Diabetes, and the Mind-Body Benefits of Hiking
It is one of the easiest, least costly sports to engage in, and has mind and body benefits that contribute to diabetes management three ways.
Hiking in forest areas, on mountain trails, or through local parks helps us reduce the worry and stress that can accompany constant glucose monitoring, heightens our capacity to problem solve, and helps us stay in shape.
Though the psychological rewards of hiking have long been experienced, researchers are busy verifying the perks of tramping along nature trails, or wandering off them. For instance, a recent study examined the effect hiking has on the quality of our thoughts.
Two groups of study participants were sent on a 90 minute hike, one group in an urban area, the other in a natural environment. Those traipsing through the natural setting reported a decrease in worry and negative thinking, and they showed less neural activity in a part of the brain associated with mental distress. Those walking the urban path did not experience a reduction of anxious or pessimistic thoughts.
The decrease in negative thinking caused by rubbing elbows with nature translates into increased tranquility, and a greater sense of well-being. Plus, hiking can easily be turned into a group activity, and being with family and friends can also lower stress levels, and lift our spirits.
Spending time in the great outdoors, minus our cell phones and other digital gadgets, also sharpens our creative problem solving ability—something that helps with all the issues we daily manage, including diabetes.
One research study sent a group of hearty participants on a four-day technology-free nature hike where they performed tasks that required creativity and complex problem solving. As the hike progressed, the participant’s problem-solving performance improved by 50 percent. This led the scientists to conclude that technology and urban noise overburden our attention and cognitive functions, while non-digital time spent in nature soothes the brain, and boosts its creative power.
Beside the psychological lift it provides, hiking is a fun way to burn off between 400 and 700 calories each hour—depending on travel speed, hiker size, and the terrain. What a pleasant way to combat weight gain and keep glucose levels in check. Walking over changing terrain is good for our balance, lower body strength, and can provide some heart-healthy aerobic benefit, as well.
To enjoy the health rewards of hiking, go online to find maps of hiking trails in your vicinity. Make sure you own a sturdy, comfortable pair of hiking shoes or boots, and dress in layers that can be peeled off as the temperature climbs. Bring plenty of water with you, a supply of quick carb sources, and be sure to store your insulin and monitoring supplies in an insulated carrier on warm days.
On a hike, you're less a job title and more a human being....A periodic hike not only stretches the limbs but also reminds us: Wow, there's a big old world out there.
~ Ken Ilgunas, Trespassing Across America