If you’re looking for a way to get in shape while enjoying the great outdoors at the same time, try hiking. Not only is hiking a great way to participate in aerobic exercise, it also helps clear your head and think more creatively.
So, in recognition of National Trails Day, let’s chat and chew about the benefits of hiking and how to prep for one!
THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF HIKING
Hikers are fit. Depending on the level of incline and the weight of the pack you’re carrying, just one hour of hiking can burn over 500 calories! Not to mention, hiking usually puts less stress on your body and joints, so you’ll find that while you’re getting a great workout, you’re putting less pressure on yourself along the way.
Hike for your heart. Hiking along different trails on a regular basis helps decrease blood pressure and cholesterol. Getting in a cardio workout in the form of hiking can lower blood pressure by four to ten points, which ultimately reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes and strokes—especially for those at high risk. Even on your return trip back down a trail you will soak up the benefits—hiking downhill is two times for effective at removing blood sugars and improving glucose tolerance.
Hike your way to happiness. Research shows that hiking can help people with severe depression—they feel less hopeless, depressed and suicidal. It can even improve the desire in those suffering from depression to lead a more active lifestyle. Being in the nature and away from the business of our lives, or whatever makes a person feel down, can allow them to connect with other people or with nature and eventually find peace with their lives. Being away from technology and the constant pinging of email and text messages can do wonders for a person’s mental state—try it one weekend and see the difference!
PREPARING FOR A HIKE
Start small. While you might be in great shape, walking up a mountain or trail—crossing over tree roots, big rocks, and possibly streams—can be more tiring than you think. Start out with a couple miles of trails and eventually build up to high-endurance journeys. Also, practice carrying a heavy backpack around at home—that added weight could really throw a person off if they’re not prepared.
Prepare for the worst. While you hope that everything will go smoothly along your hike, you can never be too careful. It’s recommended you carry extra water, snacks, sunscreen, bug spray, and a small first aid kit just incase someone slips or brushes up against something that causes an allergic reaction.
Use the buddy system. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or going out for your first time, take along a partner! If you do choose to hike alone, always tell someone where you’ll be and what time you expect to be back. As a general rule of thumb—you can expect to cover about two miles an hour. Add an additional hour of time for every 1,000 feet of elevation you gain.
Next time you decide you want to mix up your workout routine, try hiking! It not only offers great cardio and heart-healthy benefits, it can provide you with break taking views—right in your own backyard even! If you’re someone who enjoys nature activities or has some hiking tips of your own, feel free to leave them in the comments section below! Ready to get outside? Visit the American Hiking Society to find trails near you.