If you’ve spent any time around me or the other ladies at Thrive, you’ve probably discussed a hiking trail or two with us. In our opinion, hiking and any exercise you do outdoors is superior to exercising indoors. But it isn’t just our opinion, research supports exercising outside to benefit health and well-being. Going on a walk or hike in our gorgeous local Boise foothills provides many benefits. Not only is it a great way to spend time with your loved ones and decompress, it also improves overall wellness.
Psychological Benefits of Hiking
- Family hikes strengthen bonds and relationships1
- Hiking with friends provides a social outlet
- Decreases stress and cortisol levels
- Increases serotonin levels resulting in less depression2
- Increases attention
Physical Benefits of Hiking
- Lower blood pressure2
- Weight loss2
- Muscle strengthening
- Improves cardiovascular endurance
- Increases vitamin D production
Science Reveals Benefits of Hiking
In a study comparing hiking, running, and walking outside, hikers burned the most energy, since they tend to choose more difficult terrain relative to running on flat ground.4 A small team of researchers at Boise State University is studying the relationship between hiking in wooded areas (specifically behind Camel’s Back Park) and cortisol levels. They recorded lower cortisol levels in hiker’s saliva. Lower cortisol correlates with less stress.
Hiking benefits overall health, both physically and psychologically. It’s also an easy, fun, and low-cost way to get out and enjoy the sunshine. In a 2015 study3, 38% of U.S. adults do not participate in any physical activities during the week. Lacing up your tennis shoes and finding a good walking trail is a good start to an exercise program. Begin with easier and flat terrain then progress to uneven trails and steeper hills.
Hiking the Boise Foothills: Resources
Inspired to find some good hiking trails? Check out the Ridge to Rivers website, they have an awesome interactive map of all the trails. When you click on a specific trail, it shows: the name of the trail, which users it supports, difficulty ratings, how to get there and trail distance. Their website also describes trails in certain areas of the Boise Foothills.
Is Your Body Limiting your Ability to Hike?
Want to hike more, but are limited by pain or problems with mobility? Visit a physical therapist to get a thorough evaluation to address pain and musculoskeletal imbalances. We love helping our patients reach their goal of getting back into the Boise foothills!
- Børge Baklien, Borgunn Ytterhus & Rob Bongaardt (2016) When everyday life becomes a storm on the horizon: families’ experiences of good mental health while hiking in nature, Anthropology & Medicine, 23:1, 42-53, DOI: 10.1080/13648470.2015.1056056
- Mitten, D., Overholt, J. R., Haynes, F. I., D’Amore, C. C., & Ady, J. C. (2018). Hiking: A Low-Cost, Accessible Intervention to Promote Health Benefits. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine, 12(4), 302–310. https://doi.org/10.1177/1559827616658229
- Dai, S., Carroll, D., Watson, K., Prabasaj, P., Carlson, S., & Fulton, J. (2015). Participation in Types of Physical Activities among US Adults–National Health and Nutrition Explanation Survey 1999-2006. Journal of Physical Activity and Health 2015 12:6 Suppl 1, S128-S140
- Isabelle D. Wolf, Teresa Wohlfart. (2014). Walking, hiking and running in parks: A multidisciplinary assessment of health and well-being benefits. Landscape and Urban Planning. 130, 89-103