Hit the Hiking Trails for Fitness and Fun

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Here are some ideas to get you hiking for fitness and fun.

I love an exercise challenge, exploring new surroundings and being outdoors. Hiking gives me all of those things in one simple and free activity.
As a child I would hike with my mom up and down hills, through streams and across rocks. We encountered all kinds of fun obstacles in both the wilderness and the urban jungle. She was trying to provide me with an adventure, but she also gave me the opportunity to become a fit, healthy, balanced and coordinated individual.
I now carry on the family tradition and at least once a week I take my family on a hike. We set off on foot from our own doorstep to various destinations near and far. I try to keep it challenging, exciting and fun, all while knowing that the health benefits associated with hiking are vast. Here are five great reasons to go hiking:

1. Improved Cardiovascular Function

Engaging in mild to moderate intensity exercise is linked to improvements in lung capacity and increased cardiac function.

2. Improved Balance and Coordination

The rugged and varied terrain of most hiking trails forces your body to stabilize itself, in time improving your balance and coordination.

3. Improved Mood

Taking time out from your busy life and enjoying the outdoors can relieve stress, while the stimulus of enjoying nature––the sights, smells and textures––can make you feel more mentally alert.

4. Weight Loss

Physical activity burns calories, and slow and steady cardiovascular activity promotes fat burning. Hiking, combined with good nutrition, can lead to significant weight and fat loss.

5. Having Fun

There is something about discovering new trails and being outside that is fun. Taking time out of your busy day to connect with friends, while doing an activity such as hiking, can improve your mood.

You can leisurely hike and enjoy your surroundings, chat with a friend or daydream as you check out nature, but you also have the option of finding your inner hiking guru and stepping up your hike into a calorie blasting athletic adventure.

Here’s how you can get more out of your hike:

1. Pick Up the Pace

Give trail running a try to increase the intensity of your hike. If you’re not ready for running, try alternating between power walking and jogging.

2. Steepen the Gradient

The steeper the hill, the harder your body has to work. Spend time finding a hike with a challenging incline.

3. Raise the Altitude

Training at a higher altitude has many health benefits and can improve your overall fitness level. However, it’s something you should build up to slowly.

4. Vary the Terrain

Start out on mostly flat trails and build up to sandy or rocky surfaces. Walking on uneven terrain forces all of the small under-worked muscles and tendons in your feet and ankles to get strong.

Hiking can be full of adventure, fun, sweat and burned calories, but as with all activities, it’s ultimately what you make of it. My best advice is to get on the trail, enjoy yourself and see how hiking can help you reach your goals.

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