Hiking Can Help Prevent Heart Disease

How Hiking Can Help Prevent Heart Disease
Ryan the authorResearch by Duncan
Updated: August 11, 2019

Heart disease is the leading cause of premature death in the United States (almost 1 in 3 deaths) and places in the top 3 for the United Kingdom and Canada. Each year 200,000 of those deaths in the United States are considered preventable cases had the person taken steps to take care of their heart. With something so dangerous and prevalent in our society, it is sometimes surprising how little people do to help prevent this deadly and common condition. Luckily, there are some key ways that experts at Mayo Clinic agree can help reduce your risk of heart disease.

Preventing Heart Disease

Hiking can help nearly everyone prevent heart disease. However, there are some general tips and best practices to follow that have been proven to help lower your risk of heart disease.

Don’t Smoke

Smoking has been well known to have a negative effect on a person’s health for some time now, and it is a huge risk factor for increasing your chance of heart disease. The chemicals from cigarettes damages arteries, narrowing them and promoting plaque buildup that could block them altogether. Not only are you harming your arteries, but the carbon dioxide in the smoke actually replaces the oxygen in your blood and forces your heart to work harder to supply enough oxygen to your body.

Overall, limiting the amount of smoking you do, ideally stopping completely, is the best way to eliminate this major risk factor of heart disease. Even smokeless tobacco and low tar cigarettes pose a risk for increasing chance of heart disease.

Eat Healthy

Something you are probably bored of hearing from your doctor is to eat more fruits and vegetables. However, eating healthy is not important just for keeping your weight down. What you eat can affect your risk of heart disease. It is important to eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains regularly. Low-fat dairy products and lean meats are a part of a heart healthy diet as well. There are also certain types of fats that a heart-healthy diet would avoid such as those found in red meats, fast food, and bakery products.

Get Regular Excercise

The experts agree that regular cardio workout is one of the best ways – if not the best way – to help reduce your risk of heart disease. Mayo Clinic suggests at least 300 minutes a week of vigorous exercise which can be accomplished by a hike or brisk walk.

Exercise has many benefits associated with it that can help fight heart disease, improving circulation, improves cholesterol levels, manages stress levels, and can even help you fall asleep more soundly! Regular exercise can actually decrease the chance of heart disease by up to 40%!

Maintain Weight

Carrying extra weight can put a big strain on your body, especially when it is around your middle. The extra weight can lead to conditions that can greatly increase your chance of heart disease such has high blood pressure and high cholesterol. If you are overweight, losing even just a few pounds can be very beneficial. It will help decrease blood sugar and triglycerides. Losing more weight (by more than 5% of overall weight) will begin to help blood pressure and cholesterol.

Manage Stress

Stress puts a lot of strain on the body, mentally and physically. Some people find unhealthy ways to cope with stress such as overeating, drinking, and smoking. It is important to find a healthy outlet for stress to improve your overall health.

How Hiking Helps You

Hiking is the perfect way to get in exercise to help prevent heart disease, hitting on nearly all of the top 5 risk factors for heart disease. It is an excellent form of cardio and can help you get your heart pumping. Even just a simple daily hike through the woods can really help you get that daily exercise needed to improve your lifestyle.

Daily or weekly hiking can:

  • Improve circulation
  • Prevents and manages high blood pressure
  • Keep weight under control
  • Manage stress
  • Improve cholesterol
  • Help you quit smoking
  • Have fun with the family

The hike doesn’t necessarily have to be a strenuous back country mountain trail either. It can be as easy as looking up a local park or forest in which you can enjoy nature and get outside Follow these best practices to help you get started on your hiking, and to maximize the benefits.

Make a Plan and Let Someone Know

Before you start your hike, make sure you check the weather and have your trail mapped out and let someone know your approximate start and end time. If the worst should happen, you know that someone knows where you are and that help will be on the way!

Start Slow

It is easy to get excited about a new workout regimen and go all in, but make sure to take an honest look at your own abilities before climbing a mountain. A local, short hike is a good place to start. If you do not know how hard a hike may be, I suggest using the AllTrails app. Difficulty ratings are given for each hike. As you become more comfortable and more adventurous, start to work your way up to hills, trails, and hikes with more uneven terrain. Even a small incline can help increase calorie burn by 30%!

Use Hiking Poles

When using hiking poles, you not only give yourself more points of contact to improve balance and traction, but it also helps give you and additional workout in your upper body. This can strengthen arms and chest, as well as give you an even more complete cardio workout.

Make a Routine

Try and regularly get out on your new hiking regimen. Remember that Mayo Clinic suggests at least 300 minutes of exercise per week so it is important to have this regular time to create a healthy habit of exercise. On days you cannot make it out to your favorite spot, maybe walk some hilly terrain just to ensure your fitness level stays on track. If you find yourself begin to lose interest, find a new spot to hike or take a new hiking buddy.

Have Fun

The great thing about hiking is you do not have to take it too seriously, especially as you are getting started. Utilize the time to get to know your local park or forest better, or to spend quality time with family. It is a great way to get in shape and keep your heart healthy, but should also be treated as a time to relax and have fun.

Hiking is a great way to keep your heart healthy, and to stay in shape. There are a lot of ways to prevent heart disease, and a blend of all of them is your best bet to avoid it. I hike to stay active and to help spend time with family, why do you hike?

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