How Good Is Hiking For You?

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Hiking is inexpensive and easy to start, so you can participate no matter what your current fitness level is now. It can help you to lose weight and build a healthier body.

“Hiking is a wonderful way not only to participate in aerobic exercise, but also to clear your head,” says board-certified family physician Ray Sahelian, MD, who not only recommends hiking to his patients but also practices what he preaches by hiking regularly in the mountains near his Southern California home.

Hiking works almost every part of your body: from your ankles on up to your hips and butt for the lower extremities and your arms, stomach, back and shoulders for your upper body.

Texas allergist William Howland, MD says, “I’m just a guy who likes to be outdoors; hiking offers benefits for both the mind and body.”

Hiking offers psychological benefits as well, say Sahelian and Howland. “There’s a feeling of relaxation and enhanced well-being that comes on after a few-mile hike in the woods,” says Sahelian.

So what can hiking do for your body? According to an article in the Huffington Post, hitting the trail works out your body as much as it does your brain. Just one hour of trekking can burn well over 500 calories, depending on the level of incline and the weight of the pack you’re carrying. Hiking is a great way to get a serious workout without putting too much pressure on your joints. “Trails are often softer on joints than asphalt or concrete,” Caroline Stedman, a seasonal Park Ranger at northern Wisconsin’s Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, says, “So I find myself feeling less stiff and creaky after a hike than a jog down a sidewalk.”

Hiking also helps elevate your high-density lipoprotein levels and lower your triglyceride levels. This reduces your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. It also can help with controlling Diabetes and effecting the actual prevention of this disease. Other health benefits in a variety of studies have shown it lowers cancer risk, increases bone density (it’s not just an aerobic exercise–it’s weight bearing too), and alleviates insomnia.

So lace up your hiking shoes and hit a trail near you for some mood and heart elevating fun!