You’ve probably gone hiking once or twice. If you love being outdoors, it might even be your favorite way to spend time.
There are many health benefits associated with hiking, which makes it more than just a great way to get outdoors.
You can’t get away from the exhortations from many quarters telling us that guarding our health is of utmost importance.
Perfect for us that seek out nature to find that it also provides us with ways to improve our health.
As always, seek your doctor's advice before attempting any hike that might be especially strenuous.
It lowers your risk of heart disease and diabetes
Hiking is an aerobic exercise, and as such, hiking offers cardiovascular benefits.
If you go on hiking trails, most will have a designation according to the intensity of the hike.
You can tailor your hike to the type of workout you want, but just getting out and moving along a trail is a good way to strengthen your heart.
This type of exercise helps to elevate your high-density lipoprotein level and lower your triglycerides.
These factors will reduce your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.
Regular hiking will also lower your blood sugar levels. Lowering your blood sugar levels will enable you to control, or even prevent diabetes.
Giving your muscles a workout, as hiking does, will move glucose from your bloodstream into energy.
These are two great benefits to your body that hiking can provide.
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 in 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.
Provides a Dose of Vitamin D
Essential for keeping your bones and muscles strong, vitamin D can be gotten from food or supplements.
However, the very best source of vitamin D is the sun. If you are able to be in the sun for just ten minutes, you will get your daily requirement of vitamin D.
It helps you lose and maintain weight
The beauty of hiking is that almost anyone can participate. If you are wanting to lose weight, it is one of the best ways to begin that process.
Hiking can be as vigorous or as low key as you want to make it. You can hike for 15 minutes or embark on an expedition, and anything in between.
It is a safe activity for most people, and you don’t need any expensive equipment besides a good pair of footwear.
Hiking brings extra oxygen to your muscles, organs and body tissues. This will strengthen you as you pursue the goal of losing weight.
If you hike at a relatively low rate of two miles per hour, you will burn about 240 calories an hour. Even starting slowly will be of benefit to help you to progress.
Once you have reached your goal, and I know you will, you can maintain your desired weight by continuing to hike on a regular basis.
Hiking Safety Tips
It has been established that there are numerous health benefits to hiking, so let’s go over how to be safe while you are hiking.
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.
Hike in pairs
There are those of us who value our time alone to decompress and think important thoughts. This can be hard to do when you have someone else along.
That being said, it is a smart idea if you are hiking in unfamiliar territory or if the area is challenging.
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 your hiking partner is there for backup.
Stick to the trails
Although it's tempting to venture off into the unknown for the sake of discovery, 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 without 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 summer heat sets in full force.
Just remember to take along some sunscreen, as you know that ten minutes is all that is needed for you to get your dose of vitamin D.
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.
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.
Hiking once a week is beneficial to you. A hike once a week can prevent heart problems and diabetes, help you maintain bone density as you age, strengthen your body and help you achieve your ideal weight.
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 items you might need.
What is considered a hike?
The main difference between walking and hiking is usually the path that the person takes. Hiking, of course, involves walking.
Hiking often involves walking between higher and lower elevations. The hiker may encounter obstacles, and the path is not always smooth and flat.
What are the main types of hiking?
There are three main kinds of hiking.
- Day Hiking - Hiking that is taken while the sun is up.
- Summit Hiking - Involves reaching the summit or peak of a mountain. Summit hiking may seem too challenging, but doing so provides extreme satisfaction.
- Long-Distance Hiking - This kind of hike usually takes days or seven weeks, trailing from one landmark to the other.
What is the difference between trekking and hiking?
Hiking is walking for a long distance in the woods or state parks. To hike is to immerse in a leisure-like venture on pre-made trails or roads.
While trekking is going on a long demanding journey, typically by foot, making it a more rigorous outdoor experience.
How many people hike in the US?
According to Statista.com, the number of hikers in 2018, reached approximately 47.86 million in the U.S.
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