What if I told you there is an activity in which the end result can rival the feeling of scoring the winning goal in a sporting match? Where the challenge laid before you will be tough, but the payoff will leave you breathless, with a complete feeling of accomplishment, and in total awe of our amazing planet. Hiking is an activity that can be immensely beneficial physically, mentally, and inspirationally, not to mention a healthy activity that can be enjoyed solo, with family, friends, children, or even with our K9 buddies! Whether your goal is to hike to the summit of a mountain or hike a fairly easy park trail, there are benefits to be found for everyone.

Hiking is good for the body, plain and simple. The most obvious benefit is provided by our Sun. Getting out in the sun provides the vitamin D needed to boost our Immune systems and also fights depression. Like most cardiovascular exercises, hiking provides benefits to your cardio-respiratory fitness and also lowers the risk of heart disease and stroke. Additionally, getting out on the trails will help with weight control and lowering the risk of high cholesterol. On average, a 160 lb. person can burn up to 440 calories per hour of hiking. Hiking is also great for toning and building muscles in your legs. It is an excellent workout for the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and glutes. If the numerous physical benefits aren’t enough, the positive mental effects of hiking are even better.

Spending time in nature on your way to a gorgeous vista or amazing waterfall can have some serious benefits on your mental health. A study conducted by the University of Kansas in 2012 showed that spending time in nature can lead to a 50% increase in creative problem-solving skills and attention spans. Standford University also found that spending time in nature can reduce the amount of ruminative thoughts a person has. Ruminative thoughts are when a person thinks back repeatedly over a dissappointing or an embarrassing moment they had. Like most forms of exercise, hiking can also reduce stress. Nothing beats going outdoors into nature after a rough day at the office.

I hope those that haven’t yet given hiking and the outdoors a chance decide to do so. Other than all of the physical and mental benefits, hiking can also be extremely fun and provide some great bonding experinces with family and friends. If you are a Louisville local, I recommend Kentucky’s own Red River Gorge as a close by spot for some excellent hikes. Happy trails!

Michael Maldini is an avid hiker and explorer. When he is not exploring the outdoors, he is a technology developer for Humana. Check out Michael’s blog www.MyTrekLife.com and follow him on Instagram @mikemaldini to see more great photos and insights into hikes and adventures.

About the Series

The YPAL Get Healthy Blog Series, sponsored by Norton Healthcare, will focus on the health and well-being of our Louisville Young Professionals. This blog series will feature various young professional bloggers in our community sharing their stories on health, wellness, nutrition, fitness and healthy lifestyles. Want to write a Get Healthy Blog Post? Email Admin@YPAL.org for details!