Low-impact activities are vital for improving the health of Alabamians at any age. As the weather cools and the leaves begin to change, hiking becomes the perfect pastime. Even so, the numerous health benefits of a good hike may surprise you. 


Here are the top benefits of taking your stroll into the great outdoors.


Strengthen Your Sense of Balance

Uneven ground constantly challenges your sense of balance, forcing you to have your wits about you. As you hike, your core and leg muscles stabilize your body, strengthening over time. These muscles support your balance skills and can give you confidence as you face changing terrain. Regularly practicing balancing movements like hiking may help prevent falls and trips as we age. 


But it’s not just stabilizing muscles that improve balance. Hiking may also help increase proprioception. Proprioception is our mind’s awareness of the position and movement of the body with reference to its surroundings. As you hike, the brain is processing every rock, root, and limb. Then, it gauges what it will take to step over obstacles. Over time, our brains become more adept at judging different obstacles, and as a result, balance improves.


Build Muscle

As we age, we lose around 0.64 to 0.9% of their muscle mass every year. Because of this, it is essential to engage in muscle-building activities. Muscle building is one of the health benefits of hiking. Challenging terrain, steep uphill and downhill sections, and heavy backpacks all help keep your muscle mass. Hiking engages almost every muscle group in the body, strengthening your body from head to toe. 


Boost Mental Wellbeing

The mental benefits of hiking are considerable. Here’s what you can expect: 


- Develop a rugged sense of self-reliance

- Alleviate stress and anxiety 

- Better focus and productivity


Research from Stanford University found that those who spent time in nature showed decreased activity in a region of the brain associated with a key factor in depression. Another study by Stanford University found that outdoor exercise and hiking correlate with positive thoughts, higher energy, and fewer feelings of depression and tension. Find an outdoor hike near you and experience a boost in your mental health for days!


Improve Sleep Quality

Hiking may improve sleep quality significantly. Research shows that sun exposure during the day improves rest by helping to regulate the body’s circadian rhythm. By being more alert throughout your hike, you can sleep better at night. The rush of positive endorphins and natural sunlight from the hike all contribute to a more natural, sleep-wake cycle. 


And, the benefits of hiking on your mental well-being can alleviate your stress, making it easier to fall asleep at night. Curl up and enjoy a great night’s sleep after hiking outdoors!


Elevate Your Wellbeing with the Help of UAB Medical West

Investing in your health is essential at every stage of life. And while hiking is great, it also helps to have medical professionals by your side. Our team at UAB Medical West is committed to your well-being, offering knowledgeable care and treatment for patients throughout Central Alabama. Don’t wait to receive the treatment you deserve!


Learn More About the Benefits of Hiking & Exercise at UAB Medical West

Learn more about the benefits of autumn hikes from a professional! Experience positive changes in your mental health, balance, and sleep quality with hikes this fall. To learn more about health resources in your community, or to schedule an appointment with one of our mental health professionals, contact us today.