Hiking is more than just fun. According to health experts, it is also good for your health. Countless research and studies consistently prove that regular physical activity improves fitness and overall body health. Regular physical activity reduces the risks of succumbing to coronary heart diseases and colon cancer.
Mild physical activities such as walking can be beneficial. However, hiking is definitely for you if you are looking for a high-impact activity that allows you to derive all the cardiovascular benefits. This article highlights the proven health benefits of hiking.
What Does Hiking Do for Your Body?
Reduces the Risks of Heart Diseases and Stroke
According to a John Hopkins University recent study, there is a link between reduced stroke and heart disease risks and time spent exercising outdoors. There is a synergetic relationship between Vitamin D levels and exercise, meaning that the more you exercise, the higher your Vitamin D levels. The higher your Vitamin D levels, the lower the risks of stroke and heart diseases.
Since hiking happens outdoors, the exercise and sunlight combination are ideal ways to keep your heart and arteries healthy.
Increased Bone Density
Typically, body density develops during childhood, levels off in adulthood, and begins a decline at an old age. Lack of body stimulation results in reduced bone density and an inevitable decline of your flexibility. The American Bone Health recommends physical activity, calcium, and Vitamin D for maintaining healthy bones.
Regular hiking gives you a chance to soak in Vitamin D and intense exercise perfect for maintaining healthy bones. Moreover, the higher you hike, the more force you apply to your bones and the more they respond by strengthening.
Strengthens Your Core and Tones Your Body
Hiking engages your torso muscles to keep your posture straight while you trek. In addition, hiking with a good quality day hiking backpack or extra weights engages your abdominal muscles even harder. Even if you only hike easy trails, you will start to notice newly toned abs. Physiologically, you work your entire body during hiking, especially the lower parts-the quads, glutes, and hamstrings.
Improves Muscular Fitness
A single hour of hiking can burn over 500 calories, depending on the incline level and the weight you carry on your back. In addition, hiking trails are typically softer on joints than concrete or asphalt, making it easier on your knees and ankles compared to running.
Moreover, when hiking, your body muscles are repeatedly engaged over long periods, particularly the leg muscles, hip muscles, glutes, and the smaller muscles around the knees and ankles. These muscles build up far more strength and endurance compared to other sports. In a way, hiking is often considered a full-body workout.
It is essential to understand your limits when hiking. Overdoing a hike may translate to sore feet, which could be a problem. Fortunately, after a long hike, you can implement several home remedies to reduce the discomfort in your body, especially the legs. For example, a foot bath massager helps reduce muscle tension, soreness, and general discomfort after a long, tedious hike.
What Are the Social Benefits of Hiking?
Hiking also does wonders for your social life. Here are some of the benefits you should expect from hiking;
Hiking Helps You Relate with People
Real social connections are getting rare daily. However, when you go hiking, chances are you will come across fellow hikers. As humanity dictates, exchanging pleasantries is not a terrible idea. Moreover, you can collaborate with stranger hikers to achieve common goals together. If you were more of an introvert, hiking opens you up to the world and how to relate easily with others.
Hiking Helps you Unplug, Unwind, and Bond
Technological devices have glued people away from each other. They consume your time, social ties, and more. For example, the obsession with mobile phones and related gadgets has led to a 13% decline in time spent with friends in the last few decades.
While this data may not be directly linked to hiking, there is undoubtedly an apparent correlation between spending time away from technology and bonding with friends and family. So plan a hike with your friends and family to unplug from your everyday busy life. Over time, you will notice a closer bond between you and your fellow hiker loved ones.
Why Is Hiking Important for Kids?
Hiking is not age-specific. However, there may be a limit to how young a child should be allowed to go hiking, especially on hazardous terrains. While hiking alone or with your fellow adults can be fun and exciting, there are some benefits to hiking with kids, especially for the kids.
1. Open Space for Creative Play
Kids love to play. Unfortunately, most kids are surrounded by limited options for entertainment at home that limits creativity. Throwing stones in the creek or stopping a hike to climb fallen trees, among other activities, encourage kids to play creatively.
