Hopping on the treadmill or walking around the block are much easier to participate in than hiking. You might reason that you don’t have time to hike out in nature. Although walking is certainly good for you, hiking offers a whole other level to your workout. Get to know why hiking is beneficial to your physical and mental health. You’ll find yourself craving a hike every day afterward.
Inhaling the Fresh Air
Finding fresh air in an urban or suburban area is difficult. You’re so accustomed to the air that you don’t realize that it’s full of pollutants. Head out on a hike, and fresh air is suddenly noticeable.
During a hike, these actions take place within your body, including:
• Large, air inhalations that fill your lungs
• The cardiovascular system moves oxygen-rich blood around at a rapid pace
Because oxygen is plentiful during a hike in nature, your tissues become saturated with it. The tissues have the nutrients necessary to keep your hike going strong. The plants surrounding you are constantly expelling oxygen for their transpiration purposes, which awakens the mind and body even further.
Working Muscles You Never Knew You Had
You must walk every day, such as from the bedroom to the kitchen. These muscles are accustomed to the minimal effort. Hikes take place on rough terrain. There may not be significant inclines or rocky areas, but you’re still maneuvering across uneven surfaces.
Within your legs are numerous muscles that function by lengthening or shortening. Both major and minor leg muscles get a workout. You might discover that you’re feeling muscles that haven’t been used in years. This realization is actually a positive one because now the effort is benefiting every inch of your body.
Breaking the Pendulum Cycle
Why hiking is good for your health involves the mechanics of your body. Consider your normal, walking pattern. Your legs move at a regular pace along with swinging arms. From a physics perspective, your body is a pendulum. The swinging action performed by the limbs isn’t creating an effort for the muscles.
During a hike, however, the pendulum motion cannot occur. The terrain fights any regular pace. As a result, these conditions occur, such as:
• Heart rate increases
• Leg muscles fight gravity
• Metabolism rises
Challenging your body in this manner gives the tissues a chance to stretch and contract in ways that only improves the body overall.
Creating More Bone
A workout in nature is also good for your bones. The impact that your feet and legs make on the rough terrain has reverberating effects. Your bones take on those vibrations, which encourages more tissue development. With regular hiking, your bones actually create a denser tissue.
Regardless of your age, you want strong and thick bones. Any ailments caused by aging, such as osteoarthritis, can be fought off with just a few hikes each month. Always wear proper, hiking boots so that these impacts are uniformly distributed across your legs. The wrong shoes might encourage injuries, and your hikes will have to be postponed.
Exciting the Heart
Putting your heart under some stress is good for the entire body. Your heart rate rises and falls as the hike continues. Each time the heart rate rises, the muscle gains more strength. You’re pushing a higher volume of blood through the heart, which strengthens all of the surrounding arteries and veins.
The key to a healthy cardiovascular system is a heart that’s energized and relaxed on a regular basis. Hiking is the perfect activity for most fitness levels where heart health is the priority.
Releasing Good Hormones
Endorphins and serotonin are hormones that your body releases when you’re exercising. Working out in the conventional sense, such as walking on a treadmill, doesn’t always produce this effect. The effort you put out on the hiking trail, in contrast, puts the body under some stress. This stress activates the hormones that simply make you feel good.
In fact, some people refer to these hormones as a natural high. You’ll feel good about the experience, which only encourages more hikes in the future.
Distancing Yourself From Worries
Mental benefits are nearly endless when you go hiking. Your everyday routine may be monotonous within a town or city. Worries are constant companions. Get yourself out of the ordinary by taking a hike in nature. By distancing yourself from your everyday routine, the mind has a chance to look at the world in a different way.
Problems that seemed overwhelming are now just a faded thought at the back of your mind. Changing the scenery definitely helps the mind so that your life isn’t as complicated as before.
Find a buddy who enjoys hiking as exercise. When you have a friend along for the adventure, it doesn’t seem like a workout. Create a bond that enhances every aspect of life. A longer and happier lifespan will be the result.
Bruce Fellman says
Friends, I couldn’t agree more with the spirit of your assessment of why hiking is so good for body and soul, but I’d humbly like to point out that one shouldn’t assume cardiovascular benefits since, alas—and here I speak from rather unhappy experience—to keep your heart healthy, you really have to hoof it on the trail. For many years, I’ve taken a daily hike through nearby woods and meadows, and while this has done wonders for my soul and my natural history education, to say nothing of providing grist and images for my daily nature blog—brucefellman.zenfolio.com/blog—it didn’t ward off heart disease. I simply wasn’t working hard enough to keep my arteries clear and wound up needing major open-heart surgery last fall. Hiking, to be sure, is helping me recover, but this time, I’m not delusional. When I’m not trekking for the sheer pleasure of being outdoors, I really push myself and make sure that the old ticker is in the target range for the right amount of time. No doubt I miss good sightings, but I need to ensure that I take in more of that good air than would be possible at a slower pace with plenty of stops for note- and picture-taking.
Team Yukon Charlie's says
Hi Bruce! Thanks for your thoughts on this. By no means are we implying that hiking will cure heart disease. That is a much more complicated situation than someone who merely needs to get outside to breathe fresh air and move to get their blood flowing. So happy to hear that the outdoors are contributing to your path to better health!