Hike your way to better health

Hike your way to better health

6 November 2023

If you’re sick of the treadmill or pedaling to nowhere, lace up and head for the trails. It’s more than just fun.

What are the health benefits?

As a physically gentle endurance sport, hiking reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and strengthens the immune system. Hiking trains the most important muscle in your body – your heart. And the stronger your heart, the less risk you have for heart disease, high cholesterol, pulmonary disease and the secondary effects of diabetes.

Unlike other more intense sports that can be traumatizing to your body, the progressive aspect of hiking provides a complete, all-encompassing workout which will fine-tune your motor skills and improve balance and movement.

Hiking keeps your bones healthy, strengthens your muscles, and supports healthy weight loss. Think about it, a 45-minute off-road hike can burn up to 300 calories, double what you’d torch if you were just walking on the sidewalk. The steeper and harder the terrain, the more calories you’ll burn.

But hiking may have an even more profound impact on your mental wellbeing. Studies suggest that accessible natural areas may be vital for good mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world. Spending quality time outdoors releases stress, calms anxiety and can lead to a lower risk of depression, according to a study done by researchers at Stanford University.

Furthermore, spending time in nature can regulate your circadian rhythm, resulting in better sleep quality.

Every hike provides you with a front row in nature’s amazing performance. It’s an opportunity to experience the sky above you, the ground beneath you, and the peace within you.

Allow your mind to wander and take the time to listen, see, smell and touch nature on one of the myriad of hiking trails on offer in our beautiful country. We’re thinking Groot Winterhoek in Porterville in the Western Cape, which offers exceptional hiking trails, star gazing, and swimming in crystal clear rivers. There’s Giant’s Cup Trail in the Drakensberg region, Amatola Hiking Trail in the Eastern Cape, The Otter Trail on the Garden Route, Fanie Botha Trail in Mpumalanga and the Fish River Canyon Trail, to name but a few.

So, take a break from the daily grind and strengthen mind and body, but go at your own pace. You don’t need to become an expert hiker overnight. Start small and go slow. And don’t forget to look up and down, and all around to take in the bright blue sky, the breeze on your skin and the warmth of the sun.

However, never hike alone. Buddy-up, four is the ideal number. Tell somebody of your intended route and your expected time of return. Sturdy footgear, a broad-brimmed hat, a comfortable backpack, a small first aid kit, and sunscreen is a must. Be sure to pack enough water and snacks on your hike and check out a map of the route before departure. Also, make sure that your cellphone will work in the area so you can get help if you need it.

Happy Hiking!

Source: womenshealthmag.com, nike.com, salomonsport.co.za, wellbalancedwomen.com, health.clevelandclinic.org, health.harvard.edu, goodrx.com, iol.co.za, nps.gov

DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.

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