Benefits of hiking and mountaineering
It’s a known fact that exercise and fresh air are two excellent ways to improve your physical and mental health. So what better way to combine the two together with hill walking or mountaineering. Experience the benefits of the great outdoors while pushing yourself to new limits with the challenge of a climb. In this article we plan to explore the physical and mental benefits of hill walking and mountaineering.
Physical benefits of hiking
Hiking, hillwalking and mountaineering are all excellent ways to get your heart pumping and lungs working harder. The more challenging the hike, the harder these organs will be pushed to work. Working on improving your cardiovascular health is important because it can help to reduce blood pressure, control cholesterol levels and regulate blood sugar. All of this is significant in reducing your likelihood of any heart problems occuring.
Hiking is a great way to improve your core strength and balance because during a hike your muscles should be constantly engaging and contracting to provide you with the necessary balance and stability across uneven terrain. Overtime, with practice and consistency your muscles will strengthen and your balance should improve.
Although it may seem obvious that hiking will improve your leg muscles, there are alot of other improvements in strength that can be made through this activity. It also requires core engagement which helps to strengthen your core and if you are properly climbing and scrambling, it will also significantly improve your arm and upper body strength.
As hiking and hillwalking is a form of exercise that can take a long time to do, it requires endurance and stamina. Over time, as your fitness levels improve and you become more experienced at hiking, your endurance will improve too.
Mental benefits of hiking
Now we have discussed the physical benefits of hiking, we wanted to move onto the benefits that often get overlooked- the mental benefits. First off, hiking can help to improve mental agility- this is because it enhances your capacity to respond to events in a flexible way whilst moving quickly between different ideas. This skill is essential in mountaineering where weather conditions can take unexpected turns, navigational errors may occur or injuries within the group could arise. Overtime, your mental agility will improve as you are faced with different issues during your hiking expeditions and can then be transferred to other day to day activities.
Being outside and amongst nature is a great way to clear your mind, calm anxiety and reduce stress. This is said to be due to a number of factors, one of them being that time in nature actually reduces cortisol levels which is a stress hormone. Also, the great outdoors helps to boost endorphins and dopamine production which promotes happiness. This combined with the benefits of the exercise activity of hiking itself further improves your production of ‘ ‘feel good’’ neurotransmitters leaving you feeling relieved and even revived when it comes to mood.
Another excellent mental benefit of hiking is the fact that it can significantly enhance your sleep. There are a number of reasons for this, firstly because hiking is tiring most of the time so you will feel ready to get some rest by the night time. Also, because it helps to reduce stress by pumping you full of endorphins, you are more likely to switch off easier when it’s time to go to sleep. Finally, another reason why hiking is said to improve sleep is because being exposed to natural light during your hike reinforces the natural sleep-wake cycle.
Preparing for a hike
Although there are a range of excellent benefits both physically and mentally when it comes to hiking, it’s important to take any risks into consideration before setting out on each expedition to make sure you are sufficiently prepared. One way you can prepare is to pack essential equipment such as navigational tools, first aid supplies and additional food, water and clothing. It’s also a good idea to check the weather forecast right before starting your hike, although realistically, when it comes to mountains the weather conditions are ever changing and can be very unpredictable so it’s best to prepare for the worst even if the forecast says something different.
Another way to prepare, particularly if you are an avid hiker who takes part in the activity regularly, is to ensure you have the right financial protection. One company who provides specialist financial services for mountaineering and hillwalking cover is Summit Financial Services. With their help you can have the right mountaineering life insurance, critical illness cover and income protection at the best rates which will give you financial peace of mind that you, your home and your family are protected should the worst happen.