Most people know that hiking is good for you. They know it's a great way to get some exercise and fresh air. But they don't know how hiking changes your body.
People often think that hiking is only for experienced mountaineers, but this could not be further from the truth. Hiking is one of the best exercises you can do for your body, but most people don't know this because they think of it as just a recreational activity.
Walking up and down hills gets your heart pumping and can help to improve your overall cardiovascular fitness. In addition, hiking can help to build muscle strength and reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases. It boosts your immune system and helps lower your blood pressure.
Few things can match the feeling of hiking through nature, surrounded by nothing but trees and wildlife. But what you may not know is that hiking provides a range of health benefits that can change your body for the better. This article will discuss some of the amazing ways hiking changes your body. From improving heart health to reducing stress levels, hiking has something to offer everyone.
We scoured and researched all scientific journals to bring you the most comprehensive list of how hiking changes your body. We also took feedback from avid hikers to get a first-hand account of how hiking has changed their lives.
Gain Control Over Weight
Hiking is a great way to control or lose weight. When you're hiking, your body is working hard to carry you up and down the trails. This activity can burn many calories, making it an excellent way to shed some pounds. If weight loss isn't your goal, hiking can still help you maintain a healthy weight. According to the Harvard Medical School, "adults who are overweight and get regular physical activity such as walking to have lower death rates than those who are normal weight but don't exercise." In other words, even if you're not trying to lose weight, being active like hiking can still improve your health.
If you're looking to lose weight, aim for a hike that gets your heart rate up and makes you sweat. A challenging hike will help you burn more calories and improve your fitness level. On the other hand, if weight maintenance is your goal, any level of hiking will do. Just make sure you're moving at a pace that feels comfortable for you.
Improving Heart Health
Hiking is a great way to get some fresh air and exercise for many people. But did you know that hiking can also be good for your heart? Hiking gets your heart pumping and blood flowing, which can help reduce your risk of heart disease. A recent study found that hiking can lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels. In addition, hiking can help to strengthen the heart muscle and reduce the risk of heart disease. And because hiking requires both aerobic and strength training, it is a particularly effective exercise for heart health.
Furthermore, hiking in nature has been shown to positively affect mental health, which can also reduce the risk of heart disease. One study found that people who exercised outdoors had lower rates of heart disease than those who exercised indoors. So not only is hiking good for your physical health, but it's also good for your mental health as well.
Reducing Stress Levels
Today, we are all faced with unprecedented levels of stress and pressure. Whether it's the demands of our jobs, financial pressures, or the expectations of our families and friends, it seems like there is always something in our lives that can lead to feelings of tension, worry, and anxiety. At the same time, many people recognize the value of connecting with nature and getting outdoors as a way to soothe their minds from these excessive stresses.
First of all, hiking provides a great opportunity for exercise. Spending time outdoors enables us to get the regular exercise needed to benefit both body and mind. Furthermore, hiking is also an inherently peaceful activity that allows us to disconnect from our hectic day-to-day lives and simply enjoy nature as it unfolds around us.
When you're hiking, your body releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects. In addition, being in nature has been shown to reduce the stress hormone cortisol levels. So if you're feeling stressed out, a hike in the woods may be just what you need to reset and recharge.
Whether we go at a slow or brisk pace or choose to meander along on well-traversed trails, or find ourselves bushwhacking through untraveled routes in search of fresh vistas, being rooted in the natural world is an invaluable tool for cultivating inner peace in an age of chaos and uncertainty. By getting outside and connecting with nature, we give ourselves the chance to center our thoughts, tap into our creativity, and simply let go of the stress that is weighing us down.
Strengthen Your Muscles
In addition to the heart, hiking also helps to strengthen other muscles in the body. Because hiking is a weight-bearing activity, it helps to build strong bones and muscles. In fact, research has shown that regular hikes can help to prevent osteoporosis and improve bone health.
Hiking also requires the use of many different muscle groups, which can help to improve muscle strength and tone. From your legs and glutes to your core and arms, hiking works a variety of muscle groups all at once. And because hiking often takes place on uneven terrain, it provides an extra challenge for stabilizing muscles like those in your ankles, knees, and hips.
