Hiking: Good for Your Body, Good for Your Mind

Twenty-four Mellow Level hikers enjoying the Promenade, Upper and Lower Sonoran, and Overlook Trails at Adero Canyon in Fountain Hills this past February.

Twenty-four Mellow Level hikers enjoying the Promenade, Upper and Lower Sonoran, and Overlook Trails at Adero Canyon in Fountain Hills this past February.

Warren Wasescha

A friend back in Minnesota asked me why I liked hiking with our Sun Lakes Hiking Club so much. I told them it’s my drug of choice. Better than a glass of red wine. They winced at the last comment. But I was serious.

—Countless articles back me up on this. They talk about improved cardiovascular performance, more endurance, stronger bones and muscles, and especially for mea better mood. It’s a great endorphin release to exercise in nature, be with friends, forget about the local news feed that can be so emotionally draining at times. It’s just a very happy place to be.

It was interesting to learn from an article in the Washington Trails Association that walking on uneven terrain, like that of hiking trails, causes the body to use 28 percent more energy than walking on flat, even, ground. It forces the body to activate seldom-used muscles around the hips, knees, and ankles, which helps build core strength. All of this improves your stability and balance. As a result, you are less likely to stumble or fall, both on the trail and in everyday life. This gives reason to drive to a nearby mountain.

Hiking uphill is similar to using the stair climber at the gym, only you get to be outdoors instead of watching a television monitor at the gym. And, interestingly, hiking downhill will tone your muscles more than the climb up. As you descend, your glutes and quads are working nonstop to stabilize your knees and hips. Because your muscles are resisting the force of gravity against your body weight, the toning effects are maximized.

Hiking can also reverse the negative effects of osteoporosis by increasing bone density. A study by the University of Washington found that women with osteoporosis who walked for one hour, three days per week increased their bone density in the spine and other parts of the body by six percent over a nine-month period.

As for your mind, a 2015 study from Stanford University found that time spent in nature reduces your mind’s tendency toward negative thought patterns. And a study in the journal Environmental Science and Technology showed that outdoor exercise has a direct correlation to greater feelings of positivity and energy, with fewer feelings of tension, anger, and depression. This makes watching the nightly news a little bit easier.

Convinced hiking is good for you? Come join our group. We hike at three different intensity levels. And we are a friendly, inclusive group that welcomes all able-bodied hiking enthusiasts!

Check out our Meetup site by typing Sun Lakes Hiking Club in your web browser to view the latest descriptions and times of our hikes. We hike every Monday, November through April, and informally the rest of the year.

Interested in getting more information about our club? Please contact our club president DeEtte Faith at df4faiths@yahoo.com.