December 15, 2013

How Hiking Is Good for Mind, Body, and Soul

Many people write about how hiking or being out in nature is good for the body and the mind, but everyone shies away from mentioning your soul. I think this is important to help feed the soul and let it absorb the wonders of nature and refresh itself in the beauty around you.

This article in WebMD emphasizes the body and mind being helped by hiking and this is true. Hiking does have its perks. You can take advantage of the scenery, fresh air, sounds, and smells of nature. This is true if you are not downwind of certain animals and some landfills.

Hiking in nature is a great cardio workout that equals or exceeds the benefits of walking. These benefits include less risk of heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, and colon cancer. Then you can add help with blood pressure and blood glucose levels. Many people forget about the benefit of boosting bone density, and helping prevent osteoporosis.

Besides the above, hiking can help in weight management, muscle strength in most of the muscle groups. Gregory A. Miller, PhD, president of the American Hiking Society says, "Research shows that hiking has a positive impact on combating the symptoms of stress and anxiety."

Safety should always come first. Always consult your doctor if you are starting a hiking regimen to make sure there are no health problems that could end this. These hiking tips should be kept in mind:
#1. Start slow. Short local hikes are best for beginners and keep them on fairly level terrain at the start.
#2. Bring a buddy. Starting slowly means, you should not be on unfamiliar or remote trails, but if everything looks good, it is wise to take a buddy or be part of a group. As your skill improves, you may be more comfortable going solo.
#3. Know before you go. Always familiarize yourself with the trail map, check the weather and pack for the day. If storms are predicted, it may be wise to rethink your plan for the day.
#4. Use common sense. Until you know the hiking area, follow marked paths and trails. Avoid contact with questionable plants, give certain animals a wide area, and be careful of the pungent animals.
#5. Get into a groove. On days when it is wise to avoid nature trails, try to power-walk on hilly terrain in familiar areas. Try to carry various amount of weight in a backpack (water is always good). This will help keep your hiking skills and fitness level up.

Are you past the beginner level? Now it is time to get more out of your hiking and boost your fitness level. The following are suggestions:
#1. Use poles. Use poles to dig into the ground and push yourself forward for increasing upper body strength and to give you a stronger cardio workout.
#2. Head for the hills. Even a short hill may intensify your heart rate and burn extra calories.
#3. Bump it up. If you have the stamina and no problems, try some uneven terrain, which will work muscles and improve balance and stability.
#4. Weigh yourself down. Add extra weight to your pack (see #5 above). This can boost your calorie burn while strengthening your lower back muscles.
#5. Keep safety first. I cannot emphasize this enough. Always be alert for animals in some areas of the country, such as bears, and even coyotes. Most of the time they will avoid you, but if they are hungry, then be wary. Listen to news reports for animal problems near when you are planning to hike. Animals can vary by the area of the country in which you live. In some of the southern areas of the USA, snakes and other reptiles may be of concern.

Above all, enjoy yourself and consider taking a camera with you. David Mendosa has a blog you should read about his exploits with his cameras.

Always take your blood glucose meter and testing supplies with you, in addition to glucose tablets or glucose gel, and if needed, your medication.

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