Outdoor hiking has lots of benefits for the body and mind. The best part being the ease of start – anyone can start hiking no matter how fit or unfit you think you are.
You do need to prepare for hiking. There are two reasons why you should prepare for hiking – either because you are starting back into it or you need to train for a big backpacking trek.
You need to work on your lungs, heart, so they are fit enough to supply the body with adequate oxygen during your hike. You also need to prepare the leg muscles as they will be providing core body support for you during the hike.
Arthritis Prevention and Relief
Walking is the best activity for preventing arthritis pain in the knees. While it is true that you can walk around in your neighborhood or around the mall, hiking, on the other hand, helps prevent arthritis as it provides the varied terrain needed for building up your leg muscles.
When you have arthritis, you might think walking long distances will aggravate your joint pain but it is further from the truth. What you need to do when you have this disease is to walk more because the lack of exercise can cause stiffness and pain on your joints. Hiking provides relief for arthritis as well as prevent it by strengthening the muscles around the joints and help maintain your bone strength.
Studies have emerged that shows that walking or hiking for an hour can cut your risk of being affected by stroke in half. Walking briskly can lower your risk to high cholesterol and high blood pressure according to a study from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The researchers analyzed runners and walkers and found out that the same energy used for moderate intensity walking and vigorous intensity running resulted in the same reduction in risk for high blood pressure and diabetes. Even, if you can’t run, walking long distances will help prevent cardiovascular diseases in your body.
Here are some activities that will prepare your body for hiking
Exercising on a treadmill will help build your endurance as they are more forgiving on the knees than walking on concrete as long as you walk evenly. Vary your course while working out on the treadmill, go up on inclines and declines to prepare your legs for the trail. Make sure you don’t need to hold on to the grip when going up or down – if you do, then you are going too fast.
2. Elliptical machine
Working out on an elliptical machine helps to bridge the gap between stepping and cross-country skiing. It will contribute to fixing knee or lower back problems due to its low impact as such it doesn’t negatively affect joints, bones or muscles. Elliptical trainers also have lower Perceived Rate of Exertion making it easier for participants to carry on for longer periods.
Psychological Benefits of Hiking
Hiking offers more than just physical benefits to the body. Here are some physiological benefits of hiking and why it is good for your mental health.
When you’re struggling with work or unable to get free flowing ideas, hiking might be able to help you out. Walking around in nature has been an inexhaustible source of inspiration for musicians, poets and business leaders over the years, it can provide you with much-needed inspiration as well.
Research has shown that spending time outdoors increases problem-solving skills and attention span by 50% and the authors of this research linked this to the absence of technology. As you spend more time with nature, you tend to listen more, observe more and stay alert.
Hikers tend to be more creative than those who don’t hike. Some researchers from Stanford University Graduate School, took it a step further as they found out that walking gets your creativity flowing way better than sitting down at the desk.
2. Increase Happiness Levels
Hiking is like most physical activities that you undertake. It boosts your mood by releasing the feel-good hormone called endorphins that make you feel happier and better about yourself. Hiking promotes mental health by relieving you of the stress and anxiety of your circumstances. Sometimes when we work on a task that doesn’t get successful, we feel less of ourselves than we really should. When we hike, and we complete the hike, there is a sense of accomplishment that comes with it, and this is accompanied by happiness as well.
Regular hikers who spend time reconnecting with nature are simultaneously disconnected from the social drama and the internet. They don’t have the daily worry or problems that most of us face. Spending more time in nature also helps you put things in perspective. It teaches you what’s important in life and what should be forgone and it makes you see that every other thing is a brain filler.
Safe Hiking Tips
When you’re starting out new, there are some safe hiking tips that you should follow as a beginner.
1. Hike in groups
Group hikes are fun and they take the guesswork out of planning for unfamiliar areas. The best way to get better at hiking is to hike with other people and learn from them.
2. Hike once a week
If you want to build you your endurance and get to that level where you can go on strenuous hikes, you need to practice more often. You can start by hiking once a week at your local park – either in a group or by yourself. It doesn’t even matter where you hike as long as you walk.
3. Hydrate properly
you need to carry enough water on your hikes. The average you should plan for is 1 liter for every 2 hours. This depends on a lot of factors such as the time of the year and weather conditions. But learning how much water you need in these situations is a skill you have to learn as well by learning how your body works.
4. Comfortable hiking gear
Get into warm gear. Wear comfortable shoes, get waterproof backpacks that will be easy to strap to your back for long distances. Get the needed essentials as well. Map and compass are often required, sun protection, fleece sweater, headlamps and medical kit.