Looking for an easy way to get in better shape? We can think of no better all-around exercise than hiking.
After a year spent mostly downscaling our lifestyles, many of us have also noticed a physical effect: weight gain, loss of energy, diminished strength and muscle tone. So, let’s take advantage of one of the greatest gyms out there: Mother Nature! Let’s reboot our fitness goals by hiking this spring.
There are many benefits to hiking. First, how is hiking different from walking or running?
Hiking is essentially a long walk, often on trails with slight changes in elevation. Walking is everyday activity we take to move across short distances. Both are beneficial, but hiking increases the aerobics of movement, and can be enjoyed in scenic locations. A 60-minute hike could burn up to 650 calories depending on the trail, the intensity, and your own weight. Bonus for those who hike uphill!
Hiking is just a step up from walking, which also means that it’s super easy to jump into even with little experience, or equipment. Compared to running, hiking increases your cardio in a low-impact way, with less chance of experiencing injury.
Other benefits include:
- Weight-bearing hikes can improve your bone density, lowering your risk of osteoporosis
- It’s easier on your joints than running, which can benefit those with arthritis
- Builds muscles, and increases strength and endurance
- Can decrease insulin dependence in those with Type 2 Diabetes
- Lowers your risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even some cancers
- Sends feel-good endorphins through your body, helping to deal with stress, sleeplessness and other emotional issues
- Plus, hiking outdoors exposes you to beneficial Vitamin D from the sun (even when it’s cloudy!)
Want to increase the benefits of hiking? Add trekking poles, which engage the muscles in the upper body and will help you burn more calories. You can also add items slowly to your backpack, to build strength in your back, hips, and shoulders. Plus, over time, you can add more hills to your regular hike, working your muscles more than hiking over flat surfaces.
Looking to find the right trail to start your hiking habit? We suggest the George S. Mickelson Trail, which runs 109 miles between Dumont and Edgemont. It’s a popular spot where even the newbie will feel comfortable. The Centennial Trail by Bear Butte State Park is also idyllic, with lakes and streams along the way toward Hot Springs. Black Elk Peak is perfect for experienced hikers used to higher elevations.
Another recommendation: Prepare your body ahead of your hike, whether you are a novice hiker, or a seasoned pro. Increase your daily walks and exercise, especially if you plan to hike for several hours or even a few days. Get plenty of rest, good nutrition, and hydration. And book your chiropractic adjustment a few days before your hike, and a massage a few days later. Have a great hike – it’s a great way to celebrate this spring!