6 Health Benefits of Regular Hiking
Hiking, which is basically nothing more than walking over uneven terrain, could quite possibly be the perfect exercise in your search for certain health benefits. For an investment of 2 ½ hours per week, you reduce your risk of:
• Osteoporosis and Arthritis
• Heart Disease
To reduce that time further, hike with a heavy backpack; then you’ll need only 75 minutes per week. Any time over ten minutes counts toward your weekly goal, so try to get in a short walk/hike after lunch at work.
Osteoporosis and Arthritis
In a study done by the University of Washington, they found by hiking or walking one hour a day three days per week women in the study increased their spine bone density in addition to other bones by 6% over a nine-month period. And walking also strengthens the muscles supporting these bones, thus further strengthening your body. In regard to arthritis, most healthcare professionals will tell you the best medicine is to keep moving to keep your pain and symptoms at bay.
The Center for Disease Control found from 43 separate studies that Americans who did not exercise were twice as likely to get heart disease as those that did exercise. In 2006 over 600,000 Americans died from the disease. Statistically, half of them could still be alive today if they would have exercised regularly.
One-third of Americans have high blood pressure. If left unchecked, it can cause a heart attack or stroke. But with regular hiking, you can lower your blood pressure by 4 to 10 points; lose weight from hiking and you can lower it even further – between 5 and 20 points.
Hiking is great exercise to lose weight. A 150-pound person burns about 370 calories per hour hiking. In many cases, diabetes comes with obesity, so by losing weight you are reducing your risk of getting it too.
Lack of physical activity and our craving of processed fast food has shot up the cases of diabetes in Americans by 50% since 1983. But with a regular activity like hiking, over time with weight loss, people with Type I diabetes can lower the amount of insulin they need to take to control their blood sugar; people with Type II diabetes can actually reverse their condition and get off of their medication altogether.
Not only is hiking good for the body physically, it is also good for the mind. As you hike, the hormone endorphin and adrenaline are released in your body, thus lowering your feeling of anxiousness. If you are on medication for anxiety, regular hiking can lower the amount you need to take, if you need to take any at all.
Hiking gets you out with nature so you can marvel at what she has to offer while getting in your much needed exercise at the same time. Get hiking and enjoy the outdoors!
Can Being In Nature Help Lift Depression?
If you have a propensity toward getting depressed, one of the best solutions to lift your spirits is communing with Nature. Recent research from the Netherlands found that people experienced less depression when living close to and spending time in a park or wooded area. A different study from the UK found 71% of its participants experienced less depression after a walk in the countryside.
These two studies, among many others, prove the power of the outdoors and what it can do to lessen your depression. It basically comes down to three things: sights, sounds and energy from the earth.
Flowers, trees, water, a sunrise or sunset all tend to calm us down, make us happier and increase our energy level. The beauty of Nature and all of her marvelous work drains away negative feelings and thoughts.
There is also a connection between happiness and certain sounds. Birds singing, a bubbling brook, the sound of ocean waves lapping at the shore all work lift our spirits and drain away stress. Our eyes and ears not only have a physical connection to the brain, but also a spiritual one as well.
Energy from the Earth
Indigenous cultures have long felt their connection with Mother Earth. Certain places around the world have energy coming from the earth. By visiting these energy hot spots, people suffering from depression find some inner peace and a spiritual calmness by soaking it up. Once such known place is Sedona, Arizona.
The Power of Yoga
Practitioners of yoga have long known about the mental healing powers of yoga. The meditation and other stress-relieving techniques of yoga work wonders for those suffering from various mental conditions. In one German study, participants that were emotionally depressed with varying conditions including stress, depression, anxiety and fatigue, took two 90-minute yoga classes per week for three months. At the end of the study, participants were retested. What they found were that 50% with depression experienced improved test scores, along with 30% suffering from anxiety and 65% from fatigue. Go outside and practice yoga. You’ll feel the stress drain away and soak up happiness from the Earth.
In study published in June 2010 in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, it found that spending more time outside with Nature not only improves us mentally, but also insulates us better from physical illnesses. It concluded that “One of the pathways to health may be spending more time in natural settings.”