As you may already know, I live in the desert. But with temperatures well over 50C in summer and a long school holiday, I spend the summer break in the Swiss Alps. And as you also may know, I am a big gym junkie and I love my spin and weight sessions and Muay Thai training. However, I don’t have access to a gym during the summer. So how do I keep fit? While I do workouts using dvds, t primarily I keep up my fitness and strength by hiking. You may think that hiking is not much of an exercise – but let me explain to you the health benefits, both physical and mental, of walking up and down mountains.
Let’s first look at the physical aspects of hiking:
- -Hiking is a weight bearing exercise (even more so if you carry a heavy backpack!!). As such, it encourages stronger and denser bones. It also builds muscle, especially your glutes, legs (quadriceps, hamstrings, calves), hips and core.
- Hiking improves your fitness by making your heart work. If you have ever walked up a hill you know what I’m talking about. Hiking up a mountain for a couple of hours or more gives your cardiovascular system a super workout (again, add a heavy backpack and the effect is even bigger!). And a strong cardiovascular system reduces the risk of strokes, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes and obesity.
As a result of the above two points, hiking can help you lose weight. Unless of course you compensate with more food intake. And hiking definitely gets me hungry, not only through the physical effort, but by being outdoors in fresh air. Just stick to a healthy diet.
As for the mental aspects, there are many:
- Hiking in wifi free areas is a great way to unplug from the world. You know how I like to post on my instagram account, but it’s good to take a break for a while. There is a strong connection between spending more time in nature and less time with technical devices and increased creativity.
- Being outdoors in a beautiful environment brings peace and the opportunity to connect with nature and oneself. It reduces stress and increases positivity. Looking at beautiful mountains, forests and animals is more interesting than the walls in my gym.
Most of the time I go hiking with family and friends. It’s a great opportunity to catch up and enjoy the outdoors together. Shared experiences like this make memories for a lifetime. But sometimes I like to go hiking alone for more of a meditative exercise. Then I enjoy the peace and quiet, the beauty of nature and the steady steps up and down a mountain invite my mind to let go of stressful thoughts.
How do you enjoy hiking? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts. Until then – I am off now to go for another hike.