Over decades, when someone came down with an ailment, the advice was to walk it off. This advice often scoffed at is truer than many of us believe.
Hiking is an extension to this and research shows that this activity helps in many areas from overall fitness to mental health improvement.
Whereas other sports often don’t help as much as they are said, or there is a lot of effort required.
Going to the gym being a prime example. Hiking health benefits come in a natural way and work much better than lots of other activities.
Can You Pass the Hiking Test?
You may think that hiking is just walking in a good pair of hiking boots; however, there is more to it than just putting one foot in front of the other.
Studies show that you expel eighty-three percent more energy by first landing on your toes, rather than stepping on your heel and rocking onto your front foot.
While hiking is good for you, if you have issues with cramped toes, fallen arches or many others.
These can escalate upward through your body to cause knee, hip and then back pains.
When this is over uneven terrain with weight on your back, it can increase the problems. To help find if you are in a fit condition to hit the trails without further injury, there is a quick test.
This will show you’re backpacking biomechanical fitness.
Hips and glutes – balance on your left foot for one minute. Do this on your right after without assistance.
To measure flexibility – lay on your back. Keep one leg flat against the floor. Extend the other to an angle of 45-degrees.
Measure your alignment and stability – perform a one legged squat to 90 degrees. Hold for 10 seconds and make sure your knee doesn’t move inward. Do on both legs.
For your calves – stand with your feet pointing forward then perform ten full calf raises
Feet and knees – stand facing the mirror on one leg and your hands on your hips. Bend your knee.
Check if it moves outward or inward, check your hips and shoulders and your head to see if they move in one direction before returning to the starting position. If you move, your body is out of symmetry.
If you failed on over three, you maybe need to head to the gym before hitting the trails.
Hiking exercise is like any other, so you do need to do some dynamic stretching before you set off. This will make sure all your muscles are supple.
Health Benefits of Hiking
1. Hiking helps you lose weight
Hiking is well known to help you lose weight. It works the body overall rather than just core muscles.
Once you are getting started hiking, you will be able to tell the difference in quite a short time.
Just a couple of times a week is sufficient to shift those stubborn pounds. Hiking can burn up to 550 calories per hour.
This is on par with many extreme sports, but you have much less effort in doing so. This is a good thing, as you don’t introduce any exercise stress into the body.
Hiking for three hours can burn over 1200 calories, so do this twice per week and you have burned off one day’s worth of calories.
2. Lower your blood pressure and risk of heart disease
Lots of exercise can be good for blood pressure and coronary health. If you hike for one hour per day for 5 days per week, you can cut the risk of heart disease and stroke by 50%.
While walking briskly, your body is in fact taking part in an aerobic activity.
This increases HDL, which is the good cholesterol while reducing the bad cholesterol.
3. Muscle fitness
You have a lot of individuals asking is hiking good exercise? Maybe they ask this because it doesn’t seem exertive, but once you are doing it, it is as good as any strength training you can do in the gym.
Hiking also delivers better benefits than just cycling or running. These target specific muscles groups, whereas a good hiking workout uses all of your muscles when you are on terrain, which is far from smooth.
Your core strength will improve, as will your posture. You can even make use of trekking poles for when it gets rough, or you need a little support.
You will see a major difference in your leg muscles, but you also workout your quads, hamstrings, and other groups of muscles in your hips.
4. Improving Mental Health
There are benefits from getting out of the house. Hiking offers these psychological benefits by the bucket load.
You are surrounded by nature, the fresh air in your lungs, and the sun on your skin.
Exercise has been shown to reduce depression, stress and anxiety. It can do this for periods of up to twelve hours from when you stop.
Doctors have seen an increase in mood with just a quick hike of only one and a half hours.
The effects actually change the way the brain works rather than just making you feel good. This means you can become smarter from hiking.
5. Hiking helps the body heal
There are countless studies that show hiking delivers lots of health benefits aside from the ones above.
However, it is now shown that once an individual has had an illness; it is capable of helping the body heal.
While it may not help with the front knee pain after a strenuous hike, there are more severe conditions where the benefits are now known.
Cancer is one of the more severe cases where hiking has helped patients if they are recovering from treatment.
The reasons being that the anti-oxidative capacity increases through hiking. It can help fight of disease and even increases the body’s capacity to prevent recurrence in these sufferers.
Hiking is a great way to get out there and walk yourself fit. If you are fit enough to, do so, you can combine it with some trail running for an extra boost, but that may be better left to the younger generation.