Why is hiking good after all? We mention some of its most important benefits according to scientific research and our personal experience.
However, before embarking on hiking trails, it is recommended that you consult your doctor beforehand, especially if there are underlying health problems, such as diabetes or heart disease.
If we are in reasonable health then off we go to gain these benefits!
1. Improves our overall health
Living in urban areas makes us physically inactive, which is often associated with various health problems, such as obesity, osteoporosis, coronary heart disease and much more. But here is the good news for hikers! Physical activity through hiking helps prevent most of these diseases, while also increasing life expectancy by a couple of years.
2. Reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease
Hiking makes our heart beat faster and so the blood flows faster in our body, which means that it can be considered as an exercise of the cardiovascular system. Thus, it helps reduce the chances of developing heart disease and stroke.
3. It increases our energy levels
Some of us avoid hiking, because we think that it will exhaust us physically. Yes and no. This may be the case at first, but it will gradually increase our energy and make us stronger! Changes occur at the cellular level. Human cells have “energy factories” known as mitochondria. As we grow older, the mitochondrial energy production capacity decreases, but exercise slows down this process as scientifically proven. Hiking in turn helps activate cells to make more mitochondria and eventually produce more energy.
4. Burns calories
Hiking creates the need in our body to utilize its energy reserves to respond and thus burn calories. The number of calories burned will depend on the hike we do (difficulty, length, time, temperature, etc.). In general, it has been shown that on average a person burns about 300 calories during an hour of moderate hiking.
5. Improves our balance
When we are new to hiking, we often find it difficult to balance on rocky trails. But over time we notice that we improve and move comfortably on the same and more demanding paths. This is because we gain more experience in our movement on variable terrain, but also because there is a general strengthening of the body and improvement of neuromuscular fitness.
6. Source of vitamin D
Vitamin D has received the nickname “the vitamin of the sun”, because it is produced naturally by our body when sunlight comes in contact with our skin. It is extremely important for strengthening the immune system, while it benefits the function of the brain, heart and mental health. It is also essential for maintaining bone density and muscle health, as it helps absorb calcium, magnesium and phosphorus. Hiking often “exposes” us to the sun and indirectly contributes to the increase of vitamin D in our body.
7. Improves our mood
After a hike and although we may feel physically depressed, we often notice that our mood has improved significantly! This is because the body has produced endorphins, the so-called hormones of happiness, which help to change our mood to better deal with depression and reduce stress.
8. Increases our creativity
It helps stimulate the brain neurotrophic factor, which in turn stimulates the growth of new brain cells in an area known as the “hippocampus”, which is involved in transferring information from short-term to long-term memory. Thus, with new brain cells and an improved cell survival rate, hiking helps to improve our imagination and creativity.
9. Improves our sleep
Those who have difficulty sleeping are usually those who have an overstimulation of the nervous system. Hiking, however, can and does lead them to sleeping better, because it removes stress and relaxes them, so that they sleep better at night. Also, with hiking, the body temperature rises two degrees more, which is also a factor that contributes to better sleep. The increase of the hiker’s temperature during the day creates a greater drop compared to an inactive body, when the night comes and the body calms down by lowering its temperature to rest.
10. We socialize and meet new people
Man is by nature a social being and needs to associate with other people. Hiking is an amazing opportunity to meet new people in nature, with whom we share the same interests! Either through a group activity in an organized way or meeting individually other hikers who move independently in nature. So, should we finally go hiking and make new friends or even, why not, fall in love?
11. SOS: Helps us appreciate the environment
As we move along paths in nature and discover endless beauties, we become addicted to it! Green forests, rushing rivers, gorges, mountain peaks and lakes offer us incredible images and steal our hearts reminding us that nature is the source of life on our planet. It is our home, which we have a duty to respect and protect.