Top 10 Benefits of Hiking: In case you needed another reason
Posted on May 25, 2011 by Cathy
You know hiking is good for your health. But do you know just how good it is? If you are heading out for a hike this Memorial Day weekend, take note of all the good you are doing for your body.
Ute Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park
For adults, regular aerobic exercise such as hiking leads to:
Improved cardio-respiratory fitness (heart, lungs, blood vessels)
Improved muscular fitness
Lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
Lower risk of high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes
Lower risk of high cholesterol and triglycerides
Lower risk of colon and breast cancer, and possibly lung and endometrial cancer
Increased bone density or a slower loss of density
Reduced depression and better quality sleep
Lower risk of early death (If you are active for 7 hours a week, your risk of dying early is 40% lower than someone active for less than 30 minutes a week.)
Weight control; hiking burns up 370 calories an hour (154-lb person)
Elk poop! On the trail!
Kids get many of the same benefits, including:
Improved cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness
Better bone health
Less chance of becoming overweight
Less chance of developing risk factors for heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes
Possibly reduced risk of depression and feeling less stress, more ready to learn in school
Sleeping better at night
What’s more, hiking exercises almost every part of your body: legs, knees, ankles, arms, hips and butt, abdominals, shoulders and neck. “Hiking exercises your body and your mind, and nourishes your imagination,” says Ignacio Malpica, a certified fitness instructor and personal trainer in Boulder, Colorado. “It creates awareness in your eyes and ears and the rest of your senses.”
How Much Time?
How much activity do you need to reap these incredible health benefits? Experts say getting active for just 150 minutes a week – doing “moderate-intensity” aerobic exercise such as moderate hiking or brisk walking – leads to most of these benefits (reducing risks of colon and breast cancer requires another hour a week). That’s only 2½ hours a week. And you don’t have to do it all at once. Sneaking in a lunchtime hike up the hill near your office counts toward your total, as long as you’re active for at least ten minutes.
If you take part in more vigorous aerobic activities, such as running, dancing, or hiking uphill or with a heavy pack, you need only half that amount of time, or 75 minutes a week, to get health benefits.
Golden Gate Canyon State Park, Colorado
What’s moderate exercise? You can talk, but you can’t sing during the activity. Vigorous? You can’t say more than a few words with pausing for breath. “When you are doing moderate exercise, you can continue for a long time, and you are breathing rhythmically,” explains Malpica. “With vigorous exercise, you can’t do it for more than a few minutes at a time.”
And if you rack up even more time, the benefits keep growing too. For even more substantial health benefits, such as an even lower risk of heart disease, aim for 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, or 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise each week.
Of course, there are other kinds of physical activity. It’s also important to do some muscle-strengthening activities, such as lifting weights or doing push-ups. The experts say do those at least twice a week. You also need to get in some bone-strengthening activity, which occurs when force on your bones promotes bone growth and strength. Here again, hiking fits the bill.
Another plus: you don’t have to be in perfect shape to start. Even if you are overweight, getting physical can lead to health benefits. But don’t run out and climb a 14er if you’ve long been inactive. The experts say if you’re 35 or older and have been inactive for several years, or you already have a condition such as high blood pressure, check with your doctor first. “Hiking is a great way to start exercising,” says Malpica. “Start with easy hikes and work up to steeper hikes that work your legs more.”
Kids (age 6-17) need 60 minutes of physical activity each day, mostly aerobic. They also need regular muscle-strengthening (playing on playground equipment, climbing trees) and bone-strengthening (running, playing basketball, jumping rope) exercise.