Studies have shown again and again that the way to prolong life is to move your body. Exercise – especially hiking – is a great way to get those endorphins pumping (the hormone that adds to your happiness). Better still, going for a leisurely long walk (that gets your heart beating a bit faster) increases the levels of dopamine and serotonin floating within your bloodstream.
These hormones – produced by glands – help promote positive feelings, including happiness and pleasure.
Specifically, endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers – helping to alleviate any aches or pain.
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In 2008, advances in technology made it possible to measure how exercise influenced the number of endorphins released in the body.
Using positron emission tomography (PET) scans, researchers viewed the brains of athletes before and after exercise.
What they discovered was that exercise truly does increase the “feel-good” hormone and, as a result, boosts mood.
High levels of dopamine can lead to a sense of euphoria, bliss, enhanced motivation and concentration, and serotonin contributes to wellbeing and happiness.
Cheryl Lythgoe, Head Matron at Benenden Health – one of the UK’s longest serving and most respected mutual healthcare societies – says that low-impact exercise, such as hiking, can “reduce the natural bone loss in those over the age of 35”.
“Regular exercise can help to protect the body from heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and obesity and its related diseases, including diabetes,” she continues.
“Exercise is a low-cost, high-return venture for not only our physical health but also our mental health.”
People who hike are “healthier and happier”, Lythgoe adds. “It’s fabulous for those who are recovering from injury, or have some degree of joint damage, such as arthritis.”
Just imagine, getting out and about in the fresh air, moving your body and letting the happy hormones flow freely while setting eyes on beautiful scenery.
There are stunning hiking areas spread throughout the UK.
For one, there’s Hadrian’s Wall – a 135km trek – from Wallsend in Northumberland to Bowness-on-Solway in Cumbria.
The treasure trove of historical sights include the ruins of ancient Roman forts and informative museums.
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Heading all the way down to the southern coast of Cornwall is The Lizard Coastal Walk.
The 11km trek starts and finishes at Kynance Cove and it’s one of the best beaches in all of England.
And there are loads of eye-catching walks from the depths of Plymouth to the tip top of Scotland awaiting your arrival.
Research has shown that joining a hiking group is great for your physical and mental health.
Aside from increasing your stamina, joining a hiking society can ward off loneliness and depression in older people and can ease symptoms of anxiety.
Not only that, completing a hike can bring about a great sense of personal achievement.
And working together to take on more and more hiking challenges can increase levels of motivation.
You could even do a trek for your favourite charity – RSPCA, Marie Curie and Mind are all taking part.
All this combined can lead to a happier, longer and more fulfilling life. Now take a hike.
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