13 Ways Hiking Can Make You Healthier, Smarter And Happier
Hiking can be a pretty taxing and energy-draining experience full of steep challenges and not-so pleasant surprises. From bruises and blisters to bug bites and inevitable weather disturbances, hikers battle a bunch of obstacles for the sake of enjoying some quality time with nature and overcoming a challenge. But along with the fresh air, breathtaking views, and smells and sounds of nature comes an abundance of physical and mental benefits.
Want to foster a healthier and a happier lifestyle? Then, take hiking expeditions more often, so you can enjoy these incredible health merits!
1. Hiking improves creativity
Forget energy drinks and coffee! Those who need a boost in brainpower should look no further the nearest hiking trail. Research suggests that spending time outdoors increases creative problem-solving skills and attention spans by as much as 50 percent.
Furthermore, the authors of the research study point out that the results might have as much to do with technology unplugging as they do spending time outdoors. According to David Strayer, the co-author of Tells the Wilderness Society, interacting with Mother Nature has measurable and real perks to creative problem-solving.
Also, it’s not the lack of digital technology and the surplus of fresh air, sunshine and trees that contribute to this boost in creativity. Researchers from the Graduate School of Education in Stanford University found out that walking gets your creative juices a whole lot more than sitting in a couch or chair.
2. Hiking burns a lot of calories
Trekking for just a couple of hours can burn more than 1,000 calories, depending on the weight of the backpack you’re carrying and the level of incline. Since hiking trails are usually softer on joints than concrete and asphalt, it’s also much easier on your knees and ankles, compared to running. As a runner and hiker, I can honestly say that you will feel less creaky and stiff after a hiking expedition than a run down a sidewalk.
And if you’re going uphill, the results for weight loss are even better. Not only will it burn tons of calories, but the altitude itself can also help you lose weight.
3. Build a stronger lower body
Taking on sharp inclines and clambering over rocks can give a sweat-inducing workout that helps you build strength in your hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes. What’s more, it strengthens the muscles in your lower legs and hips!
4. Improve upper body endurance and strength
Hiking, when you’re carrying a moderately heavy backpack, not only strengthens your core, but it challenges the endurance and strength of your upper body as well. While not as effective as a push-ups, bench press or pull-ups, it nevertheless improves your upper body strength and endurance.
5. It reduces cholesterol and blood pressure
Can’t resist the temptation to eat fatty and unhealthy foods? Hiking on a regular basis helps decrease your cholesterol levels and blood pressure. A cardio experience, through hiking, lowers blood pressures by 4 to 10 points, as well as reduces the danger of strokes, diabetes and heart disease for those who are at a higher risk.
And when it comes to reducing your lower cholesterol levels, ascending and descending both have their upsides. But, going downhill is twice more effective at improving glucose tolerance and removing blood sugars.
6. Hiking aids in lowering your risk of developing cancer
There are some research and surveys suggesting that the physical benefits of hiking go beyond cardiovascular health, and may even extend as far as to helping cancer patients recover. Researchers, in a study issued in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, measured the oxidative stress (believed to play a role in the recurrence, progression and onset of cancer) rates of men with prostate cancer and women with breast cancer after and before hiking.
Through their study, they discovered that taking long-distance hikes could improve a person’s antioxidative capacity, which can help fight diseases in the oncological patient’s blood. A different study also implied that breast cancer survivors who hiked and exercised on a regular basis believed that physical activity has aided their recovery from treatments for cancer.
7. It gives you a healthy dose of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that everyone needs, to keep their bones and muscles strong. While this essential nutrient is available in fortified foods, the best source of Vitamin D is the sun itself. A 10-minute sunshine exposure every day is all you need to maintain your levels of Vitamin, so head for the outdoors and take a hiking adventure for a healthier life.
8. Hiking elevates your mood
A hike through a scenic shaded area can lift your spirits and calm your nerves, as confirmed by experts like Gregory Miller PhD – the president of the American Hiking Society. Research also shows hiking regularly has a positive impact on combating the symptoms of anxiety and stress. Moreover, another study has implied that using hikes as an additional therapy can help folks with severe depression feel less suicidal, depressed and hopeless.
And, by the way, did I mention that it stimulates the feel-good chemical hormones of endorphins and adrenaline to boost your mood?
9. It improves your memory
Recent research has shown that a 50-minute walk in nature not only decreases your anxiety and uplifts your spirit, but improves your memory as well.
10. It lets you commune with nature
Being out in the wilderness and away from the chaos of technology and other daily lives allow us to connect ourselves with nature in a way that brings a sense of well-being and peace.
11. It alleviates insomnia
Having trouble sleeping? Trust me, you’re going to have a refreshing good night’s after taking an invigorating hike outdoors.
12. Hiking increases bone density
Regular hiking can fight arthritis and osteoporosis, as many scientific studies have discovered. It helps slow bone loss as well as develops stronger bones. If you’re suffering from arthritis, the Centers for Disease Control say that over 120 minutes of hiking every week will keep your joints flexible, and prevent joint stiffness that’s associated with osteoarthritis.
13. It increases your energy levels
Aerobic exercises, such as hiking, bring extra fuel and oxygen to your organs, muscles and other body tissues. Ultimately, this extra source of fuel and oxygen will provide a boost that will strengthen your lungs and muscles, while increasing your alertness, endurance and of course, energy levels.