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Hiking your way to better health and fitness.

As you may already be aware, The Hills Health Ranch has an extensive hiking trail network. With over 20,000 acres The Hills offers over 150 km of mapped hiking trails and a further 100 km of unmapped trails. Our fitness and weight loss programs focus on hiking and the outdoors. Not only is it very good for you, but it is an activity that you can do at home with very little or no cost. Everyone knows that hiking is good for you and is something we should do more often. However, there are many benefits to hiking that once in a while we need to be reminded of.  For example: Being out doors is a good way to get the needed Vitamin D especially during the winter months when we tend to spend more time indoors.

Exercise does not need to involve a long, painful and boring workout at the gym. A brisk 30-minute hike with the dog, or a slower one-hour hike through a local park 3 to 4 times a week is far more beneficial than a 1 or 2 hour workout at a gym.  According to the Heart Association, it’s best to walk vigorously for 30 to 60 minutes three or four times per week. But even low - to moderate intensity walking can have both short - and long-term benefits. There are other numerous benefits including controlling obesity and type 2 diabetes to preventing heart disease and hypertension.  What’s more, hiking can also help you lose weight and is a joint-friendly form of exercise helping arthritis suffers to be more limber and mobile

Going out for a hike is also a great way to renew and recharge, it’s like being in a meditative state relieving the everyday stresses and helping you unwind from a crazy day at work.  “I find that after an hour hike I feel renewed and refreshed and tend to have more energy”.

Below is a list of 7 benefits that I have compiled through research and experience. I have also included some links to websites that provide great information as well as a list of great hiking trails throughout the area.

    According to the US Department of Health, Hiking is an excellent way to lose excess pounds and improve health. In December of 2001 the US surgeon general called the increased rate of obesity in the United States an epidemic. The report states that two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, and the number is increasing. In addition, thirteen percent of children are overweight. The report recommends that communities create safe sidewalks or walking trails to encourage physical activity. Health Canada recommends walking or hiking once a day to help improve health and well-being, reduce stress, strengthen the heart and lungs, increases energy levels and helps you maintain and achieve a healthy body weight and it improves your outlook on life.  According to Walking for Health, people “won’t find a better way to lose weight than walking.”When hiking a comfortable 2-MPH, a person weighing 150 pounds will burn 240 calories in one hour.
    American Heart Association states that more than 2,600 Americans die from cardiovascular disease each day, which is an average of 1 death every 33 seconds. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation Every 7 minutes in Canada, someone dies from heart disease or stroke. In 2006 cardiovascular disease accounted for 30% of all deaths in Canada. While heart disease is caused by more than just inactivity, the odds of avoiding this leading cause of death can be greatly improved by maintaining a regular walking routine. The results of 43 separate studies by Centers for Disease Control showed that by exercising, individuals significantly reduce their chances for heart problems, while those who do not exercise are twice as likely to have coronary heart disease. Hiking can also decrease cholesterol levels, a common cause of heart disease. More specifically, it increases high-density lipoprotein (HDL), considered to be the “good” cholesterol, which helps move bad cholesterol from the artery walls.
    Hypertension (high blood pressure) plagues millions of North Americans. The most common cure is with drugs. However, studies show that daily walking and hiking will reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure by a mean of 10 mmHg. As an example; I was able to lower my blood pressure from 140 over 90  to 110 over 70 just by diet and exercise alone.
    Depression and stress are on the rise in North America. Thanks to recent research a cheap and inexpensive treatment has been found in hiking and walking. Walking causes the release of calming brain chemicals called endorphins, which are natural tranquillizers. Also, walking releases adrenaline, produced by the body to cope with real or perceived danger. If the adrenaline isn’t released from the body, it accumulates, causing muscle tension and feelings of anxiety.
    Research shows that what we once accepted as a natural part of growing older- a decline in physical activity and strength - does not have to accompany aging.  Aging doesn’t decrease the body’s ability to be physically active and healthy, but rather leading an inactive and unhealthy lifestyle accelerates the aging process.
    Osteoporosis is a bone disease which effects mostly older women who lack sufficient amounts of calcium. This deficiency reduces bone density, increases the bone’s porosity and brittleness, leading to a susceptibility to broken bones. Weight bearing exercise like hiking and walking help reverse the negative effects of osteoporosis by increasing the bone density and slowing the rate of calcium loss, thus strengthening the bones and decreasing their susceptibility to break. We have found that adding walking poles also helps in maintaining balance and stability, relieving the fear of falling.
    The mode of transportation we choose every day affects the health of millions. Transportation is the largest single source of air pollution in the United States and in Canada according to Environment Canada and both the American and Canadian Lung Associations. It causes nearly two-thirds of the carbon monoxide, a third of the nitrogen oxides, and a quarter of the hydrocarbons in our  atmosphere. Air pollution contributes to lung disease, including respiratory tract infections, asthma, and lung cancer Walking can replace short-distance motor-vehicle trips, which are the least fuel-efficient and generate the most pollution per mile traveled. A family that walks two miles a day instead of driving will, in one year, prevent 730 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. What a difference this would make to your lungs! Your lungs will thank you by taking a trip to The Hills and breathing in the fresh un-polluted air while enjoying all the benefits of hiking.