The hills are alive with the sound of walking

The hills are alive with the sound of walking

A regular walking routine is an effective antidote for lowering your risk of heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis as well as improving strength, endurance and overall health. But people who walk uphill can make these gains much faster. Here’s 10 important reasons to start adding some gradients to your walking regime.

1.       Better for your muscles. While walking on the flat is beneficial, uphill walking requires more effort from all your lower body muscles. As you push upwards, your calves, glutes and hamstrings are actively contracted giving an intense workout to these leg muscles. Your legs will become toned and shapely after just a few weeks. Keep those tummy muscles tight and you’ll tone your torso too.  

2.       Low impact. Unlike running, walking uphill is a low-impact exercise so less stressful on your knees, ankles and calves, whilst still giving an intense workout akin to running. Many people suffering from joint damage can use hill walking to improve their fitness levels and burn plenty of calories while avoiding any further damage.

3.Good for your bones. Anything which is good for your muscles will be good for your bones. Like all weight-bearing exercise, walking uphill is a great choice for anyone suffering from, or wants to prevent, bone conditions like osteoporosis.  Just remember to stretch properly beforehand.

4.       Burns more calories. Do you see many fat hill walkers? No, I didn’t think so. The extra work that leg and trunk muscles do in propelling you upwards means more calories are burned. According to experts, regular brisk walking such as hill walking is one of the best exercises you can do to maintain a steady weight. While walking can burn 400 calories per hour, walking uphill can burn up to fifty percent more, which means you don’t have to do it for so long!

5.       Lowers triglycerides. Reducing the number of unhealthy fats in your body will lower your risk of heart attacks. The effects of regularly walking uphill was shown by Austrian researchers to reduce triglyceride levels by 11 percent, which is more than downhill walking does.

6.Improves glucose tolerance. For four months Austrian researchers measured the effects of downhill vs. uphill walking on volunteers and found that an hour of downhill walking 3-5 times a week was better than uphill walking for improving glucose tolerance. This is significant for anyone at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

7.Convenient and free. Although we’re not encouraging you to give up your gym attendance, hill walking is a great exercise for those who sometimes want to exercise without equipment or money, at almost any time they like. For once, you don’t have to queue for machines or wear particular clothes, apart from good walking shoes. Instead you can incorporate a family walk or walking the dog with your uphill workout. Failing that, the stairs at home are even more convenient!

8.Great for all ages. Walking is one of the only exercises which people of any age can do. Families with young children can enjoy fun challenges to reach the summit of a hill (with a picnic at the top?) while older people will enjoy the intense exercise combined with great views and interesting fitness routes.

9.Good for dogs too. Has your dog got arthritis?  According to research by the University of Veterinary Medicine, gently walking an arthritic dog uphill and over obstacles can improve the flexibility in their joints.

10.Makes you feel good. Walking up hills gives you an undeniable sense of freedom and well-being. The worst bit is right at the start, but once you get going you will start to feel truly alive, depending on how challenging and varied your choice of terrain is!  The feel-good factor can be shared with friends and family who’ve come along for the walk, or peaceful walks alone can be a great antidote for stress and depression. Finally, the amazing view at the top is the ultimate reward for anyone who makes it.

No hills?

If there’s only one small hill near you simply walk up and down it several times. But what if you live somewhere without a glimmer of a bump, let alone a hill? If you live nowhere near a sizeable hill, and don’t particularly want to drive far, you can still mimic grassy inclines. Firstly, take advantage of every opportunity to walk up stairs or slopes in your daily life. Or if you have a treadmill, adjust the incline. Many would argue these are poor substitutes for proper hill walking, but while you may not get the great views you will still boost your health.

Remember, you don’t have to scale mountains to reap the benefits of walking up hills. Even slight gradients will help. Saying that, the steeper the incline the greater and quicker the benefits. One thing’s for certain - the only way is up!


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