Hike Your Way to Better Health

Melanie Rovinsky

With the nice weather upon us, it’s hard to stay inside and get done the massive amounts of work you have to turn in before the end of the semester. However, getting outside is more beneficial to your health than you might think. And attending school in a hilly, mountainous state like Connecticut means your options for hiking are nearly limitless. According to the American Hiking Society (AHS), a nonprofit organization in Washington D.C., the following health benefits can be achieved through hiking:

Preventing Heart Disease

Hiking is a fun way to prevent a sedentary and inactive lifestyle. The AHS claims a person of 150 pounds can burn up to 240 calories in one hour when hiking at a speed of just 2 mph. In addition to boosting cardiovascular health and trimming your waistline, hiking can also reduce cholesterol levels. Hiking stabilizes cholesterol levels by dilating arteries and increasing the amount of HDL (good cholesterol) in your body.

Decreasing Hypertension

With our sodium-laden diets, Americans are often plagued by high blood pressure. Before you go on medication like the majority of the population, try hiking regularly. The AHS says that regular hiking lowers systolic and diastolic blood pressure by a mean of 10 mmHg. This is caused by a lowering of norepinephrine, which correlates with blood pressure improvement.

Improving Mental Health

Have you ever felt that complete sense of relaxation after exercising outside? If so, you’re not alone! Like all cardiovascular activities, hiking releases endorphins that trigger you to feel good. Hiking has been shown to reduce stress, depression, and other mental ailments. Of course, being outside has its own mental benefits! Being outside can not only give you your daily vitamin D, but getting away from the hustle and bustle of your everyday life can help bring you mental clarity and relaxation.

Strengthen Bones and Joints

Hiking can help prevent osteoporosis by increasing bone density, allowing bones to be stronger and less susceptible to breaking. Another benefit of hiking is that it provides an excellent cardiovascular workout while still being low-impact. Hiking, especially on dirt trails, will not put added stress on knees and joints. This is especially good for individuals with arthritis who tend to avoid exercise because of joint pain. Interestingly, hiking will strengthen leg muscles, which actually alleviates some of the pressure put on the knees and ankles.

Try these Connecticut hiking trails today!

Sleeping Giant State Park (Hamden)

Hubbard Park/ Castle Craig (Meriden)

Bear Mountain (Salisbury)

West Rock (New Haven)

Kent Falls State Park (Kent)