses 28% more energy on uneven train compared to walking on flat ground.
- Builds muscle
Some people believe the only way to work out every major muscle group is by following a strict gym schedule. While that’s certainly an option, hiking can do just as good a job without the need for a membership.
You’re essentially getting two main workouts: when you hike uphill, which engages the main muscles in your legs, and when you descend, which works out your glutes and quads. Altogether hiking will engage your calves, quads, glutes, hamstrings, ankles, hips, and of course, your core. Add a hiking pack to the mix to work out your back and arm muscles. It’s the ultimate workout!
- Enhances cardiovascular fitness
At its core, hiking is a series of powerful cardio exercises, so the heart-related benefits that come with it are plentiful. Even a short hike will raise your heart rate and get the blood pumping, leading to improved endurance, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure. Your risk of heart disease falls considerably, and your quality of life will improve drastically.
THE BENEFITS TO YOUR MIND
Aside from the many physical benefits that come with an intensive outdoor activity, hiking can also have a significant impact on your mental health.
- Improves mental health
A study from Stanford found that walking in a natural area reduces activity in a region of the brain associated with a key factor in depression. Another study also found a link between exercising in outdoor natural environments and “greater feelings of revitalization and positive engagement, decreases in tension, confusion, anger, and depression, and increased energy”.
- Induces a sense of refreshment
There is clearly something mentally rejuvenating about connecting with nature that an urban setting can’t provide. Unplugging from social media and technology allows us to reflect on the greater things in life – away from all the noise and toxicity that many of us have grown tired of.
- Boosts self-esteem
Hiking is in itself an activity that inherently boosts self-esteem. There are times when you may doubt yourself, but the end of your hike is proof enough of your capabilities. The sense of accomplishment that comes from reaching the top of a summit as you preserve and push your limits is incomparable and slightly addictive.
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