Workout with a Happy Trail
Get out of the gym and into shape with a low-impact hike.
By Ashley Baker
Torrey Pines Hiking Trail
Tired of the same workouts? For most people, repetition quickly becomes boring. And when something's boring, you're less likely to do it. So why not try something new? There are many outdoor activities ripe for the season that will get you out of the gym and into shape. Hiking is a great option if you're looking for something fun, convenient, and effective. The natural walking motion provides you with a relatively low impact but effective workout--plus, you're able to set the exact pace, intensity, and length of your workout with ease.
The benefits don't end there, new research has shown hiking stimulates the neurotransmitter norepinephrine, which may directly improve mood. The dirt that you are exposed to while doing any kind out outdoor activity has been shown to have the same effects as Prozac. This connection was discovered by Dr. Chris Lowry and his colleagues at the University of Bristol and University College London. They exposed lung cancer patients to a common, inoffensive microbe called Mycobacterium vaccae, found in soil. The patients unexpectedly reported increases in their quality of life, including a brighter mood. The researchers found that this effect was caused by stimulation of neurons in the patients’ brains that produce serotonin, a feel-good chemical. And a happier you is a healthier you!
Hiking is also the starting point of a whole range of other outdoor activities. It is often a part of rock climbing, mountaineering, mountain biking, para gliding, and a lot of other outdoor activities. Another benefit of hiking is the fact that it's a year round activity. Being able to hike in different conditions is one of the activity’s most appealing and challenging factors. Experiencing the Autumn leaves, the new green of spring and the summer evening hikes keep it interesting and exciting, which will keep you coming back for more. And best of all hiking is free! No contracts, monthly rates, or expensive equipment. Luckily we live in the finest city where there is no shortage of scenic trails. Starting with the lush Torrey Pines State Reserve. Eight miles of trails along the bluffs at the north end of La Jolla, with exceptional views up and down the coastline. Cool ocean breezes in summer make the reserve a year-round hiking option.
Hiking Trail at Torrey Pines State Beach
Also be sure to check out Palomar Mountain Observatory Trail. The coniferous and oak-lined 4 mile trail is clean and well-maintained, with stunning vistas. The trail ends near the Observatory, which is open year-round between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
And if your looking for something a bit more challenging check out Cowles Mountain located within Mission Trails Regional Park. A popular 3-mile vertical climb to the highest point within the city of San Diego, with panoramic views at the top. Steep switchbacks make for a heart-pounding excursion. And if that's not enough a trail at the top of Cowles Mountain leads an additional 2 miles to the top of nearby Pyle's Peak.
To reap all the rewards of this amazing hobby be sure to plan ahead. Summer heat can be a bit excessive so plan your hike first thing in the morning or late in the day. Also bring plenty of water and a map with you every time. Whether you’re looking to lose weight, reduce stress, or simply clear your head and get out into nature, hiking delivers almost endless rewards.