Hiking vacations have always been my personal favorite: hiking through beautiful scenery by day, enjoying fabulous food without any worries about weight gain, and then ending the day tired and happy in a cozy bed - it doesn't get better than that! But I now have confirmation that not only is it enjoyable, it's even good for me!!
There is a new book out that's been getting alot of attention: The First 20 Minutes by New York Times Phys Ed columnist Gretchen Reynolds. In a recent NPR interview promoting the book, she says "A nice easy walk will improve your health. If you make it a little ... harder or a little more difficult for you to walk, you will become more fit and you will get more benefits. But even if you just walk lightly, you will be healthier than if you don't do anything."
What is another name for walking that is a little harder or a little more difficult? Hiking, of course! One of the main advanages of walking over running is that the risk of injury is so much lower- 75% of runners get an injury every year. So it's low impact and low injury, and walking up a hill or hiking up a mountain at a good pace will give you the same aerobic workout as running.
There are two additional health benefits to hiking:
- If you hike with trekking poles (and anyone who has ever been with us on a hiking vacation knows that we are completely sold on the benefits of trekking poles), you get a whole body workout. Not only your legs but your arms, shoulders, and chest muscles will all get a good workout.
- Your balance will also improve. One of the biggest differences between novice and experienced hikers is their balance. A novice hiker is much more tentative coming down a hill, much more careful about foot placement. Even over the course of a week I've seen dramatic improvements in balance and self-confidence.
Of course there are many other great aspects of hiking vacations, such as the fact that you can choose one to fit your fitness level - you don't have to be in super shape to enjoy one, you just have to pick the one that fits you. Or the fact that anyone can hike - there actually are some skills to learn, but anyone with balance and mobility can have a successful outing the very first time they try. Or the fact you can do it into your 80s and maybe even 90s. Orthe fact that hiking can clear your mind of day to day stuff.
But don't take my word for it. If you've never tried a hiking vacation before, maybe this should be the year!