In our blog, we’re going to talk about the physical and mental hiking exercise benefits. Despite being one of the most popular forms of exercise in the U.S., hiking isn’t just a full-body workout – it’s also a great way to get out and enjoy nature, clear your mind, and improve your health. Hiking is also an adjustable workout, so no matter how long it takes you to progress, you can start with an easy trail and work your way up to full-blown mountain hiking.
Hiking has physical and mental benefits
Several of the physical benefits of hiking are obvious – like weight loss – but hiking has some unexpected benefits as well.
It’s good for your heart to hike
As well as improving aerobic fitness and endurance, hiking is great for cardiovascular health. A moderate heart rate can be achieved even by light hiking. Your body adjusts to new fitness levels over time, which allows you to hike longer, faster, and harder without feeling fatigued or exhausted.
Additionally, hiking can improve blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol markers associated with cardiovascular health. Regular moderate hikes can significantly reduce hypertension, improve glucose tolerance, and lower ‘bad’ cholesterol levels over time, according to studies.
You can improve your cardiovascular health by hiking if you are concerned about it!
Balance is Improved by hiking
Starting with my lack of balance, crossing streams and boulder fields can give me anxiety. That’s one reason I love hiking with trekking poles. I notice that my balance improves every time I challenge myself on such terrain, and by the end of the summer, I’m much more confident in my balance. However, practice does not make perfect in this case. Science actually explains it.
In order to maintain balance and stability while walking on a trail, your leg muscles and core muscles have to be constantly engaged and contracted. As these stabilizing muscles strengthen over time, your balance improves.
In addition to stabilizing muscles, hiking also helps to improve proprioception, which is how the mind perceives the position and movement of the body in relation to its surroundings. A hiker’s brain processes each rock, root, and obstacle as it steps over it. With practice, the brain becomes better at judging these obstacles, and balance improves as a result.
When we get older, it’s very important to keep working on balance in order to prevent falls. Hiking is a great way to improve balance while getting some fresh air.
Increase bone density
In hiking, your bones and muscles work harder against gravity, helping your body maintain or build bone density.
As we age, bone density declines about one percent each year. Hiking can help slow down the loss of bone density. The CDC also recommends 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week.
Plus, hiking outdoors exposes you to Vitamin D, which is essential for calcium absorption and bone health.
Hiking, on the other hand, can boost our mood even more than a regular walk around the neighborhood. Exercise releases endorphins, a brain chemical that triggers positive feelings.
In a study conducted by Stanford University researcher Gregory Bratman, 60 people were assigned a 50-minute walk in the woods or along paved roads. The results indicated that nature walkers experienced less anxiety and rumination, as well as more positive emotions than urban walkers.
Social interaction is an important ingredient for happiness and well-being, especially with people you have a strong bond. Hike with a friend or two!
Researchers have concluded that low vitamin D levels are associated with depression. A review of 61 studies found that deficiency of vitamin D is associated with depression.
Vitamin D levels were lowest in those who had depression, and low levels of vitamin D were found in those who were depressed.
There are a number of symptoms associated with vitamin D deficiency, including:
- Frequent illnesses
- Pain in the bone and/or muscles as a result of slow wound healing
A vitamin D deficiency treatment significantly improved depression symptoms in participants.
In another study, Stanford researchers found that people who walked in nature for 90 minutes had higher activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, which is associated with depression and anxiety when deactivated. Hiking in nature has been shown to improve mood, according to the study.
Exercise can be obtained by hiking
As a form of cardiovascular exercise, hiking can also improve the strength of your leg muscles. It can keep your mind and body in top shape. It is a form of exercise that is extremely effective. It activates your bones and muscles, thereby enhancing your bone density as a weight-bearing exercise. Hiking on a sunny day also provides you with plenty of vitamin D.
Sleep quality is improved
Natural light exposure during outdoor activities can boost the level of melatonin, helping us shift into a natural sleep cycle, according to a University of Colorado study.
Improves your mood
It has been shown that hiking can trigger the release of endorphins, a hormone whose functions include triggering positive feelings. The fact that hiking is usually done in natural settings has a calming effect on your mind, helping to reduce the mental fatigue and attention overload caused by excessive screen time.
In addition to helping you detach from a busy schedule, hiking is a great social activity that helps you bond with people of similar interests. It may be easier for introverts to meet new people and learn better-socializing skills by hiking. According to the National Institutes of Health, social bonding has a positive impact on health and overall well-being.
Hiking with friends: The role of social support
An important part of mental health is exercise, but a recent study found that joining a group to exercise can have a positive impact on achieving goals as well. Several studies have linked social support to improved health and well-being, according to the National Institutes of Health.
A regular nature hike strengthens our heart, lungs, and muscles, as well as our minds. You can also reap the benefits of hiking with friends. So, the next time you get to the top of a hill after a dirt path, take a moment to appreciate what you’re doing to stay healthy and happy.
Frequently asked questions
Does hiking tone your body?
A successful workout also requires variety.
A long, flat hike will build endurance and stamina, whereas a short, steep hike will tone muscles and boost the cardiovascular system and respiratory systems.
Is hiking better exercise than running?
Because hiking uses steeper paths, it burns more calories than walking in general. In spite of this, hiking burns fewer calories per half hour than running. This form of outdoor exercise offers a number of health benefits, including weight loss, mental health, and muscle tone.
What happens to the body after hiking?
In the case of long hikes or intense physical activity, your body will rely on your glycogen stores for fuel. During physical activity, your muscles will also break down or become damaged. Studies indicate that the sooner we eat, the faster we will recover.