If I tell you I did not do a single jogging run last week, you’d think I’m getting slack and lazy, right?
Well, not quite We (I and my family) just got back from a week of autumn holidays in the Swiss Alps where we did lots of walking and hiking. This time we did long (5 to 6 hours) and short hikes (2 to 3 hours), easy (100 to 200 m altitude difference on easy clear pathways) and tough ones (500 m or more altitude difference on difficult terrain). The family consists of middle-aged parents and two seven-year old twin boys. During the week, we did two of our toughest and longest hike yet and I learned a couple of things:
- For my kids, the tough hikes consisting of rock climbing and cliff hugging and crawling on your hands and knees are much more fun and interesting than the easy slopes and incline. We heard nary a complaint during the tough climbs except “Mom, why are you so slow?” During the easy walks however, there are the frequent “Are we there yet?” and “How many more minutes/kilometers?”
- My kids have overtaken me in skills when it comes to climbing mountains, at least when the going gets tough. You see, Mommy is so slow because her knees were trembling as she scrambles and crawls on the rocks. Mind you, I have no fear of heights nor do I suffer from vertigo. But as somebody who was born close to the seacoast of a tropical island, it took me more than 30 years to find my way to the Swiss Alps, much more hike around. But how I got here is another story. This post is about the health benefits of hiking.
According to the American Hiking Society:
- Hiking is an excellent way to lose excess pounds and improve health.
- Hiking can help prevent heart disease, lower cholesterol levels and control hypertension.
- Hiking helps against stress and depression.
- Physical activity such as hiking slows down the aging process.
- Hiking and walking help reverse the negative effects of osteoporosis by increasing the bone density and slowing the rate of calcium.
- Regular exercise, including hiking, can help prevent diabetes and can protect the body from the degenerative effects of diabetes.
- Walking helps strengthen muscles, especially in the legs and thus benefits people with arthritis.
- The disappearance of or enormous decrease in back pain has been identified as the most common, clearly perceived health benefit reported by walkers.
Now, I hope my description of our hikes did not turn you off and made you come to the conclusion that hiking is too challenging or difficult for you. The trick is to start slow and small. I did. My family did. I had to train my body for years, then my kids. The important thing is to start. Now.
Here’s what the American Hiking Society advises:
Beneficial exercise does not need to involve a long, painful and boring workout. A good workout can be a brisk 30-minute hike with the dog, or a slower one-hour hike through a local park. According to the American Heart Association, it’s best to walk vigorously for 30 to 60 minutes three or four times per week.
Here are some tips from Nomad Journal Trips:
- “The first is to walk for more than 20 minutes. This consistently keeps your heart rate up and starts to burn calories. 20 minutes, however, isn’t really going to cut it unless you do it every day. To really break a sweat and build stamina, you want to hike at least an hour. If it sounds like a lot, keep in mind you are going 30 minutes in one direction and 30 minutes back.
Here is what I’ll tell you next: preparing for a mountain hike and taking safety precautions. Stay tuned for my next hiking post. Meanwhile, I am back in the lowlands and have to go for a jogging run.