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July 25, 2022

Hiking in nature moves your body and refreshes your mind.

A man hiking

When everyone was on
COVID lockdown in 2020, hiking became a lot more popular. According to a report, the number of hikes in 2020 was 171% higher than in 2019. The number of people hiking alone went up by 135%.


Dr Edward Phillips, an assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School, says, "This makes sense since hiking remains one of the safest COVID activities because it is done outside and away from confined group settings." "Plus, what's a better way to get away from being stuck inside than to spend some time in nature?"


Not just a walk


Hiking is one of the best ways to feel better in both the body and the mind. First of all, it's a great way to build muscles in your legs. When you hike uphill, you work your hips and buttocks. When you hike downhill, you work your quads (the muscles in the front of your thighs).


Walking is a simple way to work out, but it's not always the best way to keep up the aerobic intensity. "Most people walk slowly and stop and start a lot, which keeps their heart rate from going up," says Dr. Phillips.


But hiking up and down uneven terrain uses more energy than walking on a flat surface. Your body has to work harder, so your heart rate goes up, you burn more calories, and your cardiovascular fitness improves.


You can also learn how to stay steady on your feet by trying to find your footing on a trail. This improves balance, which is a skill that keeps you from taking dangerous falls. As Dr. Phillips says, "When you challenge your body, it will change." So, if the hiking terrain makes you lose your balance, it will force your internal system to get better.


Hiking can also help your mental health. Studies have shown that older people who spend time in nature regularly sleep better, have less stress, less anxiety, and less depression. You can go hiking alone or with other people. Researchers have found that going on a nature walk with a group is just as good for your mental health as going on a hike by yourself.



Start hiking


When hiking, it's best to start out small and work your way up. Dr. Phillips says, "Start with easy, flat trails that are short, like a mile, and see how you do." "As your hiking skills and fitness improve, you can gradually move on to more difficult trails with higher elevations and longer distances." When you want to go hiking, make sure you have everything you need. Here are some tips.


Get better at walking. Start a walking program if you need to work on your stamina. For example, walk every day for 10 to 20 minutes and then build on that. "Walking on a treadmill with an incline to simulate hiking uphill is another way to improve your hiking endurance," says Dr. Phillips.


Put safety first. If you can't hike with someone, tell a friend or family member where and how long you plan to hike. Bring your phone and a map of the area, or use a GPS or hiking app (see "Trail markers").


Grab some poles. Using walking poles helps you get around difficult terrain and supports your knees by propelling your body forward as you walk. Poles also make you less likely to trip and fall on uneven ground.


Walking poles have metal tips for trails and rubber tips that can be attached for use on asphalt or concrete. Most of them are adjustable and can be folded up to fit easily in a backpack. You can buy them at sporting goods or camping stores, where the staff can give you advice on the products, help you adjust the height, and give you a quick lesson on how to use them.


Stay hydrated. Before, during, and after your hike, you should drink water. Set your phone or sports watch timer to remind you to drink often.


Look at the weather. If you don't know what the weather is going to be like, wear layers that are easy to take off and wrap around your waist. Roll up a windbreaker, rain jacket, or poncho and put it in your backpack.


Help yourself out. Spend money on shoes made for hiking or trails that have good ankle support. Wear socks that reach your calf to keep your legs from getting bitten, scraped, or scratched.


Trail markers

Check out these sites to find local trails:

Hiking apps, such as AllTrails, Gaia GPS, and Hiking Project, provide detailed maps and real-time guidance to help you stay on course

Reference: Harvard health

Photo by Pexel


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Disclaimer:

No Health content on this site, regardless of date, should be used to replace direct medical advice from your doctor or another trained practitioner.
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