Exercise can help your physical health and well-being, but did you know that hiking elevates your game entirely. The effects are more than just physical (though we’ll get into those as well); you become chemically balanced, you receive positive effects on your mood and an increased libido. We’re about to cover all of those and more.
The Physical: Hiking and Health Benefits
There are two main types of physical fitness training: cardio, and resistance (strength). Cardio is anything that gets your heart pumping, while resistance pushes your body and trains your muscles. Hiking does both of those things for you at a specific intensity (after all, why do you think tread climbers are so good for you? Same principle).
You Reap the Rewards Hours Later
The intensity of hiking depends on the trail, length, altitude, and a bunch of other variable factors. No matter where you go, you’ll be able to benefit from the “Afterburn Effect” from high-intensity workouts like hiking. A mix of cardio and strength means that you burn calories for 12 hours or more after your hike.
Regular hiking gives you the following benefits:
- Lowered risk of heart attack and stroke
- Lowers cholesterol
- Help self-regulate blood sugar
- Boosts bone density
- Increases balance
- An even workout across your entire body
We can all agree that putting ourselves in a healthier spot than we were before is massively beneficial, but it’s not just about your physical figure: hiking helps with symptoms of anxiety, depression, and an overall improvement to your brain function.
The Mental: Hiking and Cognitive Benefits
Fresh air does a body good, especially when it replaces all the toxic garbage we’re breathing in on a daily basis. When you’re already receiving benefits from the physical aspect, those same effects work to improve your brain function.
Hiking also serves as a distraction from the humdrum of the daily buzz. We’re connected to IoT devices and on our smartphones, all the time; taking a break can help you take a deep breath, and cleanse your mental palate.
Hiking, like other cardio exercises, boosts certain chemicals in your brain. It’s been proven that serotonin – one of the main chemicals that positively affect your mood – are produced by an increased cardio workout. Up to 75% of serotonin production begins in the gut before it reaches your brain, which receives major health benefits when you start your hiking regimen.
Hiking is the perfect workout for your mind; here’s what you can redeem from a successful string of hiking trips:
- Decrease in negative thoughts about yourself
- Increased social interaction (which is vital to our health)
- Reductions in stress, depression, and anxiety symptoms
- Reduces fatigue
- Levels out your metabolism, thereby regulation emotions
Other Benefits of Regular Hiking
Our bodies become healthier, we feel better as a result, and we come full circle to feeling happier on a constant basis.
- Hiking and getting your regular exercise can aid in eliminating self-image issues, such as self-consciousness about your body or negative thoughts that tear down your confidence. This is achieved through an increased level of vitamin D due to sun exposure.
- Being out of shape or slightly overweight can be enough to throw your libido in a ravine – it’s like it disappeared. This can cause other issues in your life, but within a short amount of time, regular hikes and their health-related benefits can rebalance your sex drive.
- If you’ve ever had trouble sleeping, and you’ve been diagnosed with insomnia, hiking can actually help you sleep without the need for medication. You’ll sleep deeper, easier, and wake up feeling refreshed.
How to Fit Hiking into Your Schedule
Even 10 minutes out in the sun on a mountainous walk can improve your health benefits, and immense results are seen around the 90-minute mark. Now comes the time when you try to fit hiking into your daily routine. These are a few tips on how to make time for the most important thing in your life – your physical and mental health, all through hiking.
Wake Up Earlier
So long as you’re practicing regular hiking safety measures, getting up at sunrise and hitting the trail before your day officially starts could be the answer you’re looking for. However, this can be difficult to achieve if you work graveyard shifts, or have long work days that are taxing on your body. Here are a few other methods.
Go Hiking With a Friend
It’s easy to just say, “I’ll do it tomorrow” in your head, or to keep putting that hike on the back burner. Make plans to regularly hike with a close friend, and turn it into a social interaction at the same time. This way, you’re able to hold each other accountable. Before you know it, you’ll be squeezing in additional hikes each week.
Set “No-Go” Hours
When we have people relying on us, we run ourselves ragged and often forget our own health. It’s only going to hurt you in the end; set some “No-go” hours and let important people in your life know what they are. That time is for you, and nothing else.
How are you able to fit hiking into your daily schedule? What tips do you have for getting the most out of your hike? Let us know in the comments below.