I used to be a couch potato. A nature-loving couch potato, but a couch-potato all the same.
I’ve worked in I.T. since 2000, and I didn’t start hiking regularly until 2008. For those eight years, my daily routine was to wake up, drive to work and sit at a desk almost all day, then drive home to sit in front of the TV, before going to bed and lying down until it was time to do it all again. The weekends were much the same, except usually spent sitting in bars or restaurants, rather than in front of the TV. I’d have been lucky to have spent a couple of hours each week walking or standing.
I was tired, fat, and looking older than my years.
Then, I discovered how much I liked hiking, and there was no turning back. There’s nothing like finding a form of exercise that you actually enjoy doing, to set you on your way to a healthier lifestyle. I’d only spent a couple of months pursuing my newfound obsession before I started to notice how much better I looked and felt.
Considering you’ve found yourself reading this article, I’m guessing you’ve got at least some interest in getting outdoors. So here’s why you should get off the couch and start hiking…
1. Feel fitter and stronger.
If you’re as unfit as I was, you might find yourself breathless, heart thumping, and pouring with sweat after just a few kilometres of riverside walking. You won’t need to keep it up very long before walk on terrain like that just won’t do it for you anymore.
As you increase the difficulty of the terrain you hike on, you’ll be pushing yourself a bit further each time, strengthening the muscles in your lower body and core, as well as your cardio-respiratory system. The reward and motivation can come from the incredible places you’ll get to see in the process.
2. Start punching new holes in your belt.
I hadn’t been hiking long when people started commenting on my weight-loss. It shocked me because at no time did I consciously decide I would try to lose weight. It just happened.
Naturally, as with any aerobic exercise, hiking burns calories. The difference between hiking and other exercises is that with hiking, burning calories isn’t what you’re there for, so you’ll never grow impatient waiting for visible results.
3. Think more clearly, be happier.
It isn’t just my body that was noticeably healthier thanks to hiking. I found that my concentration improved, I was less anxious and stressed, and just generally happier. The feeling of achievement I get from conquering that new trail, or getting to the top of that mountain, is one of my favourite parts. It makes me feel like I can do anything I put my mind to.
4. Stick around a bit longer.
Hiking helps in strengthening muscles, bones and joints, as well as the cardiovascular and immune systems. A regular hike will lower your risk of dying from heart disease or cardiovascular issues, and contribute to a more pleasurable life in your later years.
5. Stop walking into things.
I’ve always been the person in the group who trips over the curb, or walks into the empty table at the restaurant. One of the fortunate side-effects of regular hiking has been improved balance and spatial awareness.
6. Hiking is a gateway drug.
Hiking was the easiest form of exercise for me to take up, mainly because it didn’t feel like exercise. The special side-effect of that for me was that it taught me to love other exercise as well.
Okay so I’ll never be a marathon runner, but if I don’t have time to get out for a hike, a half hour jog actually seems like a good idea these days. This is probably due to the similar endorphin rush that any good workout will provide.
Are you looking for a way to start getting fitter and healthier? I’d say you’re out of excuses. Get out for a hike this weekend. You might find yourself hooked.
This post was brought to you by Bushwalking Blog and Dettol. Dettol believes that health depends on the choices we make every day at home, in our community and beyond. That’s why they’ve started a Mission for Health. Dettol’s mission is fuelled by passion and backed by their expertise in disinfection, hygiene and first aid. They aim to educate Australians about healthy homes and, in cooperation with Save the Children, they’re bringing a life saving Child Health & Hygiene program to Indonesia. They invite you to join them on their Mission for Health.
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Have you already hiked yourself healthy? Or has my post spurred you to take action? Please tell us about it in the comments section below and feel free to drop me a line if you ever need advice.