What do we mean when we say hiking? I’m not talking about walking for an hour around your local park I’m talking about spending a half or full day on a trail, simply enjoying mother nature’s beauty. July is National Parks and Recreation Month and we want you to take full advantage of the incredible scenery that this country has. Not only do you get a chance to see some of our nation’s natural treasures but you also have the chance to engage in excellent physical and mental exercise in as well.
1: Physical Stress
When it comes to exercise, the current trend is to push our bodies to their physical limits for short periods of time and at extremes intensities. This form of training has become extremely prevalent due to the time crunch we burden ourselves with and EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). Essentially, EPOC is the fat burning hours that take place after we have stopped working out. Unfortunately, there are massive flaws with only training your body in this method. First, your body becomes resilient to this training method, thus not burning as much as you did your first month or so. Second, for today’s fast paced, chair bound, and high demand working culture, this form of exercise can be detrimental to the body. High intensity workouts can put massive stress on your muscular system and cardiopulmonary system, which can result in soft tissue injury and added physical stress such as high blood pressure, pulse rate, and breathing rate.
So, why is hiking physically healthy for me? The answer is longevity, consistency and work rate. A normal day hike takes around 3-6 hours. Traditionally, one would walk at a good walking pace for long periods with small breaks to refuel over the day. This type of exercise, compared to our EPOC driven classes described above, is the complete opposite. When hiking, you get your fat burning during the exercise and you break into that fat storage after the first 45 mins or so. Our body responds to this type of aerobic exercise (over-time) by becoming more efficient at burning fat. We have an almost unlimited amount of fat storage in the body and this is an extremely efficient way of burning energy. It is extremely good for our joints/muscular system and even better for our cardiopulmonary system. It reduces the physical stress we build up during the week and has proven to lower our blood pressure, pulse rate and breathing rate.
2: Mental Break
The working world we live in today is built on a foundation of perfection and delivery. Every small decision and task seems to have a weight or pressure applied to it as if it is going to be the end of the world if it is not executed with precision. This creates so much undue stress throughout the working world and it is affecting our health very negatively. Stress is a major cause of serious and less serious health conditions, from heart attacks to anxiety attacks.
A day hike on a beautiful trail out in the open is what the doctor ordered. When out in the open your brain secretes less cortisol “stress hormone” and more dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin. This allows you to feel more happiness, completion or success in addition to increase in mood or sense of calmness. Literally, hiking creates a relaxed state of mind and a positive sense of life perception/clarity.
3: Technology and Screen Time
Our worst enemy and biggest competitor: technology and screen time. How do you compete with the amazement of technology and what it can do for us? Yes, there are some truly amazing things that technology has provided us for the good of our health and for that, we are thankful. However, our addiction, over use, and dependency to technology is also leading us down an unhealthy path. The amount of screen time we put in each day is exhausting. I could go on for hours about the specifics of this topic but to keep it quick, we all need a break. Trust me, everything from your eyes to that horrible posture your sitting in need a break.
There is no better break for your eyes than a beautiful and adventurous hike outdoors. Mentally, physically and socially, hiking allows us to turn on different receptors in our brains and turn off the ones we use constantly staring at screens. Being in the outdoors keeps your brain from overheating like the computer you stare at all day. It allows you to reset, refocus, and become more productive when you return to work.
4: Human to Human Communication
Related to technology, we are so dependent on email, text messages, apps, and social media to communicate within our society, that we are losing personal connections. It has become too easy to criticize and ignore feelings. As well as, too hard to read in-between the lines, develop trust and commitment, sense humor or tone of voice. These listed factors make it extremely hard to build positive relationships and hard to create a healthy communication lines.
Hiking with a partner, friend, co-worker, family member, team member or whole team will increase your trust, general communication, emotional bond, unity and relationship strength. Furthermore, hiking in the outdoors is a great way to start a new relationship or develop your listening skills. Being able to talk about or listen to another’s issues can help your own personal health. Being in the open and walking with someone opens you up to a new dimension of sharing, you help someone clear their mind and in return you clear your mind as well. Clear mind = healthy mind.
5: Fresh Air and Sunshine
Circulated air is one of the quickest ways to get sick and your office building has a bunch of it. The more time you spend indoors the more likely you are to be breathing in someone else’s bacteria or virus. Yes, I am ending with a scare factor. There are many airborne pathogens circulating your office and people who spend too much time indoors are being diagnosed with low Vitamin-D. Down the road, this can cause bone pain and muscle weakness, and is correlated with higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
The more time you spend outdoors breathing in fresh air the less likely you are to get sick. Plain and simple: escape into the beautiful outdoor world and get moving to defend against your stress and office germs!
Finally, don’t forget to put on SPF before absorbing some natural vitamin-D.