I’m starting to get to that age where I have to think about my health a bit more seriously, and that includes making sure I think about the one vital organ that keeps everything else ticking – my heart. So, I was wondering, is hiking good for your heart health?
Well, according to various studies and reports, the answer appears to be a resounding yes! Hiking has been shown to be great for maintaining a healthy heart and preventing various cardiovascular diseases. Here are some of the ways
What Is Heart Health?
Heart health refers to the overall health of your heart. This includes everything from keeping your heart muscle strong to preventing cardiovascular diseases. Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your heart health, and hiking is a great way to get some exercise!
A healthy heart pumps blood efficiently throughout your body, providing oxygen and nutrients to all your cells. Exercise helps keep your heart healthy by making it stronger and more efficient. This means that it doesn’t have to work as hard to pump blood around your body, reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.
However, according to the American Heart Association, “Only about one in five adults and teens get enough exercise to maintain good health.” So what does that mean? The AHA recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week. And teens should be getting at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity every day.
So how does hiking fit into this? Well, let’s look at some ways hiking can help improve your heart health.
How Does Hiking Benefit Heart Health?
According to the American Heart Association, hiking is one of the ways listed to reach your vigorous-intensity activities for the week – win for us! And as we’ve already established, getting enough exercise is vital for maintaining a healthy heart. But what are some specific ways hiking can benefit your heart health?
Hiking Can Help Lower Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, so keeping your blood pressure in check is important for maintaining a healthy heart. According to one study, hiking can help lower blood pressure and improve cardiovascular fitness.
Hiking Improves Cardiovascular Fitness
One of the main ways hiking benefits your heart health is by improving your cardiovascular fitness. Cardiovascular fitness is a measure of how well your heart and lungs work together to supply oxygen to your muscles during exercise.
According to Harvard, hiking can increase your heart rate enough to give you a great workout and improve your cardiovascular fitness, but not so much that it puts undue strain on your heart. This makes it a great option for people of all ages and fitness levels who want to improve their heart health.
Hiking Can Help Lower Your Cholesterol Levels
High cholesterol is another major risk factor for heart disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, high cholesterol increases your chances of developing fatty deposits n your blood vessels. And when that happens, those deposits break and develop into a blood clot that causes heart attacks and strokes.
Hiking, as with any physical activity, can help increase your HDL (good) cholesterol levels and lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. This helps to keep your arteries clear and reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
Hiking Can Help You Lose Weight
Being overweight or obese is also a major risk factor for heart disease. According to the CDC, obesity increases your chances of developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes – all of which are risk factors for heart disease.
Hiking can help you lose weight and reduce your risk of developing heart disease. Hiking burns a tremendous amount of calories, which can help you shed those unwanted pounds. And as we’ve already seen, losing weight also helps to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels – both of which are good for your heart health. Plus, who doesn’t want six-pack abs while enjoying the beautiful outdoors?
Hiking Can Help Reduce Your Stress Levels
We all know that stress is bad for our health. But did you know that it’s also a major risk factor for heart disease? According to the American Heart Association, stress can lead to high blood pressure and an unhealthy lifestyle – both of which are risk factors for heart-related disease and illness.
I’ve spoken in-depth about the mental health benefits of hiking previously. If you haven’t read it, check it out here.
What Happens To My Heart If I Hike Everyday?
Now that we know all of the ways that hiking can benefit our heart health, you might be wondering if it’s possible to hike too much.
If you have any pre-existing heart conditions, it’s always best to check with your doctor before starting any new exercise routine – this includes hiking.
But in general, hiking is a very safe activity for most people. As discussed, plenty of studies and resources show daily physical activity, including hiking, can improve your heart health, mental health, and overall well-being.
As far as the positive benefits of hiking daily, here’s a timeline of what you can expect:
- Within two weeks: You will start to see a decrease in your resting heart rate. This is because your heart muscle will become more efficient at pumping blood throughout your body.
- Within 4-6 weeks: You will have more energy and stamina. This is because your body will become better at using oxygen to produce energy.
- Within 3-4 months: You will see a significant decrease in your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
I also speak from experience. When I first moved to Texas, I had a lot going on in my life and adopted an unhealthy lifestyle. I wasn’t eating well, I wasn’t exercising, and my stress levels were through the roof.
But within three to five months of starting to hike and exercise regularly, I noticed a significant change in my energy levels, my mood, and my overall health. And a couple of doctor appointments and blood tests later, my cholesterol levels (along with my weight) had dropped significantly.
Does High Altitude Affect Your Heart?
For those of you that hike in higher altitudes, you might be wondering if there are any extra risks involved to your heart.
The answer is yes and no.
Yes, hiking in high altitudes can pose some risks – but these risks are usually only present in people with pre-existing heart conditions. For example, people with heart failure or pulmonary hypertension should be very careful when hiking at high altitudes, as the lack of oxygen can aggravate these conditions.
However, if you don’t have any pre-existing heart conditions, hiking in high altitudes is generally safe. In fact, many people find that the air is actually cleaner and healthier at higher altitudes.
But regardless of whether or not you have a pre-existing heart condition, it’s always best to check with your doctor before hiking in any high altitudes – just to be on the safe side.
The Bottom Line
There you have it! These are just some of the ways that hiking can benefit your heart health. Hiking is a great way to get your daily dose of exercise, fresh air, and vitamin D – all of which are good for your heart health. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and hit the trails!