Most of us know we need to exercise more, but with increasingly busy lives, it’s important to prioritize the activity that will give us the greatest health benefit. After a long day sitting at a desk inside a stuffy office, working out in a gym couldn’t be less appealing. It’s no surprise that more and more people are ditching the gym and hitting the trails to improve their health. And the good news is, just 30 minutes a day of walking or hiking can make a significant impact on your health!
Need convincing to get your walking boots on? Here are ten health benefits of trekking – some will surprise you!
1) Live longer!
Research has shown that just walking 5 miles a week at a slow pace is enough to reduce your risk of heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure by 31%. 5 miles is just 10,000 steps – so if you’re addicted to your Fitbit, and find yourself pacing around at night to reach 10,000 steps, then well done – you are absolutely smashing that target!
Being active is also one of the key ways to reduce your risk of cancer. Exercise lowers the estrogen in your bloodstream which is believed to be the reason why active women are around 30% less likely to develop breast cancer.
2) Boost your mood
Doctors are increasingly prescribing exercise such as walking to combat depression and many clinical studies have shown that exercise can improve depressive symptoms to a comparable extent to the use of anti-depressant drugs. Trekking is an excellent mood booster because it combines the physiological benefits of exercise with the mental health benefits of being surrounded by nature and socializing with other people on the trail.
More and more studies are showing a link between the amount of time that people spend in nature and their mental well-being. Some clinically proven benefits of spending time in nature include; a reduction in stress and blood pressure and improved sleep and energy levels. In our increasingly fast-paced society, reduction of stress and increased emotional well-being is one of the most important health benefits of trekking!
Feeling frazzled? Why not treat your mind and body to a trekking holiday in the alps this summer?
3) Strengthen your heart
Walking becomes a cardio workout when you push yourself to the point that conversation becomes more difficult. On the Tour du Mont Blanc trek and Haute Route trek, some days involve ascents of 1000m and you will certainly feel out of breath on those! Cardio exercise is important for strengthening your heart, and lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.
4) Increase your metabolism
Just spending 20 minutes in any fixed position leads to a decrease in our metabolism and 4 hours of inactivity almost completely shuts down enzymes that metabolize fats! When you’re at work, it’s important to take regular screen breaks to combat this. Trekking can also improve your metabolism by building muscle mass in your legs. The more muscle mass you have, the greater your resting metabolic rate – for every 4.5lbs of muscle mass your resting metabolic rate increase by 50Kcal per day.
5) Burn calories!
For many people, this is one of the most important health benefits of trekking! When you consider that taking your dog for a half an hour walk burns 100 calories, it’s easy to see the weight loss potential of trekking! On the Tour du Mont Blanc and Haute route trek, we typically walk for 6-8 hours per day, over very hilly terrain! That means that we are almost burning our entire daily allowance of calories, which is a good thing considering how delicious swiss food is!
Check out some tasty swiss food recipes on our food blog.
6) Heal chronic back pain
It’s a scary fact that the average American sits for 13 hours and sleeps for 8 hours a day, meaning they are active for just 3 hours. The sitting epidemic is one of the reasons why so many of us suffer with chronic back and joint pain daily.
Bad posture and muscle weakness are two of the main reasons for chronic back pain. When we walk, our spine is placed into a more naturally aligned position than when we are sitting, and the movement strengthens postural muscles that waste away in front of the computer screen.
7) Strengthen your bones
Your bones require the load to be placed onto them to maintain their strength. Weight lifting is a good way to improve bone density, as is trekking with a rucksack. Trekking has the added benefit of being a low-impact way to exercise, which is useful for those who suffer from joint pain.
8) Improve your balance
Hiking on trails is an excellent way to improve your balance and mental agility. The uneven surface promotes the small stabilizing muscles in your ankles to get stronger and react more quickly if you lose your balance. These stabilizing muscles are vital for proprioception which is your body’s sixth sense that helps you balance or catch yourself if you trip. If we don’t train our proprioception then it naturally declines as we get older, making us more likely to suffer injuries from falls in old age.
9) Increase focus and productivity
It’s shown that ten minutes of movement increases productivity and mental focus at work, so get outside and take a walk on your lunch break! By incorporating a trek into your weekend activities, you will further increase focus by reducing stress and increasing your physical fitness. And as we all know, the best ideas always come to us when we’re away from the desk!
10) Make new friends!
My favorite aspect of working as a trekking guide is meeting so many interesting people from all over the world. The tour du mont blanc and haute route treks are 10 days long and it’s amazing how quickly bonds form between people when they are overcoming challenges together.
Not only is it fun to meet new people, but there are proven health benefits too! Adults with larger social circles are shown to have decreased blood pressure and to live longer. Being part of a group with a common purpose, such as on a hiking trip, increases your sense of belonging and purpose, which is great for your emotional well-being! Trekking is a fantastic way to meet new people with similar interests and there will almost certainly be a hiking group in your local area.
Looking for your next trekking adventure?
If you have always dreamed of hiking in the European Alps, but don’t know where to start with organizing it, you may be interested in one of our guided trips:
Tour du Mont Blanc Trek
The classic hike through France, Switzerland and Italy circling Western Europe’s highest peak.
Haute Route Trek
Trek from Chamonix to Zermatt through mountain passes and beautiful alpine meadows.
Bernese Oberland Traverse
Explore remote Alpine valleys on this little-known trek from the Lauterbrunnen Valley to Gstaad.
Trekking and Mountaineering go hand in hand. Check out our friend’s article about the extra benefits of mountaineering!