Why Doctors Love Hiking

April 21, 2016

Most doctors agree that eating healthily and exercising makes their job easier. They know that fit, active, healthy people will come to see them less often so they have more time to spend on the people that really need them. In fact, many doctors prescribe exercise to prevent and even cure many mild-to-serious medical conditions.

But what type of exercise do doctors love?  No prizes for guessing it’s walking and, especially, hiking.

Why do doctors have such a big love for hiking? Let’s take a look!

Hiking is a gentle, weight-bearing exercise

Intense workouts are all well and good but, for many of us, the risks and drawbacks far outweigh the benefits. Hiking gently strengthens muscle and bones as well as the heart and lungs which will have a significant health-boosting effect. Injuries are rare with hiking and traversing uneven terrain helps improve balance and coordination too which may help prevent falls in later life.

Hiking reduces rumination

Rumination means spending time thinking about yourself and your personal circumstances. While a little rumination is normal and necessary, doing too much of it is linked to anxiety, stress, and depression.

Hiking in the splendour of nature has been shown to reduce rumination and, by default, help prevent and alleviate anxiety, stress and depression. It seems that urban living, even if it involves exercise, can lead to poor mental and emotional health, and getting out into nature can help free your mind from the stress of modern living. Exposure to sunlight, a regular feature of many hikes, is also strongly linked to improved mood and better mental health.

Hiking improves your ability to solve problems

Planning your route, packing your backpack, following your chosen trail, and making adjustments to your route as you go are all examples of problem solving. Our ability to problem solve often declines with age along with other important cognitive functions such as memory.

Your brain works on the principle of “use it or lose it” and so exposing your brain to the demands of hiking mean that you are much less likely to lose these important life skills later in life. The ability to problem solve effectively can help prevent you from feeling overwhelmed and becoming stressed. Stress is arguably the greatest common but often unavoidable threat to your long-term health.

At least some of this benefit is also due to unplugging from technology for a significant period of time which forces you to use your brain for more than just checking your Facebook newsfeed…!

Hiking can reduce the symptoms of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

Studies show that exposure to nature can help children with ADHD. Participating in outdoor activities was found to reduce the severity of ADHD symptoms and resulted in improved levels of focus and concentration in the children. Doctors concluded that simple changes that involve so-called “green activities” or outdoor settings can improve attention. For example, increasing exposure to a window seat with a green view, participating in an afternoon nature hike, or simply playing ball in the park can ease unwanted ADHD symptoms.

Doctors are now prescribing hiking

More and more healthcare professionals are prescribing hiking for the prevention and easing of anxiety, stress, and depression. Often called green therapy or ecotherapy, hiking has been shown to be a safe and effective way to treat a wide variety of medical conditions.

Unlike exercise, something that many people see as a boring chore, hiking is fun, sociable, scalable, inclusive, and easy to do. You can hike alone, with friends, or with your family, and hike as far as you want – even a one-hour hike is very beneficial.

No special training or equipment is required. All you need to do is get yourself out into the countryside and walk; simple!

As a Stepz app blog reader, you already know that walking is “big medicine” that will do you nothing but good. However, if you take your walks in the splendour of nature, you will multiply the benefits of your walk many times over.

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