Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in America and around the world. As a result, February is recognized as American Heart Month to help raise awareness of this disease. Every year, 1 in 5 deaths in women is caused by heart disease, but it can be prevented through education and making a healthy lifestyle change.
In addition to making better food choices, another way to reduce your risk of heart disease is through exercise, and you can do that by hitting the trails. They are (almost) always open and costs nothing. Hiking doesn’t require you to be in the best shape either. In fact, if you’ve never hiked before or have only occasionally hiked, now is as good a time as any to start hiking regardless of your fitness level. But before we get to the benefits of hiking, we encourage you to visit the Hike it Baby Family Trail Guide, which is a free resource for families who want to find local kid-friendly hikes wherever your “local” might be at the time, whether you’re home or away on a much-needed vacation.
3 benefits of hiking for a healthy heart
This February for American Heart Month, be good to your heart by giving it some extra love and attention and head outside for some well-deserved self-care. Learn more about the benefits of hiking on your mental and physical health.
1. Finding your zen
There’s a calm that comes with being on the trail. Whether you’re trekking deep in the woods, walking among open meadows, strolling trails that hug coastal cliffs or scrambling to summit a peak, there’s a unique peace that you can’t find anywhere else. Relax … and don’t rush yourself in nature. Forget about your to-do list and enjoy being in the moment. Make time to treat yourself to some fresh air and a slow pace. We live in a world overstimulated by technology and nonstop activities, so it’s good practice to carve out some intentional time to get on trail and encourage those happy endorphins with some exercise.
2. Building strength
Exercise helps wake sleepy muscles and gets your joints back in motion. Thanks to the various slopes, the muscles used most in hiking are glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, abdominals, lower back, and obliques among others – especially your heart. And carrying a pack or even your child in a carrier helps strengthen those core and leg muscles, as well as increases your endurance. You can also give the gift of heart health to family members, especially littles who can learn to walk on different terrain and grandparents who may not be as active as they use to be. And once you’re feeling stronger and more confident, set goals to hike farther and faster or do more challenging hikes to get your heart pumping.
3. Bonding with others
Time spent with others on trail also makes a positive impact on your heart happiness. When life gets busy, taking time to get outside with loved ones is just what the doctor ordered. It’s a good reminder to slow down and spend quality time together without distractions. Plus, having your kiddos on trail with you is a great way to model for them the benefits of exercise on your heart and mind. In addition, having multiple generations together in nature helps build connections with each other and bridge the age gap. Similarly, relationships between siblings who spend time together on trail also strengthen as they learn to lead, follow, depend on each other and encourage each other to try new adventures.
Another way to impact your heart happiness is to invite some of your pals to join you on a ladies- or guys-only hiking and camping trip. Not only will you escape into nature together for some much-needed pal time away from the hustle and bustle of work, parenthood or life in general, but you’ll also get some great exercise with great company. Besides doing your own heart a favor, you’ll also promote a healthy and active lifestyle among your friends and maybe hook one or two to join you on your journey to a healthier heart. Here are some tips for how to set up a memorable ladies’ weekend camping trip.
Go ahead and be good to yourself and run for the trails – your heart deserves it!
Share with us how you find your Happy in nature in the comments below.
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Photo by Ashley Scheider.