Hope & Healing: The UF Health Blog

Take a Hike for Your Health

“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” - John Muir

If you’re like nearly half of Americans, you made a New Year’s resolution at the end of 2016, and if you join in with 21 percent of resolvers, you have a goal to lose weight. Now that a few weeks of 2017 have passed, it’s time to assess those resolutions.

Research shows that at the end of January, only 58.4 percent of people have maintained their resolutions, and ultimately, only about 10 percent of people feel that they successfully achieved them.

How is your weight-loss resolution holding up? If you’re struggling to find interesting ways to work out and improve your health, take a hike! There are many benefits to hiking, and it is a fun and easy way for you to get your exercise in every week.

Weight Loss

Burning calories can jumpstart weight loss.

“To lose weight, a person needs to burn more calories than they consume,” says Jeffrey Friedman, M.D., FACS, assistant professor in the division of general surgery at the UF College of Medicine and director of bariatric surgery at the UF Health Weight Loss Surgery Center. “Hiking is good exercise because it will help a person trying to lose weight burn calories.”

Depending on your current body weight, hiking can burn upwards of 550 calories an hour. Additionally, if you increase the intensity of your hike, you may experience an increase in metabolism through the rest of the day. Even after you’ve finished the hike, your body will continue to burn calories for up to 14 hours. 

In addition to the calories burned, hiking can help with your weight-loss goals by increasing muscle tone, and improving the function of your heart, lungs, blood vessels and bones. When you strengthen these parts of your body, your overall health can improve. 

Other Health Benefits

While the most desired result of hiking is probably the potential for weight loss, there are other ways that a brisk walk on a trail can improve your overall wellbeing. Hiking can increase your creativity and problem-solving abilities, boost your feelings of peace and inspiration and even improve your ability to fight off diseases.

Children can join in and receive some of the health benefits, making it a family event. Kids who hike have improved fitness, sleep better at night and develop stronger bones.

To maximize weight loss, remember to pair hiking with an appropriate diet. “Reducing caloric intake is critical. This can be done by eliminating sodas, diet sodas and sugar from the liquids the person drinks. Reducing portion size and eating healthier meals is important as well.”

Getting Started

Now that you know all the great results that can come from taking a hike, you’re ready to get started down the path to improved health.
The difference between a hike and a walk is a faster pace and steeper incline.So, if you want to experience the health benefits of hiking, you need to find a natural area with hills or substantial inclines. You can also increase the amount of calories you burn by carrying a backpack.

Here are some trails in Gainesville and North Central Florida to get you started:

  • Alfred A. Ring Park
  • Bivens Arm Nature Park
  • LaChua Trail
  • Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State park
  • Poe Springs Park

For more hiking trails around Gainesville and in Florida, visit http://floridahikes.com/hiking-trails.

You’re on your way!

About the Author

Chelsea Slater

Marketing Intern

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