I often talk about yoga, but there’s another type of activity I sincerely love: hiking!
Hiking makes me feel amazing. There’s nothing quite like enjoying every step along a path in nature, then making it up to a spot on the mountain with beautiful, scenic views and just stopping for a moment to take it all in and wonder at the magnificence of this planet. I often hike in Runyon Canyon, which is close to where I live and our organic smoothie and juice shop, Glow Bio, and during my hike I get views of the California mountains that are stunning.
Yet the views aren’t the only reason why I love hiking so much. It’s actually one of the healthiest forms of exercise for you, delivering more benefits than many other methods of cardio by a wide margin. In fact, hiking typically offers much more than your average cardio session.
Hiking Helps Manage Fatty Compounds and Sugars in the Blood
Hiking uphill and hiking downhill each have their own distinct set of benefits, which makes it unique in comparison to other types of exercise. It’s also good to know for the simple fact that if you have any trouble with uphill hiking, you may be able to do the downhill portion and still greatly benefit. Of course, you’ll have to go with a friend and park a separate car at the bottom to get back up again, but these are details that can be figured out- aren’t they- with a little bit of planning. It’s also a great way to get in some quality time with a friend or loved one.
The point is, wherever you live, and whatever your age or health level, you can find a way to use this information about hiking to help improve your health, feel uplifted, and look your best.
Now, for the health benefits. A 2004 Austrian studyi conducted in the Alps and discussed in depth in Pacific Standardii magazine found that:
Going uphill and downhill can lower bad cholesterol.
Going uphill may also lower triglycerides.
Going downhill may reduce blood sugar and boost glucose tolerance.
The 45 subjects involved in the study hiked for three to five hours per week. They hiked uphill only for two months, then downhill only for two months, each time with the help of a cable car to go the opposite direction. Before and after each hike, the participants’ blood was tested to see how much sugar and fat were present after consuming some of each. The results above show a definite difference between the two methods- and both are beneficial.
Hiking May Make Your Mood Brighter
Beyond the ups and downs of mountains and hills, there’s another component of hiking—nature–that can boost your health. Being in nature is so incredibly healing on so many levels. I try to get into nature as much as I can. In a study on depressioniii, walks in nature were shown to boost mood (and memory, too, by the way!). In this particular study, 20 people were asked to think about something bad that had happened to them but hadn’t been resolved yet. Then they were sent out on a 50-minute walk, either in nature or an urban environment. When they came back, the researchers assessed their moods. A week later, they did the same thing again, but in the opposite environment. As you might guess, the nature hikers came back with much better mood and memory results. Truly, nature is wonderful for the soul!
Improved Cardiovascular Health?
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that each year in the United States, 600,000 people die from heart diseaseiv. That doesn’t even count the number of people who have heart attacks and survive! Hiking can help by lowering your risk of heart disease. By exercising at a moderate intensity for 2.5 hours per week, you can make a measurable difference in your cardiovascular healthv. Your cholesterol and blood pressure may also drop with this type of routine.
Even if you can’t hike for that full 2.5 hours a week (it may be hard to get a hike in during the week), fitting at least an occasional hike in can do a lot for your mind and your body. For the rest of that time, do something else that elevates your heart rate and makes you sweat, which is great for detoxing, as well! Go for a walk in your neighborhood, practice some Vinyasa yoga, or ride your bike—whatever you enjoy.
Lowered Cancer Risks
Going on a hike through a forest can boost your immunity and lower your risk for cancervi. In this case, it appears that getting exercise outdoors is the key, not necessarily the incline or decline. In one study, 12 men spent three days and two nights in three different forest fields. Their blood was drawn to compare their immune system — and “natural killer” cells which attack cancer — on days two and three, to their starting point, which was a regular day at work. Almost every one of the subjects had a significant boost in immunity and cancer-fighting abilities.
More Effortless Weight Control
The Beauty Detox lifestyle can help make you slimmer, but it’s still important to get some exercise in, for all the benefits above as well as weight control. A healthy, trim, youthful body is one that moves, and hiking comes with unique cardio benefits, gorgeous views and can boost mood. I also truly believe that there are so many immeasurable, positive benefits from being in nature, beyond what we’ve discussed.
Because you’re managing your weight naturally, you may also be less likely to develop diseases that have been linked to obesity, like the heart trouble mentioned above, or type 2 diabetes.
Take a Hike!
The outdoors can help heal your mind, your body, and your spirit. If you have access to a good hiking spot, I suggest giving it a try soon, and be sure to fuel up with good foods before and after! Begin by picking an easy path until you get the hang of it so you won’t find yourself in a potentially risky situation. Most state parks will have maps and information about incline and difficulty of each trail.
And even if you don’t have access to the steep ups and downs of a mountainside in nature, do an incline treadmill workout until you can, so that you realize some of the benefits we’ve covered. Either way, just get started! And if you are able to take your cardio workouts to the mountains, don’t forget to let me know how you feel and the difference it makes in your health.