Hiking and Outdoor Exercise Health Benefits – How to Train Yourself
There is no doubt when we say that the pandemic has changed the world drastically as an increasingly large number of people feel isolated. Working from home has become the “new norm,” and things like constant emails and social media can get us more stressed than before.
If you, too, are someone who has been tired of leading a monotonous life, it is important for you to disconnect from technology and reconnect with nature. What better way to reconnect with nature than hiking in the fresh air? In fact, there are several studies that indicate that hiking and other outdoor exercises can improve your overall health.
Regardless of whether you are an avid hiker or you’re a novice, it is most likely that you have experienced at least a few benefits offered by hiking. Keep reading to know more.
Physical Benefits of Hiking
As you put on your favorite hiking boots and set out for your pre-planned hiking trail, wouldn’t you like to know about the physical benefits of hiking?
1. Hiking improves your cardiovascular health
Hiking has a great impact on your heart, as even the lightest hiking can raise your heart rate. As your heart rate increases, this improves your endurance and aerobic fitness. With time, your body starts adjusting to new levels of fitness and helps you hike faster, longer, and harder without losing breath or feeling fatigued. Hiking also enhances all the markers related to cardiovascular health, like blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
2. Hiking boosts body balance
Balance is not something that people can boast of, as you might feel anxious and stressed out while crossing boulder fields and streams. Therefore it is important to get hold of the trekking pole. Every time you find yourself on such rocky terrain, you will find your balance improving. Gradually, you will start having faith in your balance. When you walk on very long trails, your core muscles are always contracting and engaging to provide balance and stability. This way, your overall balance improves through trekking.
3. Hiking builds bone density
Since hiking is a weight-bearing exercise, it makes your muscles and bones work against gravity. Your body can maintain bone density, which is vital as we age. Studies by CDC reveal that bone density declines by 1% a year as we age 40. Moving out for a hike could have a positive effect in slowing down this loss. The CDC also advises 30 minutes of physical activity, like brisk walking, at least five days a week. Hiking outdoors can also give you your daily dose of Vitamin D from sun exposure.
4. Hiking improves the quality of your sleep
When you go for a long hike in nature, you will most likely need to take a post-hike recovery nap, and this will also improve the quality of your overall sleep. According to a study published in Current Biology, University of Colorado Boulder researcher Kenneth Wright measured the sleep cycles before and during a camping trip. During a trip, when people were exposed to sunlight, their melatonin levels increase.
Tricks to prepare yourself physically for hiking
If you think hiking is a stroll at your local park, you are wrong. This requires excessive stamina and strength. From trekking the Inca Trail to hiking to Everest Base Camp, it is going to be a test of your fitness. Here are a few top tips to prepare yourself for hiking:
- Start training yourself early
Before you plan a hike, you should create a training schedule ahead of time, at least 12 weeks before your hiking plan. Once you start off early, this will let you monitor your progress and stay on track for your biggest adventure. Remember that it is never too early to begin training yourself for a hiking challenge. You can check online for a full training program.
Before you start off with any form of exercise, it is vital for you to warm up your body first. You could go out for a 10–15-minute brisk walk or spend some time with a cross-trainer. Allow your muscles to warm up and let your cardiovascular system feel prepared for the training session.
- Include leg-based cardio in your daily routine
Apart from doing long and brisk walks, you should also include leg-based cardio in your daily routine. Cycling is great for building muscles in your legs, but squash, football, soccer, and swimming are great too. In case you love gym workouts, mix up spin classes or cycling sessions along with your lunges and squats. Remember, the more weight you carry, the better.
- Take the stairs whenever you get a chance
Climbing stairs is a great way of building quads and calves, and so you should take the stairs whenever you get a chance to. Ditch the lift or escalator and choose to take the stairs to build stamina for your hiking trip.
- Include a mixture of your training terrain
As you set forward for a trek, it is most unlikely that you will walk on level roads. Hence, while practicing, make it a point that you mix up the training terrain. Do not just walk solely on roads and footpaths. Try to walk on surfaces that have a similar feel to a hiking trail.
- Train yourself to walk in different types of weather
It is unlikely that you will get favorable weather on your trek. The weather might change suddenly, and you should be ready to combat all types of weather conditions. Train yourself to walk in different conditions- cold, rainy, windy, humid, and warm conditions.
On all your trekking trips, you will be carrying your backpack with you while packing. While this is not an easy job indeed, you should train yourself with a backpack. Make sure you challenge yourself with a weighty bad so that you can fight all odds.
Your feet are the most critical part of your body on a trek, and hence you should do everything to keep them in toe-tappingly tip-top shape. Invest in a pair of good-quality water-resisting hiking boots that provide you with plenty of support.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Kampus Productions; Pexels; Thank you!