Whether it’s a 2-hour hike or an arduous day hike exploring mountainous peaks, the benefits of hiking are more than physical. For me, hiking is about connecting with Nature, exploring favourite trails and discovering new ones, challenging my body and mind whilst keeping active.
Time spent in Nature restores our energy, improves our mood, and rejuvenates us on a cellular level. The trails of a nature hike will provide more challenge to your treadmill workouts, read on to discover more health benefits of hiking.
Hiking hills, sandy trails or mountains is strenuous work, utilising multiple muscle groups to drive forward. The main players here are the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and glutes however don’t be caught out by the stabilizing nature of obliques, abdominals and the muscles of the lower back. Clients are often taken by surprise that they have had such a great core workout!
A great workout, that builds strength, muscle tone and promotes weight loss/ management. If you’re using hiking poles, the upper body gets a show in here too!
CARDIOVASCULAR & DECREASED RISK OF CHRONIC DISEASE
Hiking is a great cardiovascular exercise that improves blood flow and heart function by reducing plaque build-up in arteries that can harden and narrow, leading to Atherosclerosis; the usual suspect of heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral vascular disease. Fundamental to not only heart health, but hiking also improves respiratory function promoting healthy lungs by delivering oxygen into the body, providing energy and upon exhalation, removes carbon dioxide and toxins. With improved blood flow, it lowers risk for diabetes, high cholesterol, and chronic disease and helps with weight loss and/or maintaining a healthy weight range.
PROMOTES BONE DENSITY
Weight-bearing exercise such as hiking is a great way to increase bone density and to prevent bone loss as we age. Women are more likely to suffer bone loss which can potentially lead to osteoporosis due to the decrease in estrogen as we move through menopause into our 50’s. Resistance training creates a gentle force on bones which encourages the growth of new bone cells.
Weight-bearing exercise such as hiking is a great way to increase bone density and to prevent bone loss as we age.
IMPROVED MENTAL APTITUDE + SLEEP
Hiking or simply walking activates both hemispheres of the brain. Stuck with a problem? Head outdoors for a walk and wait for the answers to come to you. Hiking stimulates the brain, body, and soul when we push it out of our comfort zone. Traversing the trails, river crossings or exposed terrain, our bodies are pumping with adrenaline and excitement. We feel great when we have accomplished something that we may have never tried before or pushed past our perceived boundaries and created new ones. After a day hiking and the adrenaline has worn off, our body will slip into rest and recovery mode, inducing a good night’s sleep!
The fresh air delivered to our lungs when we are in heavily treed areas or by the ocean improves our immunity in a number of ways. The chemicals released from the trees, phytoncides, are the natural oils within the plants that act as the trees defense system from bacteria, fungus and insect infestation. When we inhale these oils, we are essential breathing in anti-oxidants, natural aromatherapy that provides a boost to our immune system and increases the production and activity of NK - Natural Killers cells. The fresh air in and around large bodies of water or forests carry negative ions also and when we breathe these in, they attach to the toxins within our bodies and eradicate through our waste.
Aroma-therapy! (Related article https://www.holistichikes.com/post/the-power-of-trees-follow-your-nose )
When we have reached our summit or come to the end of a hike we are often exhausted but this soon gives way to a euphoric, accomplished, energized feeling that will make you feel proud and humbled by your achievement.
Tuning into our senses and observing the interaction of sights, smells, sounds, and feel of the place provides an opportunity to listen to how we feel internally.
When we spend time outdoors in the elements of winter, spring, autumn and summer we are exposed to the different seasons, exposure to cold, hot, wet, windy and dry. We can’t but accept what is delivered on any given day. When we chose to get outdoors and explore under these conditions we can either be uncomfortable or we can prepare, pack or dress appropriately and get out there!
Acceptance is one of the main concepts of Mindfulness. It allows us to understand that we surrender control and when we accept what is, we stimulate a calmer state of mind, one of receiving rather than control. Funnily enough when we accept what it, we can control our internal emotional thermostat.
Nature not only teaches us about acceptance but of the interconnectedness of all things.
We rely on the trees for the oxygen we breathe our life source and detoxify the carbon dioxide from the air we exhale. When we step outside our comfort zone and explore through hiking, it opens a world of opportunity, exploration and health benefits.
Why not check out the upcoming hikes on the Calendar https://www.holistichikes.com/calendar