By strengthening these stabilizer muscles, you can reduce your risk of injuries both on and off the trails. In addition, strong stabilizer muscles can also help to improve your balance and coordination.
Improves Your Balance and Coordination
In addition to strengthening your muscles, hiking can also help to improve your balance and coordination. The uneven terrain and varied elevation changes challenge your body in new ways, forcing you to constantly adjust your footing and body position. This helps to strengthen the muscles that support your joints and improve your proprioception, or ability to sense the position of your body in space.
As we age, our balance tends to decline, which can lead to falls and injuries. However, research has shown that regular hikes can help to improve balance and coordination in older adults. As a result, hikers often have better balance and coordination than those who stick to level ground. Moreover, the mental focus required to navigate rough terrain can help to improve your overall concentration and attention span.
Increases Bone Density
Hiking is a great way to get some exercise and enjoy the outdoors, but did you know that it can also help to increase your bone density?
As mentioned before, hiking is a weight-bearing activity that helps to build strong bones and muscles. When you walk or run, your bones are subject to impact forces as your feet strike the ground. This impact stimulates cells in your bones called osteoblasts, which lay down new bone tissue. With regular exercise, these osteoblasts continue to add new bone tissue, resulting in increased bone density.
In addition, the uphill portions of the hike force your muscles to work harder, which increases the load on your bones and further stimulates new growth. The best part is that you don't have to be an experienced hiker to reap these benefits - even a short stroll in the park can have positive effects on your bone health.
Hiking is an excellent way to keep your bones healthy and prevent conditions like osteoporosis. In fact, research has shown that just 30 minutes of walking per day can help to prevent age-related bone loss. So if you're looking for a way to keep your bones healthy and strong, hit the trails.
Improves Metabolic Efficiency
Hiking is a great way to improve your metabolic efficiency. By definition, metabolic efficiency is the amount of energy you expend in relation to the amount of work you produce. In other words, it's a measure of how much energy your body uses to do a certain amount of work.
When it comes to hiking, studies have shown that people who are more metabolically efficient use less oxygen to do the same amount of work. In one study, hikers with the highest levels of metabolic efficiency used 20% less oxygen for hiking at the same pace as those with the lowest levels of metabolic efficiency. This means that their bodies were able to do the same amount of work using less energy.
There are a number of factors that contribute to metabolic efficiency, and one of them is the muscle-to-fat ratio. The more muscle you have relative to fat, the more metabolically efficient you'll be. So, in addition to improving your overall fitness, hiking can also help you become more metabolically efficient.
Boosts Testosterone Levels
Hiking can also have positive effects on your hormones, specifically your testosterone levels. Testosterone is a hormone that plays an important role in muscle growth, fat loss, and sexual function.
While testosterone levels naturally decline with age, there are things you can do to keep them high. One of those things is exercise, and research has shown that hiking can be particularly effective at boosting testosterone levels.
In one study, men who did two hours of moderate-intensity hiking per week for three months saw significant increases in their testosterone levels. The participants also had decreases in their body fat percentage and waist circumference. Another study found similar results in sedentary men who started walking for just 30 minutes per day.
Hiking is an ideal form of exercise for boosting testosterone because it's a weight-bearing activity that gets your heart rate up. This combination of factors helps to stimulate the production of testosterone. So, if you're looking for a way to naturally increase your testosterone levels, hit the trails and go for a hike.
Exposure To Vitamin D
Hiking is also a great way to get some vitamin D. Vitamin D is an important nutrient that helps to keep your bones strong and your immune system functioning properly.
Although you can get vitamin D from food and supplements, the best way to get it is through exposure to sunlight. When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it produces vitamin D.
One of the great things about hiking is that it gets you outside in the sun. This means that you'll be getting plenty of vitamin D if you go for a hike on a sunny day. Just make sure to wear sunscreen, so you don't damage your skin.
About THE AUTHOR
I’m a hiker, backpacker, and general outdoor enthusiast. I started hiking out of college while working for the National Forest Service, and have been hiking ever since. I’ve been solo hiking and leading hiking groups for two decades and have completed hundreds of small hikes and some majorones such as the Appalachian Train and the Pacific Crest Trail, and hiked on four continents. I’d love to share some of my insight with you.Read More About Peter Brooks