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During winter most of us like to sit under a warm blanket with a cup of coffee. While this may be soothing for the soul, getting off the couch is better for your health.
Going on regular hikes can improve your overall health in many ways. We have done some research and found ten reasons to ditch the blanket and put on your hiking shoes.
1. Decreases blood pressure
Worldwide, high blood pressure (hypertension) is estimated to cause 7.5 million deaths each year.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), getting some exercise, such as hiking, can make a big difference in the fight against this condition. Physical activity makes your heart stronger and a stronger heart pumps more blood with less effort. This decreases the pressure on your arteries, leading to lower blood pressure.
2. Relieves pain naturally
Are you struggling with back pain, or suffering from chronic neck pain? A hike might be just the medicine you are looking for. Hiking releases endorphins that act as an analgesic, resulting in a diminished perception of pain. The endorphins are manufactured in the brain and spinal cord and also act as a sedative. They bind to the same neuron receptors as pain medication and can therefore relieve chronic pain.
3. Makes you happy
Regular hiking releases feel-good brain chemicals, such as serotonin, that lift our mood and lower our chances of developing a mood disorder such as depression. Because social support is often an integral part of treatment for depression, joining a hiking group might be an added benefit.
4. Improves memory
It has been well documented that physical activity such as hiking can improve cognitive function. Hiking reduces insulin resistance and inflammation – two factors which experts believe play a role in Alzheimer’s disease. Taking a nice walk in nature can also improve the overall health of brain cells, as well as encourage the growth of new blood vessels in the brain. All of this can help you maintain a healthy memory.
5. Fights obesity
According to the WHO, in 2014 more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight, of whom 600 million were obese. Exercising, especially intense activities such as hiking, is an integral part of the treatment for obesity. Because obesity is a major risk for developing cardiovascular disease, regular hiking can speed up your metabolism and help to prevent high cholesterol.
6. Strengthens your immunity
The regular exercise one gets from hiking can help to improve your general health, and therefore result in a healthy immune system. It promotes good blood circulation, which means that beneficial substances can freely travel through the body. Exercise is a good way of keeping that nasty flu at bay – however it’s not a good idea to exercise when you are ill.
7. Helps you sleep better
Most of us feel tired after a long hike, which will naturally help us to sleep better. Studies have shown people sleep better and longer when they do regular exercise such as hiking. The evidence also suggests that hiking will make us feel more alert during the day.
8. Improves bone and muscle health
Research has shown hiking not only strengthens your muscles and bones, but is a powerful way to slow down the development of osteoporosis. The movement involved in hiking builds your bones, making them stronger. Added benefits are that your balance and flexibility will also improve – reducing the likelihood of a fall.
9. Decreases anxiety
The same way hiking can reduce depression, a walk in nature can also reduce symptoms of anxiety. Exercise like hiking reduces adrenaline that accumulates during periods of stress. It calms the body and can decrease the intensity of symptoms in future periods of anxiety.
10.Encourages better posture
Going for regular hikes encourages one to adopt a good walking posture, upright and straight, but relaxed. Good posture prevents muscle aches and keeps the spine from becoming fixed in abnormal positions.