Being more active is an important part of living a healthy lifestyle and especially while on your weight loss journey. This doesn’t mean having to find intense activities that will leave you aching for days. In fact, it’s best to find an activity that you actually like and want to do regularly, whether that is swimming, playing softball or going for a run.
Hiking is a great way to stay active and get some exercise. Getting outside and hitting the trails has many physical and mental benefits, especially when done regularly. Experts say that only 150 minutes of moderate activity each week (2.5 hours a week, or 30 minutes a day for 5 days) is enough to reap the benefits of regular exercise. Moderate activity is when you can still talk while exercising. If you must stop talking multiple times in order to take a deep breath, your activity has crossed over to vigorous intensity.
Hiking is a fantastic exercise for the body. Not only is it an aerobic exercise that strengthens the heart muscle, but the varying terrain challenges your balance and core and strengthens nearly every muscle in your body as well. Some of these physical benefits include:
As always, it is best to see your doctor before beginning any regular exercise program to be sure that you are healthy enough to participate.
Hiking doesn’t just benefit you physically. There are many mental and emotional benefits to hiking outdoors as well. Hiking is a natural stress reliever. In addition to the psychological benefits of simply moving more, spending time outdoors in a green space can ease stress levels.
A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found that people who walked in nature for just 90 minutes had lesser brain activity in an area of the brain associated with depression. And this makes sense—millions of people live in a city, disconnected from nature and the natural environment. People living in this type of urban environment have a higher risk of developing anxiety and depression. Reconnecting with nature may help to minimize that risk.
Getting started on a hiking habit has never been easier, especially for a beginning hiker. There are many different types of trails, ranging from easy, paved and flat all the way to an intense mountain climb. Start with a trail that is relatively flat, and gradually increase your intensity. By not doing too much too soon, you reduce your risk for injury and also increase your odds for long-term success.
Despite hiking being a healthy activity, it is still important to consider several safety issues whenever you hit the trails. Make sure that someone knows where you are going and a general time when you will be back. This way, if anything happens on the trails, someone knows where to start looking for you. If possible, try hiking with a friend or partner. Not only is it fun to have company while exercising, but it’s safer to be out with another person, in case of an emergency.
It’s also important to be dressed appropriately, including well-fitting hiking boots or shoes and weather appropriate clothing. Make sure to stay hydrated and carry a sufficient amount of water for the hike and temperature (i.e. more if it’s a particularly hot day). Keep an eye on the weather, too—consider skipping your hike if the day is too hot or if storms are predicted.
Go ahead and try something new! Even if you’ve never been hiking, get out of your comfort zone and hit the trails. If hiking seems overwhelming, start with a simple walk through a local park until you feel more comfortable. You can also find a local hiking club—make sure to check them out and ask a lot of questions to make sure that it’s a good match for you. What is the difficulty level for their hikes? Is it appropriate for beginners? When do they meet? It’s a great way to meet new friends and live an active lifestyle!