Seven benefits of hiking in nature
I was 46 when I discovered Hiking and I haven’t looked back. My hobby in 2009 turned into my career in 2015. Like most, Machu Picchu was
on the bucket list but I thought rather than just go and see it, let’s hike the famous INCA Trail. With no hiking knowledge I bought a pair or hiking shoes (after a friend recommended it) walked a few streets in Sydney and headed to Peru to trek this iconic track.
All I can say thank you to my friend for the tip on Hiking Shoes, and goodness did I learn a lot on that trip!
Fast forward the clock to 2014, I was in-between jobs, having just left an Executive Director position at Hewlett Packard before embarking on another Executive position with a French IT company. As I had a few months to spare, I decided to Climb Mera Peak in Nepal. This is a trekking mountain which has a summit at 6400m. After the Inca Trail, I had since climbed Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Mt Elbrus in Russia, trekked the Milford Track and walked our iconic 100KM Coastrek, so, I was ready for this next challenge.
I wrote myself a 6 week fitness program covering Strength, Cardio and endurance hiking. The Mera Peak Expedition was 25 days of trekking in Nepal. My journal quotes “its been 5 days of hiking and no flat stretches. I think if I tally up all the KM and all the flat bits together we might have done 500m of Flat out of 40KM of Hiking“. However, what I did notice, was I was feeling fantastic, my body was prepared for this adventure, much more than it had ever been on previous treks, I was Fit, I felt Fabulous and I was Over Fifty.
When my new Job didn’t work out in late 2015, I decided it was time to escape the IT Corporate world and find a new passion. It was then I realised I could help people prepare for treks and offer a fitness services for those who were like me, over 50 and who wanted to be Fit and Fabulous
In 2015 Sterling Results Fitness Club was established which caters for those “who are or who want to be Fit Fabulous and Over 50” with an emphasis on Hiking for fitness.
Each weekend I take out a range of likeminded people who enjoy keeping fit in nature. They all remark how much more they enjoy this kind of fitness rather than working out on a treadmill or running.
Are they getting any benefits? Absolutely …
Let me combine their experiences with factual research with 7 highlighted benefits
- Ease stress levels.
One of the major advantages of hiking may be the restorative and stress-relieving powers of being outside in nature. A number of studies show that spending time in nature may ease people’s stress levels.
Additional research shows that using hiking as an additional therapy can help people with severe depression feel less hopeless, depressed and suicidal.
Breathing in antimicrobial compounds found in the essential oils of trees increases relaxation and improves stress management resulting in increased vitality and less anxiety, depression, and anger.
Tracey, one of my regular Hikers, has just had a month away from hiking due to work commitments and stated she “was starting to feel negative and depressed”, as soon as she hits the trails last weekend, she said ”her mood was instantly improved and she felt her mental state was revived.”
- Improve your cardiovascular fitness
Hiking is a brilliant way to improve your cardiovascular fitness, particularly if your route includes some hills, which will force your heart to work harder. Hiking on the slightly uneven surface of a trail also provides a natural way to engage the core muscles in your torso and to hone your balance skills.
And it doesn’t take long to see immediate results. Many of my clients who start hiking for the first time, find the first route quite tough on the Cardiovascular system and their leg strength. Within several weeks of consistent weekly hikes, they can tackle hills easier with less stress on the heart, lungs and legs.
Nearly everyone, regardless of age or athletic ability, can find a hike that offers the right level of personal challenge. I offer a range of Hikes form level 1 -15. Where 1 is an entry level suitable for any level of fitness and Level 15 is a multi-day, multilevel hike including hills, unstable terrain, boulder climbs and long distance.
What I love most is seeing people progress from level 1 to level 15
- Burns more calories
In just one hour of thinking you can burn well over 500 calories, depending on the level of incline and the weight of the pack you’re carrying. Most of our hikes are between 2-3 hours so we easily make the 10,000 steps for the day and burn over 1000 calories.
Hiking trails are softer on joints than asphalt or concrete, so it’s easier on your ankles and knees compared to running, Plus we encourage the use of poles for an upper body workout and to take extra load of the Knee Joints.
