Heart Health: Benefits of Hiking

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By Dr Arunachalam Esakkiappan

03 May, 2018

#Cardiologist


You know exercise is good for you. The health benefits of regular exercise are hard to ignore, regardless of age, gender or physical ability.

Any exercise, such as a brisk walk for as little as 30 minutes a day, is important to prevent or manage a wide range of health concerns, including heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, maintaining a healthy weight -- not to mention a mood lift.


Hiking is an outdoor activity which includes everything from gentle walking in natural environs, often in mountainous or other scenic terrain to more intense activities on rough terrain.  Like brisk walking, hiking is also an effective way to improve your cardiovascular fitness.


With hiking, you can chart your own course—be it a gradually inclining scenic trail, a steep trek up a mountain, a weekend in the woods or a long-distance experience-- you set your own pace and distance. These variations make it possible for anyone to find hiking exercise apt for their individual workout goals.


The benefits of hiking on your heart
While walking certainly has physical and mental health benefits, a short walk through nature or a regular hike has additional benefits. The beautiful landscapes, fresh air, the sounds and smells of nature can give you a wonderful exercise experience.


Hiking is a wonderful way to improve your cardiovascular fitness, particularly if your route includes some hills, which will force your heart to work harder. It can improve your blood pressure, blood sugar levels, help control your weight, increase bone density and improve mood.


Exercise by itself helps prevent or relieve stress, that can otherwise have adverse effects on your heart health. Exercising outdoors in natural surroundings amplify these benefits. That’s because spending time in nature can lower stress levels and decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety according to studies. Since stress is known to contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease risk, anything you can do to ease stress is likely helpful.


So, are you geared up? Ready to hear the crunch of leaves beneath your feet and view the world from above?
You don't have to live in the mountains of Himalayas or Colorado to reap the benefits-- cities, counties and states all have parks or natural green spaces that are great for shorter hikes to get going.


However, if you have been diagnosed with heart disease, make sure to speak with your doctor before you start any kind of exercise regimen to ensure that it is safe for you to do so, as participating in activities that are too rigorous may lead to complications.

 

Use the buddy system. Statistics show that having workout partners, who share in your health and fitness goals will make your journey more successful.

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