Discover the physical and mental benefits of outdoor exercise while hitting the trails

Cooler weather is here, and there's no better time to explore the outdoors than during the 2024 Hillsborough County Hiking Spree. Did you know that there are more benefits to the Hiking Spree than just getting a prize? Research has shown that regular exercise outdoors not only improves overall health and fitness, but also relieves stress and improves mental health.

The physical benefits of outdoor exercise

Hiking or taking a brisk walk is good for your heart and can improve cardio fitness. Traveling along uneven or sandy surfaces offers a natural and fun way to engage the torso's core muscles and increase your balance. A simple hike in the park or regular trek through the neighborhood provides a great total body workout, resulting in stronger muscles and bones, improved heart health, and a reduction in the risk of diseases such as heart disease, colon cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Walking burns an average of 100 calories for every mile walked, which helps to control weight and potentially lead to fewer doctor or hospital visits.

If you are new to hiking, or if you experience balance or vision issues, try using walking poles on your trek to give you a little extra stability as you move. Putting the poles in front of you as you walk can take pressure off your knee joints, and keep you strong and balanced.

The emotional advantages of taking a hike

Another benefit of hiking or taking a walk outside is the restorative and stress-relieving power of being in nature. Many studies have found that spending time outdoors eases stress levels. Being in nature brings a sense of peace, and it can improve your overall mood and mental health. Walking releases adrenaline and endorphins into your body, decreasing worry and anxiety, regardless of the speed with which you move. The endorphins can lift your spirits, keeping your brain as healthy as your body. Being outdoors also opens your senses to your surroundings, and it can help spark creativity and clarity in thinking.

By inviting a human or furry friend along on your hike, you can also improve your relationships. Exploring the outdoors together on a short or long trek can bring you closer and help build healthier relationships, allowing time for conversation that is uninterrupted by technology and the everyday stresses of the world.

2024 Hiking Spree

The 2024 Hillsborough County Hiking Spree runs through March 31, 2024, and it features trails at 22 locations throughout the county, including two state parks, accessible trails, and dog-friendly spots.  

Participants are encouraged to post photos from their hikes using the hashtag #TakeAHikeHC.