I went on a 7.5-mile hike near Harper’s Ferry National Historical Park in West Virginia earlier this month. My hike gave me a good cardiovascular workout, thanks to a nearly 1,900-foot elevation climb. Dr. Aaron L. Baggish, associate director of the Cardiovascular Performance Program at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital, told me that hiking may have some extra health benefits.
“The great thing about hiking is that it can range from a quiet stroll through a forest trail to mountain climbing,” adds Dr. Baggish. Almost everybody, regardless of age or athletic ability, may select a hike that meets their personal challenge requirements. Hiking may also provide some unique physical and mental benefits, according to him.
Hiking has a number of advantages, one of which is that it strengthens the core.
Hiking, like brisk walking, is a wonderful strategy to increase your cardiovascular fitness, especially if your route includes some hills, which will put more strain on your heart. Hiking on a trail with a slightly uneven surface is a great method to strengthen your core muscles and improve your balance. Dr. Baggish explains, “You normally don’t get that type of lateral motion from walking on a treadmill or riding a bike.”
However, if you have problems with stability or vision, utilizing walking or trekking poles on uneven terrain might provide you with an extra sense of protection. When walking on soil or grass, use poles with spiked metal points. As you walk, place the pole in front of you to relieve some of the pressure on your knee joints.
Is it true that going on a hike might provide natural stress relief?
Another advantage of hiking could be the restorative and stress-relieving properties of being in nature. Several modest studies suggest that spending time in green spaces such as nature preserves, woods, and even city parks can help people relax. Given the growing consensus that stress is linked to high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart disease, anything you can do to reduce stress is likely to be beneficial. The benefits of trekking in this area are still anecdotal, but outdoor enthusiasts tend to agree. Dr. Baggish, whose own passion is jogging on trails in the high peaks of New Hampshire’s the White Mountains, says, “There’s a tremendous sense of serenity and composure you get from being outside and away from everything.”