Updated 25 January 2017

10 health reasons to go hiking this winter

While curling up in front of a fire or nice movie might seem like the ideal way to spend a winter’s day, getting out may actually make you feel better. Here are 10 health reasons to try hiking this winter.

During winter most of us like to sit under a warm blanket with a cup of coffee. While this may be soothing for the soul, getting off the couch is better for your health.

Going on regular hikes can improve your overall health in many ways. We have done some research and found ten reasons to ditch the blanket and put on your hiking shoes.

1. Decreases blood pressure

Worldwide, high blood pressure (hypertension) is estimated to cause 7.5 million deaths each year.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), getting some exercise, such as hiking, can make a big difference in the fight against this condition. Physical activity makes your heart stronger and a stronger heart pumps more blood with less effort. This decreases the pressure on your arteries, leading to lower blood pressure.

2. Relieves pain naturally

Are you struggling with back pain, or suffering from chronic neck pain? A hike might be just the medicine you are looking for. Hiking releases endorphins that act as an analgesic, resulting in a diminished perception of pain. The endorphins are manufactured in the brain and spinal cord and also act as a sedative. They bind to the same neuron receptors as pain medication and can therefore relieve chronic pain. 

3. Makes you happy

Regular hiking releases feel-good brain chemicals, such as serotonin, that lift our mood and lower our chances of developing a mood disorder such as depression. Because social support is often an integral part of treatment for depression, joining a hiking group might be an added benefit.

4. Improves memory

It has been well documented that physical activity such as hiking can improve cognitive function. Hiking reduces insulin resistance and inflammation – two factors which experts believe play a role in Alzheimer’s disease. Taking a nice walk in nature can also improve the overall health of brain cells, as well as encourage the growth of new blood vessels in the brain. All of this can help you maintain a healthy memory.


5. Fights obesity

According to the WHO, in 2014 more than 1.9 billion adults were overweight, of whom 600 million were obese. Exercising, especially intense activities such as hiking, is an integral part of the treatment for obesity. Because obesity is a major risk for developing cardiovascular disease, regular hiking can speed up your metabolism and help to prevent high cholesterol.

6. Strengthens your immunity

The regular exercise one gets from hiking can help to improve your general health, and therefore result in a healthy immune system. It promotes good blood circulation, which means that beneficial substances can freely travel through the body. Exercise is a good way of keeping that nasty flu at bay – however it’s not a good idea to exercise when you are ill.


7. Helps you sleep better

Most of us feel tired after a long hike, which will naturally help us to sleep better. Studies have shown people sleep better and longer when they do regular exercise such as hiking. The evidence also suggests that hiking will make us feel more alert during the day.

8. Improves bone and muscle health

Research has shown hiking not only strengthens your muscles and bones, but is a powerful way to slow down the development of osteoporosis. The movement involved in hiking builds your bones, making them stronger. Added benefits are that your balance and flexibility will also improve – reducing the likelihood of a fall.


9. Decreases anxiety

The same way hiking can reduce depression, a walk in nature can also reduce symptoms of anxiety. Exercise like hiking reduces adrenaline that accumulates during periods of stress. It calms the body and can decrease the intensity of symptoms in future periods of anxiety.

10.Encourages better posture

Going for regular hikes encourages one to adopt a good walking posture, upright and straight, but relaxed. Good posture prevents muscle aches and keeps the spine from becoming fixed in abnormal positions.

This article is provided through a sponsorship from Pfizer in the interests of continuous medical education. Notwithstanding Pfizer's sponsorship of this publication, neither Pfizer nor its subsidiary or affiliated companies shall be liable for any damages, claims, liabilities, costs or obligations arising from the misuse of the information provided in this publication.

Readers are advised to consult their health care practitioner for specific information on personal health matters as this is not the intention or purpose of the publication. Specific medical advice or recommendations on the clinical management of patients will not be provided by Pfizer. In this regard Pfizer does not support the use of products for off label indications, nor dosing which falls outside the approved label recommendations and readers must refer to the Package Insert of any product for full prescribing guidelines.












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