8 TRAITS OF HAPPY AND HEALTHY HIKERS
1 | HAPPY AND HEALTHY HIKERS ARE ACTIVE FOR LIFE
It is possible to get a great workout in at the gym or at your home; however, the benefits are not the same as you get with hiking. Hiking takes you outdoors where you can connect with nature, get an amazing cardio workout and build muscle all at the same time.
Hiking can become much more than an exercise you do to achieve your fitness goals — it can become a lifelong activity. Perhaps you are in a place right now where you have tried hiking, but found it difficult. Maybe you had to stop every few minutes to catch your breath or you felt that others were looking at you in a condescending and judgmental way. Don’t let this discourage you! Anyone can start hiking regardless of their fitness level. If you can climb stairs, then you can hike in Mother Nature’s gym where you can achieve the ultimate workout.
2 | HAPPY AND HEALTHY HIKERS HAVE INCREASED LUNG CAPACITY
Hiking is a great activity for increasing your overall lung capacity. The total lung capacity
is the maximum amount of air a person’s lungs can hold, which is approximately four to six liters (4000 to 6000 cm3) for the average person. Typically, a third of this capacity is used during normal activity, but this fraction increases during strenuous activity when the body requires more oxygen.
Breathing more fully is the key to preventing lung and leg fatigue while hiking. David Ross, M.D., a pulmonologist at UCLA Medical Center, states that when you take deeper breaths, you use more air sacs in your lungs, which allows you to take in more oxygen to feed your muscles.
3 | HAPPY AND HEALTHY HIKERS MAINTAIN A FIT WEIGHT
Since hiking burns considerably more calories than walking, you are likely to see a noticeable increase in weight loss if you previously stuck to walks around the neighborhood for exercise. If you have a tendency to sweat quite a bit during workouts, then wear a sweat band or bring a light towel. Hiking will quickly raise your heart rate (you can burn up to 450 calories per hour) so even when it’s cooler outside it doesn’t take long to warm up.
A person who is 175 lbs and hikes for two hours on a hilly terrain can burn up to 1,100 calories. If the same person spends two hours walking on flat terrain, they will burn approximately 500 calories. Over the course of a week, if you hike for a total of six hours, you will lose 1/2 pound more than the walker. In windy weather, the wind resistance can boost your burn potential by approximately 5 percent, experts say. Hiking is an excellent total-body workout.
4 | HAPPY AND HEALTHY HIKERS STAY FIT OFF THE TRAIL WITH STRENGTH TRAINING
These exercises, which emphasize both leg and core strength, can be done at home without the need of equipment.
Wall sit: This exercise is great for increasing quadricep strength which comes in handy during those steep descents. This one is especially beneficial for those with knee problems.
Squats: This exercise is great for all around leg strength and is one of the best leg exercises you can do. If you do have a history of knee problems, start with the wall sit and/or modified versions of the squat until your leg strength improves.
Crunches: Lower abdominals/core strength.
Calf raises: Will increase ankle and calf strength. The stronger your ankles, the less likely you are to turn or twist them when walking over uneven terrain. Also, stretch your calves after finishing the exercise.
Leg raises: These are good for upper abdominals/core strength. To give your lower back support, place your hands underneath your buttocks, palms facing down.
5 | HAPPY AND HEALTHY HIKERS TAKE SAFETY SERIOUSLY
Hiking safety starts with the person leading the hike. The leader should know the terrain and area that will be hiked. The leader must be listened to at all times and this person should also keep the party informed and consult with them regularly. The main objective is to keep the group safe. The group’s fitness level also must be in alignment with the hike. The leader must know his group’s ability and choose a route accordingly. There is no place for arrogance in hiking and decisions by the leader in times of danger are based on the experience and his assessment of his hiking party.
Additional safety gear to bring should include: Warm clothing, rain gear, and a hat, a blaze-orange vest or hat during hunting season, first aid kit, a knife and emergency shelter.
6 | HAPPY AND HEALTHY HIKERS ARE SOCIAL BUTTERFLIES
Hiking with friends can be a great way to catch up and get some great exercise at the same time. This honestly is one of my favorite ways to spend time with my friends.
The conversations are typically uplifting and you will find that hiking with friends is inspiring and motivational. If you don’t have friends that like to hike, then you can join a meet up. Meetup.com is a place where you can connect with others that like to do the same things as you.
7 | HAPPY AND HEALTHY HIKERS DRESS FOR THE SEASONS
Choose clothes that will wick away your sweat so you don’t feel clammy and/or wet during your hike. This will also help to eliminate body odor. Also, choose a fabric that is soft but will also minimize any chance of chafing. Overall, one fabric to stay away from is cotton. A “polypro” shirt, synthetic fleece, and a coated nylon or “breathable” waterproof outer shell will keep you both warmer and drier than a single heavy overcoat in cold, damp weather. Since hiking will make you sweat, no matter the weather, shedding layers enables you to regulate your body temperature more effectively than choosing between keeping a heavy jacket on or taking it off.
8 | HAPPY AND HEALTHY HIKERS HAVE GREAT ATTITUDES
The mental health benefits of hiking are just as important as the physical benefits in my opinion. Hiking is an excellent way to relieve stress, exercise the body, and calm the mind.
Recent studies have also found that hiking may increase the ability to focus, and increase creativity and problem solving.
Research shows that just five minutes of exercise in a natural environment boosts your mood. Lush green scenery is more motivating than a gym television permanently stuck on the news. One study found that backpackers scored 50 percent better on a creativity test after spending four days in the outdoors, disconnected from electronic devices. Our mind can relax when we turn off our cell phones and tablet devices, scientists say, freeing up our imagination.
A study that was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences was conducted to determine the impact that nature has on one’s mind. Researchers compared the thoughts of participants who walked through an urban environment for 90 minutes with those who walked through a natural environment.
They found that those in the natural environment reported less negative thoughts and also had reduced neural activity in the pre-frontal cortex – an area of the brain related to mental illness.
The researchers also found that increased urbanization correlates with increased instances of depression and mental illness. Spending time outdoors surrounded by nature can greatly benefit one’s psychological and physical well-being.