The last warm days have finally given way to the dreary autumn and winter weather in most parts of the US and we had to say goodbye to summer for better or for worse. But that doesn't mean that from now on we have to sit at home and look sadly out the window.
Right now, it is important to defy wind and weather and to spend time in the fresh air. Admittedly, with the nasty, dingy weather that winter brings with it, it is sometimes difficult to go outside. After all, there are so many other options: the cozy couch, a steaming mulled wine, binge-watching series on Netflix... But that's not an excuse, because hiking is possible every season! After all, we won’t let cold temperatures and a little rain stop us, right? 😉
For all those who still need a little motivation to lace up their hiking boots regularly, even in winter: your body will thank you! Here are four reasons why hiking will bring you through the cold season in good health.
1. Strengthens your immune system
Although 2020 might be a bit different, we are still constantly in contact with germs – in the office, in the subway or shopping for groceries. Normally that doesn't do much harm, thanks to our immune system. But especially in autumn and winter, our defenses are challenged quite a bit. A fat cold with everything that goes with it is often inevitable.
Of course, you cannot prevent every infection. Nevertheless, we can support our immune system and thus ensure that the next cold is milder or even stops completely.
What every child knows is still often underestimated: Physical activity – preferably in the fresh air – strengthens the immune system! And no, that doesn't mean that you have to do a MammothMarch every week. It doesn't always have to be the extreme hike, instead it is much more important that you exercise regularly.
2. Strengthens your cardiovascular system
The same applies here: It doesn't always have to be the fast and most strenuous jogging round! Hiking also improves endurance and lowers your heart rate and blood pressure – at least if you can get up to speed regularly. Too often it is forgotten that the heart is also a muscle that needs training. And not just any muscle, but probably the most important one of all. Incidentally, depending on the hiking route and body weight, you burn up to 600 kilocalories an hour – almost like running! How’s that possible? When hiking, we take smaller steps and therefore almost twice as many steps! After that you have definitely earned a decent supper.
3. Strengthens bones and joints
Did you know that muscles have memory? You can remember physical stress! Fortunately, because this is how the body remembers when we exert ourselves. The result: We are better prepared for the physical challenge the next time, as the muscle fibers enlarge.
Strong bones are also the perfect tool to prevent osteoporosis (a disorder in bone metabolism). According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), there are 54 million Americans, half of all adults age 50 and older, that are at risk of breaking a bone and should be concerned about their bone health. The tricky thing is that those affected do not feel that their bones are porous and full of holes for a long time. By the time that they notice it – for example if they fall – it is often too late to limit the damage.
And even if osteoporosis is not an issue for you: From the age of 30 we lose one percent of our muscle mass every year. Sad, but true ... We can only counteract this through regular exercise.
Strong bones and joints also make you much less prone to injuries of all kinds. Regardless of whether you twist an unfortunate twist, pull yourself or bump yourself: If you hike regularly, bones, joints, tendons and ligaments, especially in the lower body, are stabilized and can therefore withstand stress better.
4. Hiking is good for your soul
Endorphin, serotonin, dopamine: long hikes have been shown to increase the release of these happiness hormones. The stress hormone cortisol, on the other hand, is inhibited. Practical, isn't it?
In a world in which we should be constantly available and allocatable, a break in the forest or the mountains is simply good. Simply switch your mobile phone to airplane mode and experience nature, which has so much more to offer than this small screen.
Did you know that hiking is even used as therapy for depression? Experiencing nature in combination with physical exercise has been shown to have a positive effect on mood. And when could this be better used than in autumn and winter, when the hours of sunshine are becoming increasingly rare and the bright, warm days are increasingly giving way to the wet and cold darkness?
Winter is not an "off-season" when it comes to hiking. Lace up your hiking boots, pack some snacks and let's go out.