You’ve probably gone hiking once or twice. Or if you’re an outdoors lover, it might have even become a favorite hobby. Regardless of your fondness for hiking, it’s no secret that it has a whole host of benefits associated with it.
Why should you go hiking at least once a week and what are the health benefits you get from doing so? Let’s go through the benefits and the research we’ve done in this guide
It lowers your risk of heart disease and diabetes
If you have someone in your family or friend group that suffers from diabetes, you know how limiting this disease can be. Luckily, hiking is an easy way to reduce your chances of falling victim to it. Although all physical activity contributes to this risk reduction, hiking is particularly beneficial in this way. Why? Hiking is an aerobic exercise, which makes it great for heart health.
Several studies have found that in those who participate in cardiovascular exercise frequently, there are 58% fewer cases of diabetes and heart disease diagnosed each year. Also, hiking provides fresh air and plenty of ever-changing scenery to admire.
Increases your body’s bone density
Bones respond to exercise by growing stronger. For most of us, our bones reach peak bone density around 30 years old. From 30 and on, bones tend to lose density and strength unless they remain active. This puts the body at greater risk of suffering from broken bones and overall loss of strength. Exercises that are considered to be "weight-bearing", such as hiking and jogging are ideal for protecting and improving bone density.
Hiking has also proven to be beneficial to slowing the progression of osteoporosis and arthritis. It helps you to maintain the bone density you already have - even if you aren’t actively gaining any.
Strengthens the core
Everywhere you look, there’s an ad or some sort of advertising for a new ab shredding, core flattening machine or diet. These can be expensive and unreliable. Hiking, however, is a reliable core workout method that is inexpensive and works wonders.
Hiking up and down various inclines works all of the muscles in your core, as well as your legs and lower body. This, in turn, can help to firm up any loose skin and keep your beach body toned.
Aids the body in healing
Hiking can help to prevent the onset of illnesses. But did you know that according to several studies, it may also be able to help the body heal more quickly? When cancer patients took up hiking once or twice a week, evidence was found that may suggest that hiking boosted their body's antioxidant capacity, helping them heal more quickly. This theory hasn't been proven, however, but it is a nice possibility.
It helps you lose and maintain weight
Hiking, despite seeming like a relatively low-key form of exercise, is surprisingly challenging for the body. It requires you to move in every direction, step over large objects, duck, and maybe even climb. All this exertion is perfect for losing weight when it is combined with a healthy diet and small lifestyle changes. Also, this makes it a good way to maintain your current weight should you wish to stabilize it.
Hiking Safety Tips
Keep maps and guidebooks protected in a waterproof bag
When you're amidst miles of dense forest or rocky cliffs and valleys, it's important to know where you're going. For this, you'll want to have a map or guidebook of some sort to lead you. You'll also want to have these important items protected. To do this, it's recommended to keep them zipped inside of a waterproof bag or another air-tight container that repels moisture.
In addition to housing guides and maps, it's also a good idea to keep personal documents such as identification and medical cards, if you decide to bring them with you. With any luck, these documents will be protected if it rains or they happen to end up floating downriver.
Always hike in pairs
It’s been said time and time again, but it stands true; hiking is an activity that should be done in pairs or groups, but never alone. Going on a hike with a companion or two often proves to be a smart move, as it is easy to become lost in the wilderness. With more than one person on the trail, it’s easier to find the way back to the modern world. It also proves to be highly beneficial in case of injury, as if you get hurt and are unable to get help, your hiking partner is there for backup.
Stick to the trails
Although it's tempting to venture off into the unknown and discover hidden caves and fields of flowers within your immediate hiking area, it's generally best practice to stick to the trails. Whether you're a seasoned hiker or just starting, it's easy to get lost and even easier to panic. Following the marked trails on your map or the signs that may be littered along the path, try to avoid straying. If you become lost on a trail, it's more likely that you will be found by other hikers.
Make an emergency plan
In any situation, it’s ideal to head into an emergency with a plan. Hiking is no exception. When you set out for a weekend of hiking, sit down and decide on an emergency plan - that is, a plan of action should an emergency strike. Figure out how you will get help if you have no cellphone service, whether you should call 911 or the park service (if you’re in a park), and decide who will seek help should communication be an issue.
Start your hike early in the day
Hit the trails in the early hours of the morning. Doing so will ensure that you have plenty of time to enjoy your hike and lessen the chance of having to cut it short due to time restraints. Also, getting an early start can help ensure that your trip finished before dark, which is a safety precaution.
During summer, hiking early also means that more of your hike will be done before the sweltering summer heat sets in full force. This will reduce sun-related fatigue, sweating and exhaustion, and sunburns, as well as any other issues that too much sun exposure might cause.
Share your location with a third party
Taking things back to the days when your parents used to ask you where you were headed before you left the house, you should be sharing where you're going hiking with someone outside of your hiking group. It's easy to see why this is a safety tip; sharing your intended location, a route to get there, and any other important information with someone on the outside can help ensure your safety should you not return home promptly.
The person you give this information to should also know when you intend to return home and, together, you should decide on a period that is acceptable for a late return. After this time, your designated person should be permitted to call for help.
Be mindful of the weather
Weather forecasts are handy things. They can be read from mobile devices, desktops, and found on TV. This being said, before you embark on a hike, you should be sure to check the weather for the area that you’ll be venturing into. If rain or snow is in the forecast, dress accordingly. If the forecast predicts extreme weather, consider rescheduling your hike. Regardless of the weather conditions, though, be mindful of them and plan accordingly.
Pack an “essentials kit”
In addition to your regular hiking gear, you should never leave the house without an essentials kit. This kit will contain essential items including sun protection (sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat), navigation devices, rain gear, a light source, something to start a fire with, an extra day’s supply of food and water, an emergency shelter, a general repair kit containing a multi-purpose tool and strong tape, and a first aid kit.
There’s no doubt about it. Hiking once a week is certainly beneficial to you. A hike once a week can prevent heart problems and diabetes, help you maintain bone density as you age, and even potentially aid in various healing processes that your body goes through after injury.
Just remember to stay safe when embarking on this new hobby. Hike with a partner, stay on the marked trails, let others know your location, pay attention to the weather, and be sure to pack all of the essential survival items you might need.