Understanding the Health Benefits of Hiking

Understanding the Health Benefits of Hiking

Feature Staff Special

Not everybody has the same affinity for working out at the gym—and there’s no reason everyone needs to exercise the same way. In Colorado, you can hike the area’s famous terrain to reach a superior level of cardiovascular fitness and enjoy nature while you do it. Here are some of the many health benefits of hiking.

1. Increases caloric burn

Your heart and metabolic rate naturally shift when you hike across unsteady land. This is because hiking requires more effort than walking, so it stands to reason that it’s going to help you burn more calories. According to a University of Michigan study, the power generated when hiking is 28% higher than when walking.

2. Reduces the impact of repetitive stress injuries

Navigating through hiking trails engages muscles you don’t normally use, which strengthens hip, knee, and ankle joints. Hiking invigorates these neglected muscles and decreases your risk of overuse injuries, which are common in repetitive exercises like running and walking.

3. Improves your mental state

Urban settings and separation from nature may lead to mental illness. A study from Stanford’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found that people who walked for 90 minutes in nature had decreased activity in areas of the brain associated with depression. Additionally, Deutsches Arzteblatt International, a German journal of clinical medicine, published a study that reports people living in cities have a higher incidence of mental illness than those who live in rural areas.

4. Improves your overall heart health

Walking downhill has different—but equally beneficial— effects on your heart versus walking uphill. A Harvard studytracked cholesterol levels on people hiking both uphill and downhill. While both forms of exercise reduced bad cholesterol, hiking downhill was, “almost twice as effective as uphill hiking at removing blood sugars and improving glucose tolerance.”