Health Benefits of Hiking
The UK has a big fat problem! According to government statistics published by Sky News recently, around two thirds of British adults are either overweight or obese. Women apparently have a slightly higher obesity rate than men, and age is a factor, with people becoming more likely to be overweight the older they get. Worryingly, a third of people in England over the age of 35 are actually obese! Income too seems to be related to obesity, as households with the lowest incomes have higher obesity rates than others.
The impact of obesity on the nation's health is immense. Obesity is a major cause of diabetes, and the NHS spends £8.8bn (almost 9% of its annual budget) per year treating Type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, according to Cancer Research UK, being overweight is the second biggest cause of cancer after smoking. According to the charity, being overweight is behind more than 1 in 20 cases of cancer, and keeping a healthy weight could help prevent the disease.
There can be no doubt about it, obesity has reached crisis levels in the UK and many other parts of the world. There are many contributing factors, and the trappings of the modern world seem to make fighting the flab particularly hard. Gym membership has skyrocketed in recent years as people strive to keep the effects of modern work and eating habits at bay. Many people have also discovered the benefits of another great way to fight obesity; I am talking about what is perhaps the simplest and most inexpensive form of exercise possible; hiking.
In this article we will take a look at ten of the many benefits of hiking. It may not be a panacea for all ailments, but it is certainly a cure - and a means of preventing - a great many of them.
1) Walk Away the BluesFeeling fitter and in control of one's weight leads to improved body image and confidence. so it's not just the physical benefits that you'll notice when you start walking. Walking can work wonders for mental health. Being active improves mood, sleep quality and self-esteem, and reduces anxiety, stress, and fatigue. Physically active people are up to 30% less likely to become depressed, and physical activity helps people suffering from depression to recover. In older people, staying active can improve memory and cognitive function, and reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.
2) Vitamin Deal With It!As people spend more time at home, a daily dose of Vitamin D has never been more important to help us stay well. Vitamin D is important for a huge number of functions in the body, from supporting strong and healthy bones to maintaining the immune system. Most of the body’s Vitamin D comes from sunlight shining on the skin. When we get sunlight on our skin, our body produces a substance called cholecalciferol. This is then turned into calcidiol and then calcitriol by the liver and kidneys. Calcitriol (the active form of Vitamin D) is what Doctors measure to assess Vitamin D levels. While vitamin supplements may help keep vitamin d levels healthy, it is vital that we get a good dose of sunshine on a regular basis. What better way to do this than to go for a good hike?!
3) Heart of the Matter
According to popular writer on health issues Jane Chertoff, walking at least half an hour a day, five days a week can reduce your risk of coronary heart disease by approximately 19 percent. The risk of heart disease may be further reduced if you increase the duration or distance walked per day.
4) Burning UpWalking is a great way to burn calories, something essential if one wants to lose weight. Your actual calorie burn will depend on several factors, including walking speed, distance covered and terrain (walking uphill is more beneficial than walking on flat surfaces). Using a calorie calculator can be helpful to keep track of how much you're burning off.
5) Sweet EnoughDiabetes is an utterly devastating and deadly disease. Perhaps because it is so common, people often underestimate its seriousness. In fact, as well as causing great inconvenience by forcing sufferers to treat themselves with insulin, diabetes can lead to strokes, blindness, gangrene and death. Hiking is a great way to reduce blood sugar levels and by extension the risk of diabetes. Prevention is better than cure!
6) Better Together
Judy Heller, a certified personal trainer, walking coach and founder of Wonders of Walking, says joining a walking group helps you connect with others and make friends. A study in the British Journal of Occupational Therapy said that group walkers attribute a boost in their well-being to the social support they get from their walking buddies. Bearing in mind how much of a problem loneliness is in the modern world, hiking as part of a group is a great way to improve one's physical health while at the same time improving one's social life. Check out the website of the Ramblers for more information on walking as part of a group
7) Celebration Time
Another advantage of hiking in groups is that doing so provides mutual encouragement for the participants. Sticking to an exercise regime isn’t easy, so when you reach a weight-loss goal or break a personal record, it's good to celebrate. Being part of a hiking group is great because your co-walkers will understand the significance of your accomplishment and be around to help you commemorate the moment.
8) Overall Wellbeing
A study was conducted in the UK by the University of Derby and The Wildlife Trusts to attempt to measure the impact of a recent "30 Days Wild" campaign, run by The Wildlife Trusts charity. The study showed that there was a scientifically significant increase in people’s health, happiness, connection to nature and active nature behaviours, such as feeding the birds and planting flowers for bees – not just throughout the challenge, but sustained for months after the challenge had been completed. Impressively, the number of people reporting their health as "excellent" increased by 30%. This adds to a growing body of evidence that shows definitively that we need nature for our health and wellbeing. For example, children exposed to the natural world showed increases in self-esteem. They also felt it taught them how to take risks, unleashed their creativity and gave them a chance to exercise, play, and discover. In some cases nature can significantly improve the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), providing a calming influence and helping them concentrate. Hiking is the perfect way to get into nature, experience the wild, and improve one's wellbeing as a result.
9) Freshen Up
Hiking in the countryside is a great way to get a good dose of fresh air. Fresh air strengthens the immune system by increasing the amount of oxygen in the body which helps our white blood cells function properly by fighting and killing bacteria and germs.
Air polluted with traffic fumes forces the lungs to work harder to get the amount of oxygen the body needs, and by going hiking in the countryside, we give our lungs a much needed rest from pollution.
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