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Hiking Your Way To A Healthier Lifestyle

Among the many ways to lose weight, activities that promote cardiovascular activity tend to rank highest. This is especially true during warmer months when taking advantage of the sunshine and light breezes can make exercise seem much less strenuous, and may even spark some fun. Although walking is usually the most popular of this form of physical activity, it stands to reason that hiking might be better for you in more ways than one. Not only does it force your body to work harder at what it’s doing, but it also provides mental health benefits as well.

Finding Entertainment In Your Workout

It’s been proven through more than one study that incorporating nature into your life, even just once a day, can make a huge difference in your emotional and mental health. People who take the time out for a walk or work near a window with a view of the great green outdoors rank higher on happiness scales, and tend to be more positive in general. Hiking promotes these feelings of sunshine and smiles by getting you outdoors and close to Mother Nature while getting your heart rate up. Liz Neporent of dummies.com suggests:

If you want to get in shape, hiking can take the boredom out of walking. It gets you out in the fresh air and allows you to commune with nature. Even if you live in an urban area, you’re probably just a 1- or 2-hour drive from some scenic walks.

Having something to do while you’re working out other than just focusing on how long you have left in your walk, jog, or run can be a huge help. Distracting your mind from the fact that you’re exercising so that you think about it more like hiking for fun than hiking to get fit will make you want to take part in this activity more often.

Eating Healthy To Fuel Your Hike

Once you really get the hiking bug you’ll find yourself finding ways to make your outings better, and this begins with what you’re putting into your body. Of course, eating healthy is an important factor in getting fit, but it also provides you with the energy and nutrition necessary to finish a long hike without feeling fizzy or tired. Jennifer Andrews of Live Strong says:

Adopting healthier eating habits in the weeks prior to your hike will boost energy levels and fuel muscles for extended exercise. Poor eating habits will leave you lethargic and weak, so avoid foods high in fats.

There are plenty of websites and guides for new hikers, including those who have experience in hiking. You can also consult with a dietitian or your family doctor about which foods can help provide you the most energy that will last over a long period of time. The key is to give your body enough fuel to continue enjoying the activities you’re doing without bulking up on too much heavy ingredients that will sit in your stomach like a brick and refuse to break down properly.

Burn Calories Faster Than Walking

It isn’t just the interaction with nature that makes hiking much more beneficial than simply walking as a form of exercise. Hiking also burns many more calories, and can give you more of a muscular workout depending on the type of trail that you choose. James Fell of Chatelaine Magazine reports:

Hiking is going to burn a lot more calories per hour than walking does. Judging by the increase in your heart and breathing rates, the uphill portion of hiking is similar, from a calorie-expenditure perspective, to that of a moderately-paced run.

For uphill trails that require a lot of climbing over tree roots or sidestepping stones and other debris in your path you’ll find yourself strengthening your core and leg muscles as you go. Hiking on uneven ground can provide you with other physical advantages as you stretch and incorporate more of your body into your workout, but be careful that you watch your step and that you are wearing well-fitted hiking boots and other required apparel before attempting this type of trek.

Be Social And Find Adventure

Just as nature can bring you some entertainment value and mental stimulation during your period of exercise, utilizing hiking as a way to participate in group activities can give you the opportunity to encounter new adventures while meeting interesting people. Unlike jogging or running where it can be difficult to keep a steady pace with the person you’re with, hiking allows you to stay at similar speeds, helping each other along the trail. Foregoing the constant panting also means that a conversation can transpire, and this can take your mind away from thoughts of exercise, and you can focus, instead, on the fun that you’re having.

Pushing Yourself To The Limit

Hiking is one form of exercise where you can really challenge yourself to push harder, go faster, and be better. It’s difficult to give up on a hike because it’s a two way journey in most cases. Unless you choose a trail that will lead you in a circle, you’re likely to find yourself hiking out to a particular point, only to realize that the hike is only halfway finished. Fitday.com states:

One thing that makes hiking so good for weight loss and exercise is that you’re forced to walk. If you spend an hour hiking away from your car, you’ll have to spend another hour hiking back to your car.

This means that even if you do give up on a hike, you’ll be gaining additional exercise as you continue back to your starting point. Many hikers find themselves tracking distance and time as they go along, and working to make and break records each time they visit the same location twice. You can find local trails and other hiking grounds by running a quick online search in your area. Many of the hiking regions you’ll find will include maps that show you where to go, how far the walk will be, and whether it’s difficult, moderate, or easy.

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