For anyone who’s ever been hiking, you’ll know there’s nothing quite like the feeling of the sun on your face, the wind through your hair, and the earth beneath your feet. Hiking is an enjoyable activity that can be done as a simple weekend exercise or a more serious hobby. Either way, it’s more than just a fun pastime: it has copious health and wellness benefits, too!
WellAge Senior Living is fortunate to have senior living communities throughout the beautiful state of Colorado, Oklahoma, and Nevada. Each of our communities is within driving distance of some of the most scenic hikes in the country, and we encourage individuals to get outside and experience them (if they can do so safely).
We want to share some of the physical and mental benefits of hiking!
Hiking is a great physical exercise that benefits almost every part of your body, but there are a few in specific where it delivers significant advantages.
Bone and Muscle Strength: Hiking is a great way to strengthen just about every major muscle group in your body. Walking up a steep incline engages the glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves, while walking downhill works the hips, knees, and core.
Balance: Hiking on a trail is entirely different from hiking on smooth pavement or a treadmill; there are roots, rocks, and sometimes even streams to cross. All these obstacles and uneven terrain will encourage your core to help stabilize you, increasing balance over time.
Heart Health: Like any aerobic exercise, hiking can improve your heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease. Even if you start with simple, short hikes, over time, your fitness and endurance levels will improve, and you’ll be able to hike longer and more strenuous hikes!
In addition to physical health benefits, there are also mental benefits of hiking and simply being outside in general.
Ease Stress and Boost Mood: Research suggests that spending time outside in fresh air can reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. You don’t have to climb a mountain or spend a week backpacking to feel these benefits, either. Dr. Jason Strauss, director of geriatric psychiatry at Harvard-affiliated Cambridge Health Alliance, says even just 30 minutes a day for three days a week in any type of natural setting can increase your mood. "Focus on places you find the most pleasing," says Dr. Strauss. "The goal is to get away from stimulating urban settings and surround yourself with a natural environment (Harvard Health).”
Stimulate the Brain: Not only can hiking help with mental health, but it may even be able to help with brain health, too. Like other aerobic exercises, hiking increases oxygen and blood flow to the brain, which has been shown to stimulate growth in the areas associated with memory and brain function.
In addition, when we hike outside, there are more things to see, hear, and experience, engaging our brain and senses.
Build Community: Hiking is a great way to build community with individuals who share your passions and interests. In most areas, especially in Colorado, you’ll find local hiking groups that go on group hikes and outings. Joining one of these groups is a great way to build friendships and create accountability.
Positive Atmosphere: Even if you choose to hike alone or with a four-legged companion, anyone who’s ever been a hike knows that trails are positive, uplifting settings! Everyone you pass is usually in high spirits and will say hello as they pass.
Take a Hike!
Whether you choose to hike for physical health, mental wellness, social benefits, or you simply like being outside, there’s no doubt that hiking provides endless benefits to your health and well-being. And while there is science to back up these benefits, the real proof is how you feel after a hike: exhausted but accomplished, rejuvenated by spending a day in the fresh air, and already excited for your next adventure.
WellAge Senior Living has locations throughout the beautiful state of Colorado, Oklahoma, and Nevada. Our Colorado communities are within reach of some of the most breathtaking scenery in the country, including Rocky Mountain National Park. To learn more about our active independent and senior living communities, visit our website!