When the cooler months settle in, sometimes we feel less inclined to get outside and exercise. The good new is, there is no better cooler activity to boost health than getting outside and hiking! So, in this blog post, let’s explore some of the health benefits associated with this perfect cool weather activity.
Exercise is a must for all of us. There is no exception. Humans are designed for movement and physical activity, and the best way to ensure that we will get needed amounts of exercise is to find activities that we enjoy and will WANT to participate in. Some of the most important health-boosting things that hiking does for us is it improves cardiovascular health. Remember that the leading cause of death in the US remains heart disease, so certainly steps (no pun intended) we can take to improve heart health makes sense. Hiking also helps improve muscular endurance and condition, which trust me, is a good thing. Hiking also improves lung function, and with as much time as most of us are forced to spend inside, any excuse to get outside in the fresh air is something that our lungs will thank us for!
Something that we might not think about, but is a major health concern especially as we age, is bone density. Hiking is a weight bearing activity that can help increase bone density, which decreases the risk of conditions such as osteoporosis. Maintaining adequate bone density as we age decreases the risk of breaks and fractures.
Hiking is also a great way to help lower the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. These are three conditions in which the majority of medications prescribed in the US are linked to. It is also worth noting that daily outdoor exercise has been shown to be more effective at treating depression than the leading prescription drugs for the condition. These conditions also lead to more serious health conditions, so avoiding things like high blood pressure is something that we should focus on.
Hiking is a great form of exercise to assist with weight management. 2 in 3 people in the US are overweight and over 1/3 of the population is classified as obese. It is apparent that we need more ways to help control body weight, which leads to more health complications, and hiking can be an enjoyable way to motivate you to exercise. It is also a great activity that we can do with others, which helps to improve our level of social wellness.
One final benefit of hiking that we also might not think about in terms of exercise, is it helps us have more restful sleep. Sleep is necessary in order for the body and mind to recover from the day and anytime we exercise, we help ensure better sleep. Getting more sleep helps with things such as improve mood, better skin, less likelihood of accidents, and lowering the overall risk of chronic disease.
The awesome thing is, this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the health benefits that hiking offers, so when time and weather allows, take a hike! And better yet, invite others to go with you. Many areas have clubs that meet once a week and do group hikes together. Make certain to take certain precautions like bringing plenty of water, healthy snacks, a first aid kit, and map. It is important to stay on the paths and not venture too far from your vehicle, especially in areas that are unfamiliar. Let others know where you are hiking, and be aware of local wildlife precautions as well. Other than that, go out and have an adventure!
Dr. Christopher Weaver DC, PAK is a Doctor of Chiropractic and Professional Applied Kinesiologist. He's published two books on health and Wellness.