For Great Outdoors Month, AIM Group is ready to share an informative blog about the health benefits of hiking.
Hiking Is A Whole-Body Workout
Hiking is an excellent form of exercise as it strengthens many muscles in the body, including the arms and back. Walking uphill engages your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves, while walking downhill works your ankles, hips, and core. You can also use trekking poles or carry a moderate to heavy pack while hiking to even further engage these muscle groups.
Hiking Can Help Improve Your Sense Of Balance
On a hike, you’re likely to encounter hills, dirt, mud, rocks, and tree roots that make the terrain uneven. When you’re outdoors, your balance adjusts to these changes. As you walk, your core and leg muscles are constantly working to provide stability and balance. As these core muscles become stronger, your balance increases. Hiking also helps to improve your proprioception, which is your brain’s awareness of the body’s position and movements in relation to its surroundings. With practice, your brain can better judge obstacles and, as a result, your balance improves.
Hiking Is Heart-Healthy
Hiking is a great way to improve your cardiovascular health. Even a light hike can raise your heart rate to a moderate level, which helps to build aerobic fitness and endurance. As you keep hiking, your body will become accustomed to the increased fitness level and you will be able to hike for longer, faster and harder without feeling as tired or out of breath.
Regular and moderate hiking has also been shown to positively affect other markers associated with cardiovascular health, such as blood pressure, blood sugar levels and cholesterol. Studies have revealed that regular moderate hikes can help to reduce hypertension, improve glucose tolerance and lower levels of ‘bad’ cholesterol.
Hiking Can Help With Arthritis
For those suffering from arthritis, especially in their knees or hips, exercise can be a painful experience. Fortunately, hiking is an excellent way to get your heart rate up without stressing your joints too much. Contrary to running, walking only exerts three times the amount of your body weight, meaning you can still get your heart rate up high without the high impact. Studies have demonstrated that exercising can reduce pain and morning stiffness for those with arthritis.
Hiking Can Help Slow Osteoporosis
As we get older, our bones naturally start to lose density, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. Studies indicate that after the age of 40, we lose about 1% of our bone density annually. Bone density is the amount of mineral matter in our bones. Keeping a high bone density is essential for avoiding fractures and reducing the chance of osteoporosis. High-impact activities and exercises that involve weight-bearing, like hiking, are helpful for increasing bone density and strengthening our bone tissue.
Hiking Can Improve Your Mental Health
The beauty of nature can be a great way to boost feelings of happiness. The calming effect of green, which helps to regulate parasympathetic and sympathetic activity, can have a soothing effect. Additionally, movement while surrounded by nature triggers the release of endorphins, hormones that reduce pain and increase pleasure. This also increases sensitivity to serotonin and norepinephrine, hormones that can help reduce symptoms of depression. Clear blue skies, flowers in bloom, and squirrels frolicking among the trees are sure to bring a smile to your face and a calming effect to your soul.
Hiking Can Help You Sleep Better
If you have difficulty getting a good night’s rest, going on a hike could be beneficial. Exposure to Vitamin D can help regulate your sleep-wake cycle. Additionally, being outdoors and exercising can increase your body temperature; when it returns to normal, it can help you drift off to sleep. It is important to note that you can only improve your fitness through exercise if you allow your body to properly recover. Sleep is a key factor in this process and helps to facilitate exercise-induced adaptations.
Hiking Can Improve Your Brain Function And Memory
When going for a hike, your blood flow increases, bringing oxygen and essential nutrients to your brain. Studies have shown that this increase in blood flow helps to strengthen the connections between neurons in the parts of the brain that are responsible for memory and cognitive function. It was even found that older adults who exercised in short bursts experienced an improvement in their memory when compared to those who did not.
It can be difficult to find the time to go for a hike due to our busy work schedules. We may tell ourselves that it is more important to power through and finish our tasks, but science has proven that getting exercise, especially outdoors, can help to improve our concentration and ability to process information. This in turn can make our time at the computer much more productive.