Hiking and Health
Like much of the world, America today faces myriad health concerns. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2015 35% (79 million) adults in America were obese. This obesity leads to health issues such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, among others. Additionally, millions of Americans are challenged with health issues such as arthritis, high blood pressure, and other conditions that negatively impact their quality of life.
These health issues affect peoples’ ability to enjoy time with their families and friends, get involved in their communities, and live life to the fullest.
In our search for solutions we pay millions of dollars for research, spend years studying complex human behaviors, and attempt to discern the smallest of environmental influences that could affect a health issue. While all this is certainly necessary, sometimes the solution we’ve been searching for has been in front of us all along. Something as simple as walking.
Below are some of the health issues that regularly hiking and walking can help to address:
Diabetes is brought about by problems with insulin levels and yields higher, unhealthy levels of blood sugar. The two most common types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2. Most U.S. adults who have diabetes (90%-95% of adults who have diabetes), have type 2. Type 2 usually occurs in adults and is associated with several risk factors, among them being obesity and physical inactivity.
In today’s American society, it can be all too easy for people to be obese. While this can take a toll on self-esteem, it also leads to many other health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, as well as certain types of cancer and high blood pressure.
In the U.S., coronary artery disease is the most common form of heart disease. Heart attacks and strokes are both caused by coronary artery disease, particularly by the build-up of plaque in the walls of arteries. Exercise such as hiking can help to prevent this disease which is the number one cause of death in the US.
When people suffer from mental health issues, it frequently goes unnoticed and underreported. But good mental health is crucial to overall health and well-being. Those too depressed to get moving are not likely to participate in physical activities that would help prevent or alleviate physical ailments.
For more information about the numerous health benefits of hiking, existing programs that are getting America moving, and connecting communities, read American Hiking Society's Hiking Trails in America: Pathways to Health report, available as a free download.