IMG_0222 Let’s just go ahead and get it over with — stop all the studies, research, and questionnaires. Let’s all just agree that hiking is the absolute, hands-down, best damn exercise around.

Here’s what we know already. Hiking makes you smarter. Hiking has a meditative effect. Running (and presumably, hiking quickly) reduces your mortality rate. Heck, hiking even gives you “a good grasp on life” in general. Not to mention it’s cheap, it’s easy, and gives you a better understanding of the local and global environment. Man, what more do you want?

How about this: Hiking reduces depression. Not enough? How about this: Hiking reduces LDL (bad) cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugars AND increases glucose tolerance.

That’s what a study by the University of Essex and some Austrian researchers concluded a while back, in an article linked to by former L.A. Times Hiking Columnist and author John McKinney.

The first part of the study compared a walk in a shopping center to a walk in the wilderness, and found that 71% of participants felt less depressed after the woods-walk, while 22% felt MORE depressed after walking in the mall. No surprise, there. I’ve had both panic attacks and bouts of severe ennui while trying to snag soaps from the West Hollywood Target on weekends.

While the benefits of running and exercise in general are well documented, these are the some of the first ever studies of the specific benefits associated with hiking. The cholesterol reduction came as a surprise to the researchers, especially because only hiking uphill reduces triglycerides, while hiking downhill was twice as effective at the blood sugar and glucose improvements.

An update to the research was performed last summer, but no results have been released yet. Until then, keep hiking for health — and, apparently, keep going for those peaks to clean out your bloodstream!

Via Two-Heel Drive.

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