Giving the growing consensus that stress contributes to high blood pressure and heart disease risk, anything you can do to mitigate stress is likely helpful.
I have conducted my own trials to compare the calorie expenditure from a fitness class, a weight training sessions and hiking. Hiking is #1 at 475Calories burnt per hour, with Weight training coming second at 321 calories per hour.
- Tones the whole body
Regular hiking can get your butt in better shape, but taking on sharp inclines, using trekking poles to propel you forward, and clambering over rocks gives your body an all-over workout. Physiologically, you’re going to work your whole body, especially the lower body — namely the quads, glutes and hamstrings. If you’re carrying a pack, then you’re going to challenge the strength and endurance of your upper body as well.
- Improves overall health conditions
Hiking through the trails on a regular basis decreases blood pressure and cholesterol, thus reducing the danger of heart disease, diabetes and stroke for those at high-risk. In fact, hiking downhill is two times more effective at removing blood sugars and improving glucose tolerance; thereby helping you control, or even prevent, diabetes. Hiking gives your muscles a workout, which moves glucose from your bloodstream for energy.
The recent study found that long distance hiking trips may improve the antioxidative capacity, which helps fight off disease, in the blood of oncological patients. Another study showed that breast cancer survivors who exercised regularly — many in the form of hiking — believed that physical activity complemented their recovery from cancer treatment.
- Hikers are Creative
Research shows that spending time outdoors increases attention spans and creative problem-solving skills by as much as 50 percent. Researchers from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education also found that walking gets the creative juices flowing far more than sitting.
Many of my hikers are self-employed entrepreneurs, many new business ideas are formulated on these hike, plus it is a great opportunity to share and test your creative ideas with the other hikers. In fact just last week we tested new names for a future set of hikes and we had create a name that represented the hike but not impacted other organisation, so COASTALFit was creative , representing a set of costal long distance hikes that will occur in Sydney.
- It’s a social activity
A regular weekend meet-up or a planned long-distance trek can help you forge bonds while you shape up. Plus, interaction with the larger hiking community encourages you to engage with your workout as a lifestyle, rather than a chore, which will make you more likely to stick with it for the long haul.
Many of our hikers state that their regular group of friends aren’t interested in hiking or trekking, our hikes introduce you to a new group of friends with similar interest. We have a regular group of hikers who met on our hikes and have formed a great bond. We all have something in common, we love being in nature and maintaining our fitness level. New hikers are always made welcome and part of the family
Are you inspired to start Hiking?
Here are his tips for a safe and enjoyable hiking experience:
Wear hiking boots and invest in poles. Choose well-fitting footwear with good ankle support, I also recommend the use of poles for hiking in rough terrains or hikes will hills.
Stay hydrated. Don’t forget to take plenty of water along. I recommend 1 litre per hour. In warm, sunny weather, have a small bottle with Hydrolytes for extra Hydration.
Be Aware of the Sun Remember Slip Slop & Slap. Always. As you are in the natural sunlight for many hours, it is imperative to always use sunblock and cover as necessary. Even at 8am in the morning, be prepared for those UV rays.
Bring a map and hike with a partner or a group. A companion is good for both company and safety. If you go alone, let someone know when you plan to return. There are plenty of hiking groups, search meetup or the internet for one that suits you.
Sterling Results Fitness Club covers Hikes for everyone; our hikes occur each weekend from 6.30-9.30am in Sydney’s National Parks. We start early to avoid the heat and ensure you are back with your family and friends by brunch. Occasionally we run full day and multiday hikes, as well as Charity hikes. All ages and genders are welcome on our hikes.
Hikes are led by trained and certified fitness coaches with Wilderness Frist Aid. All hikes are pre-planned with descriptions of terrain, distance and difficulty listed.
Several times per year we also offer local and international treks including those to Nepal, Peru, Tasmania, Kangaroo Island and other exotic locations.
If you are already embarking on a trek in the ear future enquire about our TREKFit program, where I prepare a Fitness Preparation program specifically tailored to your next trek.