Most of us know the importance of exercise. However, with increasingly busy lives, it is vital to prioritize the activity that gives us the most significant health benefit. Working out at a gym might appear less than desirable after a day of sitting at a desk in the office. It is not surprising that an increasing number of people are beginning to ditch the gym and have started hitting the trails to enhance their health. Moreover, the great news is that just half an hour of walking or hiking can make a fantastic impact on your health.
Trekking in the mighty Himalayas or any of the mountainous areas offers a wide range of benefits to our mind, body, and soul. The breathtakingly picturesque views, the serene and quiet moments of self-reflection. Trekking and backpacking in the outdoors give so many health benefits which range from the physical to mental and the spiritual. There is something naturally majestic, gratifying which eventually provides an abundance of confidence as you increase your habit of trekking in the lap of mother nature.
1. Experience the rich flora and fauna
You can come across an unusual species of birds, diverse wildlife, beautiful plants along with trees that have medicinal valuable healing properties that can rarely be spotted in crowded cities.
2. Invigorated heart and lungs
You can get clean, fresh air with enhances your respiratory system and capacity of the lungs. The more fresh air you breathe, the more capable your lungs become; the more blood the heart pumps, the healthier it gets. Hiking for more extended periods with a backpack makes for a great cardiovascular workout, especially when you push yourself to a point when talking becomes quite difficult. Giving yourself a good exercise not only invigorates your heart but also lowers cholesterol and blood pressure.
3. Improved Fitness and Weight Loss
Several surveys show that extended periods of daily hiking with a backpack between 6-8 hours turns the body into a competent fat burning and testosterone-fueled machine. Trekking involves walking up and down hills. The uphill walks can bring the heart close to the target heart rate while giving it time to recover on the downhill walks.
4. Perseverance and Discipline
Long distance walking while persevering to reach a destination tests the hiker's patience and determination. The trekkers have to abide by a few guidelines and remain disciplined on the mountains as the hills have its share of risks. Trekking can be a solo activity or in a group, If trekking in a group, teamwork needs to be involved while walking with the team. Helping each other adds to the fun of the journey while motivating the less experienced hikers.
5. Mental benefits
Mountains can provide an unmistakable level of serenity that is rarely available in the hustle and bustle of a city. The scenic views,
The picturesque views, captivating water bodies, the snow-clad mountains, the beautiful starry nights all help in calming and soothing the mind. The breathing of fresh air, admiring at the breathtaking nature makes our bodies release endorphins a happy hormone that reduces the stress levels and makes us happy.
6. Longer life.
Research has shown that just hiking for 8 kilometers at a slow pace is sufficient to reduce the risk of strokes, heart failures, and heart attacks slightly above 30%. 8 kilometers is estimated around 10,000 steps, and you can monitor this in one of the several modern smart gadgets. Studies have also shown that remaining active is a significant way to reduce that risk of cancer. Working out lowers the estrogen in your bloodstream which can be the main reason why breast cancer in active women is less likely.
7. Revamp your mood
Doctors encourage exercise such as walking to avoid depression increasingly, and numerous clinical studies have shown that training has improved depressive symptoms almost as well as the medicine for anti-depression. Trekking is a perfect mood booster as it combines the physical benefits of a workout with the added mental health of being in nature while socializing with other hikers on the trail.
Increasing studies show a link between mental wellbeing and the number of time people spend in nature. Some clinical studies have shown other benefits of spending extended periods in nature include - reduction in stress and blood pressure, improved energy levels and sound sleep.
In the ever-increasing fast-paced society, increased emotional well-being and reduced stress are some of the great health benefits of trekking!
8. Strong and Agile bones
The agility and flexibility of the leg muscles increase with the up and down walk on the undulating terrain. Trekkers have well-toned leg muscles which not only look good but also makes the ankles more stable. Some trails involve climbing as much as 1000 meters and the same amount of descent which provides an excellent workout to the legs, core and arm muscles. Hiking with a reasonably heavy backpack can help in the increment of your bone density.
It has been recorded that trekking has been helpful to people with arthritis and back pain (you need to adjust the straps of your backpack to avoid more damage). The hiking trails can be a mixture of comfortable soft ground or rocky paths that can twist your ankle, and you need to be mindful when hiking. Carrying a suitable load is useful not just to give yourself a better workout, but it is a perfect way to increase your bone density. An added benefit of trekking is being a low impact way of exercising which is ideal for those who suffer from joint pain.
9) Improve your balance
Hiking on the hills is an excellent way to improve mental agility to strengthen your core which in turn helps to improve your balance. The irregular surface helps the small muscles that stabilize your ankles to get stronger and starts reacting faster when you lose balance. These muscles are essential for proprioception - it is your body's sixth sense which helps in giving you the ability to catch yourself when you trip or prevents tripping with better balance. This 'sixth sense' will decline like all muscles if we stop using them, especially when we get older; making us more likely to get injured from falls in old age.
10) Increase focus and productivity
It has been proven that a meager ten minutes of movement can increase productivity and mental focus. It is good to go out and walk during the lunch break. One can improve your attention by the reduction of stress and increasing physical fitness by going on extended hikes during the weekend breaks. You will benefit from some of the best ideas that come when hiking on the lap of mother nature away from your work desk.
11. Experience local cultures and local food
Trekking can bring one across a vast area and involve going through some remote villages. You can stay with locals in the growing number of homestays, taste their local food and learn about their culture; these fantastic experiences are only available to those who walk as there are no roads to bring in mass numbers of visitors.
12. Survival Instincts
One can learn to sustain oneself with minimum resources while trekking. You can put yourself out of the comfort zone into unfamiliar territory and conditions can turn bad without much warning as it does in the mountains - a test for both your mental and physical prowess. It is better to be equipped to handle emergencies such as shortage of water, food, how to start a fire, wilderness first aid, making temporary shelters if you plan on going for an extended period into a remote area to hike. Be sure to inform friends and family of your planned route, estimated places you plan to stay overnight, etcetera in case you miss a turn or take the wrong trail.
13. Disconnect From Technology
You will be away from your laptops, perhaps even cell phone network, television, and many other distracting gadgets once you are in the hills. The freedom from these gadgets can re-teach you to appreciate and reconnect with nature while being independent of the electronic devices. Trekking in nature is a great way to reconnect with yourself, self-discovery and reflection.
14) Make new friends!
We all know how fun it is to meet like-minded people, but a bonus is the health benefits of making new friends. It has been proven that adults with more extensive social circles have lower blood pressure and live longer.
Being with a group of like-minded people with common goals on hiking trips can increase one's sense of belonging and purpose - a great way to enhance your emotional wellbeing.
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NOTE: Raj Tamang is a wellness aficionado, having focused on keeping trekkers and his team members fit through diet and proper treatment during their treks. While Raj has no formal qualifications in this field, he has done plenty of research over the years. He understands the benefits of keeping healthy and using whole foods to nourish both himself and his team correctly. Please note, while Raj is experienced in the field of wellness, his advice should not be taken above or instead of medical professionals' guidance.