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  • Immagine del redattoreDr. David Della Morte Canosci

THE HEART-HEALTHY BENEFITS OF HIKING: WHY THIS SIMPLE EXERCISE IS KEY TO LONGEVITY AND WELL-BEING

Hiking, a simple yet profoundly beneficial physical activity, has been universally lauded by scientists and health enthusiasts alike. Its positive effects on cardiovascular health are particularly notable. This article delves into the heart-healthy advantages of regular hiking, drawing on cutting-edge scientific research and expert advice.


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A HEARTFELT INTRODUCTION TO HIKING


Hiking, the most primitive and organic form of physical activity, is hailed as a panacea for countless health issues, particularly heart-related conditions. Its simplicity, accessibility and minimal requirements make it a universally feasible exercise. Regardless of age or fitness level, anyone can partake in hiking and reap its countless benefits.


HIKING AND HEART HEALTH: A SCIENTIFIC PERSPECTIVE


The inherent connection between physical activity and improved cardiovascular health is well-documented. Multiple studies have corroborated the positive influence of movement on our most vital organ - the heart. The question then arises - what kind of physical activity offers the most significant heart benefits?


HIKING: THE AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION'S ENDORSEMENT


The American Heart Association, amidst its numerous campaigns for cardiovascular disease prevention, underscores the benefits of hiking. The association cites a 2013 study published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, which followed 33,060 runners and 15,045 hikers aged between 18 to 80, over six years.


The study concluded that hiking at a moderate intensity and running at high intensity both resulted in similar reductions in the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, diabetes and coronary diseases. Intriguingly, the benefits were even greater for hikers.


5 ESSENTIAL TIPS TO MAXIMISE THE HEART-HEALTHY BENEFITS OF HIKING


Drawing from the aforementioned research, here are five actionable tips, suitable for everyone, including the laziest amongst us, to safeguard our heart health through hiking.


1. THE FIRST STEP IS HALF THE BATTLE


Are you a couch potato? Fear not, for the mere act of transitioning from a sedentary lifestyle to regular hiking yields benefits, however small. The research showed that both runners and hikers enjoy more significant health benefits the more they run or hike. So, get up and get hiking!


2. STAIRS: THE UNSUNG HERO OF CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH


Once you've embarked on your hiking journey, resist the lure of the elevator. Climbing stairs is a fantastic exercise that gifts your heart with numerous benefits. Incorporate a few flights of stairs into your daily routine and enhance your cardiovascular health.


3. THE THERAPEUTIC BENEFITS OF HIKING: EVERY STEP COUNTS


The American Heart Association's research reveals that the benefits derived from hiking are proportional to energy expended, rather than the duration of the hike. So, even a short hike can be beneficial. For hiking to serve as a preventative measure against cardiovascular issues, scientists recommend hiking for at least 30 minutes a day, 5-7 days a week, at a moderate to high intensity.


4. WALKING VERSUS RUNNING: THE WINNER IS?


Contrary to popular belief, running is not necessarily the next step in your health journey. If you enjoy running, by all means, continue. However, if the prospect of transitioning into a runner deters you from even walking, it's best to stick to hiking. The American study found that, for the same caloric expenditure, not only do the benefits of hiking equal that of running, but they often surpass them.


5. SAVOUR YOUR HIKE: THE KEY TO LONGEVITY


The last reason why hiking is beneficial for heart health isn't presented in the aforementioned study. However, numerous studies prove that relishing the tranquillity of a hike, be it in nature or a city, multiplies the health benefits. Whether it's due to the release of endorphins or the reduction in cortisol levels, hiking sparks a virtuous cycle of well-being.


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HIKING AND HYPERTENSION: A POSITIVE CORRELATION


In addition to its general cardiovascular benefits, hiking also has a significant impact on hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure. A study involving 83,435 women without any initial diagnosis of hypertension showed that those who hiked more had a 11% lower probability of developing hypertension compared to those who hiked less frequently. Furthermore, faster hikers had a 21% lower risk compared to slower hikers.


SEDENTARY BEHAVIOUR AND CARDIAC FAILURE: THE CONNECTION


Another study from the University of Buffalo focused on the link between a sedentary lifestyle and heart disease. It found that women who sat for 4.6–8.5 hours per day had a 14% increased risk of heart failure, compared to those who sat for no more than 4.5 hours. This risk escalated to 54% for those sedentary for more than 8.5 hours daily.


THE TAKEAWAY: HIKING FOR HEART HEALTH


In conclusion, hiking is an easily accessible, low-impact exercise that is immensely beneficial for heart health. By incorporating regular hiking into your lifestyle, you can significantly reduce your risk of hypertension, coronary diseases, and heart failure. So, lace up your hiking shoes and embark on the journey towards a healthier heart.



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