2. Bonding Time with Kids
Rarely do adults get time to bond with their kids between school, work, television, and other distractions. Taking a hike with your kids allows you to engage your kids in deep, meaningful conversations. In addition, your child may feel safer talking to you in the open air compared to at home.
3. Learning Skills
Certain skills may be inevitable under certain conditions. For example, hiking with your kids may be a good time for them to learn a few basic skills such as tying knots, clearing paths, reading the maps, among others.
4. Healthy Body and Mind
Kids also need regular exercises to grow stronger. Hiking engages your kid’s body and mind, helping them stay sharp, active, and fit. In addition, enjoying a form of exercise that you can share with your kids is highly motivating and deeply purposeful.
5. It Is Good for Socializing
Kids love to socialize. Plan a hike for your kids and their friends from school or neighborhood. Hiking cultivates interest in naturally relaxing activities or exciting group projects for kids.
Important Family Hiking Tips
Hiking as a family is a fun experience. It brings you together towards a common goal while keeping you all fit and healthy. However, for a family hike to be enjoyable, here are a few guidelines and tips to make the experience better.
Select a Suitable Hiking Area
Be realistic about what your kids are capable of, considering their age, hiking, experience, and skill levels. Avoid challenging hikes that will strain your family. The hiking trail should not be too long to walk on. Additionally, if you are hiking with your kids, choose a place with visible features such as a waterfall. These features give kids something to focus on.
Carry Water and Snacks
Always pack more food and water than you think you will need when hiking with your family. As kids walk, they become thirsty soon. As such, you need to ensure they are adequately hydrated to keep them energized for the hike. Also, put together a variety of snacks since kids tend to get hungry in short spans.
Prepare for Any Weather
If you plan on a mountain hike, prepare for drastic weather changes. Even if there are no apparent signs of rain, ensure you carry rain accessories with you to avoid putting your kids at health risks. Moreover, dress your kids appropriately when going on a hike. You don’t want to stuff them in heavy clothes when it is hot outside. You can also bring an outdoor blanket for a picnic or just to keep warm during hiking breaks. Finally, carry sunscreen and any child-friendly sun-blocking tools.
Make the Trip Fun
One way to make hiking with kids more enjoyable is to plan activities. Add some fun, engaging activities that keep everyone’s mind occupied during the walk. For example, children love scavenger hunts, so turn the family hike into one.
Managing your expectations is undoubtedly one of the ways to enjoy a peaceful hike with the family. Make peace with the fact that family hiking is not the same as hiking alone or with your friends. It may take longer to cover a mile with your kid than you would alone. However, the point of walking with your family is to enjoy the experience without feeling pressured.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Hiking Everyday Good for You?
Yes and no. Hiking daily is good for you if it is a light day hike. You can use it to substitute your daily gym workouts. There is nothing wrong with daily hikes, especially if you are skilled and experienced.
However, just like any activity, it also has its limits. While hiking every day is good for your health, it can also be dangerous, especially if it involves long hours of heavy hiking. As a beginner, avoid trying to accomplish even the lightest of hikes daily. Do it gradually until you are comfortable enough to hike daily.
Is hiking good exercise for weight loss?
Yes, hiking is perfect for weight loss. Regular and moderately intense outdoor activities typically help you burn calories. The more you hike, the more your weight is more likely to reduce.
What should you not do while hiking?
As a beginner hiker, you need to research some vital safety tips while hiking. Even as an expert hiker, there are some things you need to avoid for your safety. Avoid going off-trail when hiking. You may get lost, injured, or fall. Second, avoid hiking alone, especially if you don’t know the trail well. However, walking as a group helps you combine efforts in certain uncomfortable scenarios. Most importantly, avoid getting intoxicated while hiking. Alcohol can impair your judgment and lead to severe hiking accidents.
How do I start a family hike?
The best way to start a family hike is to prepare everyone mentally before the hike. When kids are involved, the preparation involves more than just mental. You need to pack sufficient food and water for the walk. Most importantly, it would be best to carry any practical and useful tools such as rain gear and a pocket knife, which often come in handy.
Hiking is fun and exciting, especially if you involve your family. In addition, the noticeable health benefits of hiking make it a worthy endeavor for you and your family. Lastly, ensure you prepare well before going on a hike to avoid getting stranded or overwhelmed by regret.