Hikers get more benefits from outdoor exercise

Hiking burns more calories than walking as hikers move their body weight up and down with the trails’ elevations.

Reluctant exercisers visualize fitness as hours on a treadmill or lifting weights in an overcrowded gym. But some of the fittest individuals look to the great outdoors for exercise. According to Denise Mitten, contributing editor of Hiking and Backpacking, exercising in nature can help increase and maintain fitness levels and contribute to overall health and well-being.

“Contact with nature is correlated with living longer, and actual biochemical changes occur in response to trees, plants and animals,” Mitten says. “We experience long-term benefits from improving and maintaining physical fitness through hiking and backpacking, both on the trail and at home.”

Because of minimal special equipment or skills and the ability to modify intensity, hiking allows participants to start at any fitness level. Hiking burns more calories than walking as hikers move their body weight up and down with the trails’ elevations.

When first starting, choose a flat trail close to home, and work up from there.

Techniques for building a hiking routine

  • To warm up for a hike, walk slowly for three to five minutes and lightly stretch for two to five minutes.
  • The objective is to walk at a steady, unbroken pace. Start at a pace where you do not get winded while carrying on a conversation. The pace will depend on your fitness level, your load and the terrain.
  • As you hike, regularly take long, deep breaths. This helps circulate oxygen to the muscles and prevents lactic acid buildup.
  • With each mile per hour you increase your speed, you double the amount of energy you expend.
  • To cool down, lightly stretch for five to 10 minutes, focusing on the legs and ankles.

 

For more information on Hiking and Backpacking, contact 1-800-747-4457 or visit www.HumanKinetics.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 26, Number 5, October/November 2007.

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