Gyms definitely have their place. Let's face it, without health & fitness clubs, many people would never work out. There are certain people, and you may be one of this group, who simply need a gym-like environment full of people, machines & weights to motivate them to workout. A gym atmosphere does much to push some people into getting into shape. Whether it's the sight of people in better condition than we are, or maybe just the opposite, those who are worse off & make us feel better about ourselves; whatever the reason, health clubs do a great deal to help thousands & perhaps millions of people to exercise and achieve a better fitness level.
Treadmills, stair-steppers, spinning classes, aerobic classes, Tae Bo, kick boxing, yoga, pilates, the list goes on. All these aerobic exercises & classes each appeal to different people, and if practiced with intensity & commitment, will yield results. For the most part, all these aforementioned activities take place inside a building, usually a health or fitness club. Yet I'd like to mention an activity which I feel can be healthier & more physically stimulating than any of these other activities: hiking.
One of the best all-around aerobic activities that anyone can engage in is hiking. The best part, there's no fee where you practice this, as it's accomplished in nature's own health club, the outdoors! Yes, going to the gym and pushing the pedals, tramping the treadmill or straining on the stair-stepper will definitely burn off unwanted body fat and do your body good. But in my opinion, a gym simply can't compete with nature. Off the top of my head, here's seven benefits of hiking over indoor aerobic activity:
1.Breathing crisp, fresh air is healthier than the intake of body-odor-sweat-laden gym air. Tastes better too!
2.Hiking stimulates & sharpens every physical sense.
3.Increases brain function.
4.Gyms are crowded. Can't really be alone with your thoughts in a gym full of people.
5.Costs less. Once you've bought a good pair of hiking boots or shoes, there are no more fees.
6.You don't need to wait for a trail to hike, as you do for machines or weights in a gym.
7.Outdoors is more diverse. Gyms are all pretty much the same.
In 2004, results were released of a fascinating study involving how hiking influences the fats & sugars in one's blood. Austrian researchers announced their findings following an in depth comparison of two groups of people chosen for studying the effects of hiking. This took place in the Alps at a ski resort mountain. One group hiked uphill for two months, while the second group were transported by cable car to a higher elevation, then hiked downhill. The groups switched their respective programs after this two month period, repeating the experiment.
The findings revealed that hiking both uphill & downhill provides excellent health benefits. Both directions of hiking reduced LDL cholesterol levels, known as "bad" cholesterol. Triglyceride levels were reduced from hiking uphill only, while downhill hiking was almost twice as effective in removing blood sugars and improving glucose tolerance.
That's some pretty amazing information. I always knew that hiking was great for the body, but this particular study breaks it down and shares information that I didn't know. Researchers from the Vorarlberg Institute for Vascular Investigation and Treatment are those who performed this intensive study. Up until now, the benefits of hiking could only be theorized and no true scientific information was available. Hiking is indeed great for raising our fitness levels & keeping us healthy!