4 health benefits of hiking and outdoor exercise

Our world has changed dramatically since the pandemic, and many people feel more isolated. Working from home has become the norm for many, and social media, email, and the constant noise of life 24/7 can make us feel more stressed.

Disconnecting from technology and reconnecting with nature gives our brains a much-needed recharge. Hiking is a great way to get fresh air, especially if you live in an urban area. Several studies indicate that there are real general health benefits of going for a walk.

These are 4 benefits of why hiking is good for your health:

1. Development of bone density

Hiking is a weight-bearing exercise , which means that your bones and muscles work harder against gravity. This helps your body build or develop bone density, which is extremely important as you age.

Studies show that bone density decreases by about one percent each year after age 40. Taking a walk could have a positive impact and help reduce this loss. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends 30 minutes of physical exercise, such as a brisk walk, 5 days a week.

As an added bonus, hiking outdoors gives you a dose of vitamin D thanks to sun exposure. Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium, necessary for bone health.

Hiking with friends

2. Improves the quality of sleep

Not only can a long walk in nature inspire a post-recovery nap, but recent studies suggest it can improve overall sleep quality .

In a 2017 study published in Current Biology , University of Colorado Boulder researcher Kenneth Wright measured the sleep cycles of various subjects before and after a weekend camping trip. During the trip, when the subjects were exposed only to natural light (no electronics), their melatonin levels increased and their internal clocks advanced. The study suggests that being in nature helps us adopt a natural sleep cycle.

3. Improve happiness

Physical exercise promotes the release of endorphins, a brain chemical that triggers positive emotions. Hiking; however, it can improve our mood even more than a walk around the neighborhood.

Gregory Bartman, a researcher at Stanford University. designated 60 people for a 50-minute walk in the woods or a walk on paved streets. The results showed that those who walked in nature experienced less anxiety and regrets , as well as higher positive emotions than those who walked on paved streets.

Do you want to add a little more happiness? Go hiking with one or two friends. Social interaction, especially with people with whom you have a close bond, is an important ingredient for happiness and well-being.

4. Fight depression

That vitamin D from sunlight, which is so essential for bone health, also fights depression. According to a critical review of 61 studies , there appears to be a correlation between depression and vitamin D deficiency. Those who had the lowest levels of vitamin D were also at higher risk of depression, and those who were depressed had higher levels. low in vitamin D.

Outdoor yoga

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include:

  • Fatigue
  • Frequent illnesses
  • Slow healing and bone and / or muscle pain
  • Depression

Participants experienced significant improvements in depression symptoms after receiving treatment for vitamin D deficiency.

In another study , Stanford researchers concluded that subjects who walked in nature for 90 minutes increased activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, the area of ​​the brain associated with depression and anxiety if disabled. The findings suggest that hiking in nature positively impacts mood.

Why go hiking with friends: the role of social support

It’s well known that exercise has a number of mental health benefits , but a recent study found how joining an exercise group can positively influence your goals. The National Institutes of Health analyzed several studies that link the benefits of social support with improved health and general well-being.

Hiking in nature on a regular basis strengthens the heart, lungs and muscles, as well as our minds. Doing it with friends can also bring healthy benefits. So the next time you get to the top of a hill after a dirt road, take a moment to admire the view and appreciate all that you do for your health and happiness.

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