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Hike Your Way To Happy

Some close friends of mine got together one afternoon and decided to go on a local 3-mile hike. We were out of breath before we even made it to the beginning of the trail. I'm not sure if it was from lack of exercise or laughing so hard one of us had to find a bush (if you know what I mean, ladies). Nonetheless, we put one foot in front of the other and kept going.

It was refreshing to breathe in the fresh air and feel the wind blowing in our hair. Some of us fell back while others kept a consistent pace pressing forward to get to the top. We didn't have a care in the world. Studies show that a 10-minute walk immediately boosts brain chemistry to increase happiness. So it is true, hiking makes you happier.

We weren't trying to speed hike or do any technical climbing, but we were conditioning our bodies to the movements one lunge at a time. At the 1.5 mile mark, there was a landing with a very large boulder flat on top. At this point, we drank some water, did some stretching, and enjoyed the spectacular view. This is where we were going to perform The Hiker's Workout, which consists of the following:

  • 20 squat jumps
  • 20 jumping jacks
  • 15 mountain climbers
  • 15 push-ups
  • 10 burpees

We were supposed to rest 10 seconds between each exercise and complete the entire sequence five times. We didn't all make it five times. OK, none of us did. However, this became our goal. Hiking became a way for us to get in shape and deepen our bonds of friendship.

With 1.5 miles left to go, our conversation became less as we focused on the challenge ahead. Us girls had grit, and no one was turning back at this point. A sense of accomplishment was setting in as we admired the beauty every step of the way. As we got closer to the end of the trail, we could hear the waterfalls. We experienced a burst of energy when we realized we were almost there. 

Then, we made it! It was to some extent magically euphoric, the mist from the waterfalls and the gorgeous green trees seemed to be shouting: 'Go with the flow, let your cares fall away, immerse yourself in nature and STAY ACTIVE!'

Physical Benefits of Hiking

Guess what? You don't need a hard-core rugged hike to get the benefits. Hiking is more like taking a long walk in nature. You can move at any pace you like, at any elevation, and for any number of miles. Tricky trails vs. easy trails – both have their perks. If you're counting calories, then know that a moderate one-hour hike might burn about 400 calories. But it also helps to sculpt your core and your legs. The higher up in elevation you go, the better the benefits. 

Hiking is not just about melting calories, it can also help alleviate stress. Here are some other positive benefits of hiking (or regular exercise in general): 

  • Helps prevent diabetes
  • Increases bone density
  • Reduces heart disease
  • Helps with osteoporosis and arthritis
  • Increase cardio fitness
  • Keeps your weight under control
  • Helps you sleep better

Other Benefits of Hiking

  • Fresh air contains more oxygen
  • Greenscapes raise serotonin levels
  • Increase feelings of well-being and lowers depression
  • Sunlight increases vitamin D levels and helps optimize hormones

Life was meant for great friends and great hikes. Look up local parks near you that have hiking trails and get to hiking. Your body and mind will thank you.  

– By Cindy Lyn Martin

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