Ways In Which Hiking Improves Your Health
If you are searching for a good cardio workout, you have numerous choices, but very few sports have as many health benefits as hiking. It is not only your physical condition that gets the boost. Hiking improves your health in general, both body and soul. Those who choose hiking over other outdoor activities are investing in their long-term wellbeing. And there is a level of wellbeing that only contact with nature can provide.
How to adequately prepare for hiking and avoid injuries
The benefits of hiking won’t mean much if you get injured in the process. Proper hiking preparation doesn’t take long and involves several important steps.
● Get familiar with your trail beforehand. Knowing our limits is the most secure way to expand them. Explore the trekking maps and then set a realistic goal. Starting slow will get you far. Do not overburden and overexert yourself.
● Bring the right equipment and refreshment. Wear well-fitting and comfortable footwear and adequate clothing. Bring plenty of water and trail mix to snack on. Using a walking pole propels you and takes some pressure off your knees.
● Point attention to your walking technique. In order to benefit from hiking, focus on your walking technique until it becomes habitual. Keep your chin parallel to the ground and look forward, not at your feet. Do not lean forward or backward; keep your back straight. Bend your arms slightly at the elbows, swing them freely, and keep your shoulders and neck relaxed. Keep your gait smooth, heel to toe.
● Warm up, cool down, and stretch your muscles. Ten minutes before you start and after you finish hiking, allow your body to adjust by walking slowly. This tactic prepares you for a safe workout and relaxes your muscles afterward. Stretch your muscles with a series of slow exercises after you warm up and cool down.
Hiking improves your physical health but it doesn’t stop there
Moderate but regular physical activity is beneficial to everyone, regardless of age. However, there is a big difference between indoor and outdoor exercise, as well as between hiking and other outdoor activities. Hiking isn’t simply an exercise; it is a symbiosis of physical activity and the terrain. All its perks stem from this happy union.
The uneven surface of the terrain you are walking over will positively affect your balance, flexibility, and coordination. Hiking will strengthen your muscles, specifically those in your hips, lower legs, glutes, but also frontal and posterior thigh muscles – quadriceps and hamstrings. Bone density increases over time, too, as hiking is a weight-bearing exercise forcing you to work against gravity.
Powerful stride leads to improved cardiovascular fitness. Not only does it reduce the risk of heart disease, but it lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels, too. Also, another way in which hiking improves your health is by successfully keeping blood sugar in check, and thus preventing or managing type 2 diabetes.
Hiking plays a significant role in maintaining a healthy weight. However, only regular exercise bears fruit. Do not shy from apps that can help your exercise routine; tracking and recording your progress is a good and healthy way to motivate yourself to hike further, longer, or higher than before.
Emotional health and hiking: a healthy relationship
Asking a friend or a family member to go hiking with us is more than a simple invitation to spend time together. Hiking away from the urban setting focuses your attention on the person next to you. Relying on each other creates a meaningful bond and sense of togetherness that remains with you even after the trek is over. It develops the ability to trust in oneself and others, improving both our confidence and perception of safety.
Sometimes, however, time spent in nature heals us even if we hike alone. It is difficult to find true solitude; nature is full of life. And yet, it shelters our emotions with its unobtrusive ways. It helps us rejuvenate during difficult, emotionally straining endeavors. Hiking alone brings us closer to our inner strength and helps us find ourselves in nature when all the sounds from our busy, noisy lives fade away.
Trekking nurses our empathy for the world we live in. Building a powerful personal connection with nature through an activity as simple as hiking makes us prone to protect it and appreciate it.
Spending time in the great outdoors gives us a sense of belonging, which is a strong basis for emotional stability.
Trekking boosts both mental health and cognitive functions
Many scientists and artists alike have shared that they let their minds roam freely while they trek and benefit from the surge of ideas. True, the amount of oxygen we bring into our lungs, blood, and brain during exercise is vital for cognitive functions. However, improved problem-solving and creative thinking also arise from a different, ever-changing setting that nature provides. It brings an element of unpredictability into the picture. By doing so, it establishes new and reforms our usual thinking paths, just as it does with the trails we walk upon. Consequently, hiking has a positive effect on memory.
Perhaps the most obvious way in which hiking improves your health is the stress relief and benefits it has on mental health. Trekking calms anxieties of everyday life and relieves the heavy burden of depression. It improves mental health not only through time spent surrounded by vivid colors, but through rich scents and various textures as well. Hiking boosts our mood through a sense of personal accomplishment, giving us a very good reason to feel happy.
Regular physical activity brings positive changes to our lifestyle, too. It helps us to establish healthy eating and sleeping habits. But it is not only our wellbeing that is improved through hiking. It improves our relationships with others and with nature itself. Nothing like the great outdoors can induce a sense of awe, humble us, and expand our awareness. It helps us become more empathic and generous, to others and ourselves.
Anna is a part-time blogger and a passionate nature-lover. She currently works as a freelance writer, but hopes to expand her resume in the future. Anna enjoys going on long hikes with her two dogs and wishes to share her knowledge with the world
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