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Hiking Las Vegas Blog
If you’re not a hiker, you’re probably wondering to yourself why it has become such a popular hobby. Naturally, you might assume that it’s because people want to take in the views, sounds, and smells of their natural environment. You might also think that it’s a great way to get away from urban life and have some peaceful moments. While all of those are popular and valid reasons, other significant motivations for hiking are the health benefits.
At its core, hiking is a cardiovascular workout. This means that hiking can decrease your risk of coronary heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and stroke by improving the respiratory functions of your heart, lungs, and blood vessels. It can also help you manage your blood sugar levels and blood pressure. As with any other aerobic exercise (that’s done regularly), hiking can also lower your risk of triglycerides, high cholesterol, and certain cancers — namely, breast cancer, colon cancer, and possibly lung cancer and endometrial cancer.
One obvious benefit of trekking through nature is the benefit to your physique by inducing weight loss. For a 150-pound person, hiking can burn up to 370 calories per hour. Hiking can also strengthen certain muscles including multiple components of your hips and legs — not to mention those glutes! Furthermore, your upper body will also feel the effects in your arms, shoulders, and neck. And let’s not leave out the core, which is yet another benefit of walking the trails. Finally, another not-so-obvious physical benefit is that hiking can increase bone density and/or slower its loss.
As the clear majority of studies will tell you, your physical health is also improved by your mood. And hiking and all that it encompasses can help boost your spirit by alleviating anxiety and stress. According to Gregory A. Miller, Ph.D., the president of the American Hiking Society, "Being in nature is ingrained in our DNA and we sometimes forget that." This makes sense because studies have shown that hiking leads to better sleeping habits and a reduced risk of depression and early death. As a result, someone who engages in seven hours of physical activity per week has a 40% lower risk of early death than someone who is active for less than 30 minutes per week.
According to another study, disconnecting from technology by spending time outdoors can actually increase your creative problem-solving skills and attention span. Even poker players like Eugene Katchalov have found the time to break away from the rigors of the gaming tables and squeeze in some worthwhile exercise by hiking in the mountains of Las Vegas. Perhaps by doing so, Katchalov is able to later return to the tables with a refreshed Zen and greater focus.
So, how much time do I need to spend hiking to really reap the benefits? Most professionals say that one can achieve the above-referenced benefits by moderately hiking for only 150 minutes per week; although you should know that you would need to increase your workouts by one extra hour per week in order to reduce the risks of both colon cancer and breast cancer. Keep in mind that while 2½ hours of trekking per week might seem a bit daunting, there’s no rule that says that you have to do it all at once. Feel free to break it up in ways that fit into your schedule, even if you just incorporate a short hike into every weekday, whether it’s in the morning, after lunchtime, or in the evening — whatever works for you. The only catch is that each aerobic session must last for at least 10 minutes in order for the exercise to effectively work toward your weekly total.
People have long known that walking through a forest or exploring a mountainside can be a calming feast for your eyes, ears, and nose. Now, we also know that hiking can nourish both your body and soul as well. So, the next time you hear the phrase “take a hike,” whether it’s in a movie, TV show, or from a snarky friend, you can silently giggle to yourself and think, “perhaps I will!” You’ll be all the better for it.
Branch Whitney is the author of Hiking Las Vegas and creator of the 52 Peak Club where members hike to the best 52 Peaks around Las Vegas, NV