Hiking is one of my favourite activities and living in Vancouver, we are spoiled with an amazing environment to explore. Not only does hiking get you outdoors into nature with fresh air (4 Reasons To Get Outside This Summer), and the rewarding sights, sounds, and smells of natural beauty, but it has also been correlated with many health benefits. In essence, hiking is a low impact but a powerful cardiovascular workout which can involve the whole body.
Some of the health benefits this activity confers are:
1. Lowering risk of heart disease
Controls blood pressure and cholesterol levels by supporting cardiovascular fitness and function.
2. Regulating blood sugar
Moderate exercise increases heart and respiratory rate which causes your body to use more glucose in the bloodstream for energy.
3. Enhancing circulation
Sedentary lifestyles are the main risk factor for decreased blood flow to the feet and legs (peripheral arterial disease/intermittent claudication), so hiking helps pump blood to and from the lower body, limbs, and brain.
4. Increasing lung/breathing capacity
Respiratory rate increases during exercise as the muscles require more oxygen supply and the diaphragm works to provide this while removing carbon dioxide.
5. Boosting bone density
Hiking is a form of weight-bearing exercise which strengthens bones by increasing density while decreasing calcium loss to prevent/combat osteoporosis and fracture risk.
6. Strengthening your core
Your abdominals, obliques, and lower back muscles are all used when you hike to keep you steadily moving forward, especially if you are carrying a pack.
7. Building muscle mass
The lower body (glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calf muscles primarily) get a workout while hiking. Using poles helps to distribute the load and engage the muscles of the upper body as well.
8. Improving balance and stability
The uneven ground found in nature causes your body to recruit different muscles in your hips, knees, ankles, and core to maintain a stable base and prevent you from falling/tripping.
9. Losing body fat weight
Walking on varied terrain that goes up and down increases energy needs by 28% compared to walking on flat ground so you burn more calories hiking.
10. Stabilizing mood and mental health
Numerous studies have shown that being in nature decreases stress and anxiety, as well as supporting a balanced mood with exercise-induced endorphin release.
Some easy local hikes to get you started:
- North Vancouver
- Quarry Rock
- Capilano Canyon (Cleveland Dam)
- Lynn Loop
- Lynn Canyon (Lynn Valley Suspension Bridge, 30-foot pool, twin falls)
- Mt. Seymour
- Dog Mountain
- Mystery lake
- West Vancouver
- Cypress Falls
- Lighthouse Park
- Cypress Mountain
- Bowen Lookout
- Hollyburn Mountain
- Pacific Spirit Regional Park
- Belcarra Regional Park
- Jug Island
- Admiralty Point
For more information on the hikes listed above check out: