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Outdoor Hiking: Why It's Good for the Body and Mind

Sep 20, 2010

Outdoor hiking has a myriad of benefits for both the body and the mind. Hiking is inexpensive and easy to start, so you can participate no matter how fit you currently are. Most people live within driving distance of wonderful hiking spots and discovering these places is a good way of getting to know an area. Here's a look at some of the benefits of hiking.

Outdoor Hiking Promotes Mental Health

Hiking is much more varied than many other types of exercise, particularly those undertaken in a gym. Not only can your workout be different each time, depending on the trail you take, but the landscape will also change, if only from the seasons. Hiking outdoors can help you to maintain your motivation for exercise by making it more interesting. Hiking can also be as social as you like. You might feel embarrassed about exercising on the streets or in a gym when you're first starting out, and hiking on an isolated trail will decrease the chances of feeling like people are judging you (although you should always tell someone where you are going for safety's sake). Alternatively, hiking with a group or a friend can feel more like entertainment than exercise, and campsites are often very friendly places where it is possible to meet new people.

Exercise is a very good stress reliever in any form, including hiking, and can also reduce insomnia, leading to better mental health. Hiking outdoors will help you feel closer to nature and natural rhythms, which may increase your happiness and help you feel more fulfilled. A difficult hike, for example, up a hill or mountain, can also help you feel like you've achieved something more tangible than completing a fitness circuit at the gym.

Outdoor Hiking Promotes Physical Health

Hiking is a great exercise because it is easy to adjust to any level of fitness. Outdoor hiking can be on a level, well maintained path, or up a pathless mountain. This makes it excellent for people who are hoping to improve their fitness, as they can simply take more and more difficult hikes. Losing weight is another benefit of hiking. This is particularly true of hiking uphill, as this can burn similar amounts of calories to jogging. Exercise can help reduce insulin resistance in both the short and long term.

As hiking puts pressure on your bones, it encourages healthy bone structure and reduces the chances of osteoporosis. Being exposed to sunshine will also increase your levels of vitamin D. Hiking is a cardiovascular activity, depending on how hard you push yourself during a hike, and thus has benefits for your cardiovascular system, such as reducing the chances of heart disease, and increasing your overall fitness. Hiking is excellent for muscle tone, particularly cross country hiking, as your body and legs have to compensate for the rough terrain by working harder.

Hiking is a wonderful activity that is easy to start and continue, due to its varied and customizable nature. Outdoor hiking can help you to lose weight, clear and ease your mind and build a healthier body.

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