Friday, March 27, 2009

Healthy Hiking Happiness

One of the best all-around aerobic activities that anyone can engage in is hiking. Yes, going to the gym and pushin' the pedals, trampin' the treadmill or strainin' on the stair-stepper will definitely burn off unwanted body fat and do your body good. But a gym can't compete with nature, in my opinion. Just off the top of my head, here's three benefits of hiking over indoor aerobic activity:

  1. Breathing crisp, fresh air is healthier than the intake of body-odor-sweat-laden gym air. Tastes better too! smile_wink
  2. Hiking stimulates & sharpens every physical sense.
  3. Increases brain function.

Check out this excerpt from author John McKinney:

From William Wordsworth's poetry to the Boy Scout hiking merit badge pamphlet, tramping through the countryside has long been considered a tonic for good health.

"Walk out the door and find good health. There is no fever that a 10-mile hike can't cure," suggests Garrison Keillor, the wry host of National Public Radio's Prairie Home Companion.

Millions of Americans who like to hike believe that hiking contributes to good physical and mental health. And yet, until recently, nearly all evidence offered for the benefits of taking a hike was anecdotal, and very little hiking-specific scientific research supported that belief.

In 2004, Austrian researchers announced the results of an intriguing study demonstrating that different types of hiking have different influences on the fats and sugars in the blood. For the study, one group hiked up a ski resort mountain in the Alps and descended by cable car, while the other group rode the cable car up and hiked down. After two months of hiking, the groups switched hiking programs and repeated the experiment.

As expected, hiking uphill proved to be a great workout and provided measurable health benefits. Unexpectedly, researchers from the Vorarlberg Institute for Vascular Investigation and Treatment discovered that hiking downhill also has unique benefits.

Both uphill and downhill hiking reduced LDL ("bad") cholesterol. Only hiking uphill reduced triglyceride levels. The study's surprise finding was that hiking downhill was nearly twice as effective as uphill hiking at removing blood sugars and improving glucose tolerance. A second study of uphill/downhill hiking was conducted this summer, but results have yet to be announced.

Pretty interesting information. I always knew that hiking was great for the body, but Mr. McKinney breaks it down and shares info that I didn't know. For the rest of the article, go on over to Miller-McCune at .