Because of my mother’s love affair with hiking and the outdoors, I grew up on the trail. This legacy has provided me with an invaluable appreciation of health and fitness that I’ve passed on to my daughters.
All of our family vacations revolved around hiking excursions in the mountain ranges of the Northeast, including the Adirondacks, the Green Mountains of Vermont, and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. These hiking trips provided me with a deep sense of trust in my own strength and stamina, which formed the foundation of a lifetime of fitness.
While in medical school at Dartmouth in New Hampshire, I continued hiking as a form of invigorating outdoor exercise. When my children were young, outdoor hikes were a favorite family activity. To this day, long walks and hikes remain my favorite forms of outdoor exercise that keep me strong, healthy, and optimistic.
Hiking offers women many benefits that can’t easily be found in a gym.
Fresh Air and Sunshine
For starters, hiking is done outdoors in the fresh air and natural light. As a nutrient, natural light helps balance hormones and optimizes fertility. It also increases serotonin levels in the brain, which is essential for maintaining a stable mood and preventing depression. Moderate doses of sunlight have also been shown to enhance immune system functioning while providing optimal doses of vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for building healthy bones and joints while also helping prevent breast and bowel cancer.
Vertical Vectors of Force
Hiking is a weight-bearing activity that creates vertical vectors of force in the long bones of the body. This induces a small electromagnetic current known as the piezoelectric effect, which draws calcium, magnesium, and other minerals into the bone, and in turn helps promote strong bones while minimizing the risk of osteoporosis.
Enhanced Mood and Decreased Stress
Repetitive physical activity such as walking and hiking results in the production of beta endorphins in the brain and body. These natural morphine-like substances help create and maintain a positive mood as well as a meditative state thereby reducing the effects of stress.