Incorporating regular activity into your weekly routine has numerous benefits. Here are a few to highlight:
Longer life – physically fit people are 8 times less likely to die from cardiovascular disease and have a reduced risk of premature death by 53% in men and 98% in women.
Diabetes control – regular exercise lowers blood sugar levels in people with adult-onset (type II) diabetes.
Lower blood pressure – regular exercise can reduce blood pressure and may prevent or reduce the need for blood pressure medication.
Lower weight, more muscles – exercise can increase metabolism, allowing the body to burn calories faster, thus aiding weight loss. It can also preserves muscle, which promotes fat loss during weight reduction efforts.
Cholesterol control – regular exercise helps to reduce harmful LDL.
Okay, we know that exercise is good for us, but how much do we need? According to the American College of Sports Medicine, the short term and long term benefits of exercise can be experienced with just 2.5 hours (150 minutes) of aerobic activity at a moderate to vigorous intensity level every week. However, performing exercise greater than 250 minutes (4-5 hours/week) provides individuals with significant weight loss results and will also prevent rebound weight gain.
So we now know the benefits of exercise AND how much we need. Now it is time to decide what exercise to begin! There are so many choices out there: walking, exercise classes, sports, running, cardio videos, cross fit, the list could go on and on. Having a hard time deciding which one to choose? Let me help.
Hiking might just be one of the best all around workouts. Why? Just listen to these interesting facts!
Burns Calories: First up, walking and hiking may sound like the same thing, but this is definitely not the case. Research shows that our joints, muscles, and heart perform in much different ways to hiking verses walking. When walking on a flat terrain, our bodies work a lot like a pendulum. Once starting the initial movement, we can continue to walk for a long time without any additional energy. This is not the case when hiking on uneven terrain, where your heart rate and metabolic rate go up, ending up in a higher calorie burn. Hiking on uneven surfaces increases the amount of energy our body uses by 28% compared to walking on flat ground.
Strengthens Muscles: When navigating uneven ground, you are using muscles in your hips, knees, and ankles not typically used when walking on flat surfaces. This can help improve calorie burn, balance, and stability. Using different muscles can also help to prevent overuse injuries, such as hip and knee pain, that is often caused from repetitive level ground walking or running.
Emotional Boost: Another bonus with hiking is that it gives a boost to our emotional health as well. The sights, sounds, and smells of nature can calm activity in the brain that is linked to mental illness. Spending time outdoors also seems to reduce our mind’s tendency to focus on negative, self focused patterns of thought that are often linked to depression and anxiety.
Cheap: Hiking is an inexpensive sport. It does not require paying expensive gym memberships or other workout equipment. All you need for hiking is some water, a good pair of shoes, and a place to hike.
While hiking is an excellent activity for both physical and mental heath, if hiking is not your thing, not to worry. There are plenty of other great forms of activity, the key is finding something that is fun and that you enjoy. Consistency is the key to reap all of the wonderful benefits that come along with exercise! So get out there, have fun, and get healthy!