Hiking comes with all sorts of health benefits. In addition to improving heart health and physical performance, the fresh air, views, and the sights and smells of nature can improve your overall mental health as well.
The Effects of Hiking
The positive effects of hiking on your overall well-being and mental health are numerous. From improving cardio health and balance to building muscle strength and increasing bone density, hiking is a great way to stay healthy and fit.
Positive Health Benefits
Walking is considered a weight-bearing exercise, which by itself can improve bone density. By hiking on varied terrain, you can also improve your core and leg strength, improve your balance, help keep your weight in check, and even improve your blood pressure levels.
Hiking is a great way to improve your physical performance. In fact, if you have been injured or are suffering from limited mobility, hiking may be recommended by your Vancouver physio or East Vancouver physiotherapist. There are plenty of easy, low-impact hiking trails that you can utilize to build your strength and improve overall mobility.
Mental Health Effects
Research has shown that hiking relieves the symptoms of stress and anxiety. Being outside is essential for the overall well-being of every human being. Spending so much time indoors has led to an epidemic of depression and obesity. Spending time in nature brings purpose and appreciation to our lives and, as a result, improves our overall mental health and outlook on life.
Enjoying time outdoors and experiencing its sights and sounds can bring a sense of calm and significantly reduce stress levels. It gives you a break from the stresses of everyday life and lets you be in the moment. Winding down and letting everything go allows your mind and body to reset, which leads to better productivity and happiness in your everyday life.
Another way to approach hiking is as a family or team. Going on this adventure together promotes relationship and team building, providing the opportunity for you to connect more deeply with each other. Participating in activities outdoors with friends is a fabulous way of socially engaging during the covid pandemic. While hiking, one is able to maintain social distance and yet interact fully with colleagues, feeling further connected to one another.
Fresh Air and Sunshine
Breathing fresh air also has a number of benefits, including improving digestion, strengthening your immune system, and improving blood pressure and heart rate. Fresh air makes it easier for you to breathe and improves your overall happiness.
Getting outside and soaking in the sunshine during a Vancouver hike also improves your vitamin D levels. Low vitamin D levels can lead to weakened immune systems, acne, hormone imbalance, loss of bone density, and many other health issues.
What You’ll Need for Vancouver Hikes
Whenever you head out for a hike in Vancouver, make sure you are prepared and have everything you’ll need. Depending on which of the Vancouver hikes you choose, possible items to pack include:
- At least 1 liter of water per person
- Water filtration or purification drops
- Appropriate clothing, including boots, gloves, jacket, and layers for warmth
- At least two days’ worth of high energy food
- Map, company, GPS, and cell phone
- Sunglasses, hat, and sunscreen
- Flashlight and/or headlamp
- Spare batteries
- First aid kit
- Lighter, waterproof matches, and/or flint and steel
- Whistle and signal mirror
- Knife and/or multi tool
- Emergency blanket, tarp, or bivy sack
- Avalanche Beacon, probes, and shovel if going on a snow hike
- Toilet paper
- Bear spray
- Insect repellent
And before you start the hike, don’t forget to go through your dynamic stretches.
Hiking Trails Near Me: Top Spots to Hike Near Vancouver
This 22km paved walking path is an excellent option for those looking to get out for a walk without having to actually leave the city. This urban day hike winds through the city’s parks and neighborhoods and offers the opportunity to explore the many dining options and popular attractions. The path wraps around the entire shoreline of Stanley Park and ultimately leads to the Vancouver Convention Centre.
The Stawamus Chief trail is one of the most popular hiking destinations near Vancouver. The trail is located about one hour from Vancouver in Stawamus Chief Provincial Park in the District of Squamish. The area is popular among rock climbers, and the trail consists of three different peaks. The total length of this partial loop trail is 4kms and will take three to five hours to complete. It is best used between March and November.
This 2.5km hike is near North Vancouver and will take less than an hour to complete. It is an easy trail but has a lot of stairs, so it is not wheelchair or stroller friendly. This short loop trail includes a 30 Foot Pool, a suspension bridge, and twin falls. The trail leads to the Grouse and Seymour hiking areas for those looking for a more challenging hike.
Burnaby Lake trail is located 30 minutes east of Vancouver and is excellent for year-round use. It is a 10km loop trail that wraps around the entire park. This area is a great opportunity for nature watching and photography, and you will find a great variety of different birds.
A short 30-minute drive to the east of Vancouver will bring you to Deer Lake. The trail here is 4.8kms, and it circles you around the lake. You will pass a beach area, have access to a viewing tower, and be able to take in the views from the pier. The trail has minimal elevation gain and is great for year-round use.
Difficulty: Easy, Adaptable
Located just 10 minutes to the west of Vancouver, Pacific Spirit Regional Park offers a chance to escape the city without being too far away. The main 10km loop trail takes about three hours to complete and takes you through some of the more than 750 forested hectares. If you want to make a full day out of it, there are many trails that connect to the main loop that you can use to create your own hiking adventure. This area is very popular with residents and cyclists. It is accessible year-round.
The Alice Lake loop trail is 6km round trip that consists of four connecting lake trails. The trail is best used from April through November, and camping is available in the area. This trail has an elevation gain of 200 meters and will take you through creeks and groves of Douglas Fir, Hemlock, and cedar. You can find Alice Lake about one hour and 20 minutes north of Vancouver. Plan for a minimum of two hours to complete the loop trail.
This 10km round trip hike features three glacier-fed lakes, with the first only 15 minutes from the trailhead. The Joffre Lakes trail is located to the north of Pemberton and takes about four hours to complete, and is rated as intermediate. There is an elevation gain of 10kms. Camping is available at the top of the trail. The best time to hike this trail is from June through September.
Full of some of the most stunning views overlooking Indian Arm, the Diez Vistas trail is one you won’t want to miss. This is a 15km loop trail that surrounds Buntzen Lake. It will take about 7 hours to complete. The Diez Vistas trail is best utilized from April through November and is rated as intermediate. The elevation gain is 460 metres. The trail is named after its 10 views (“Diez Vistas” in Spanish) overlooking Indian Arm.
Best used from July through October, this intermediate ranked trail is about 9.5kms. It will take about 4.5 hours to complete and has an elevation gain of 700 meters. You will be rewarded with a 360-panoramic view of Fraser River, Mount Baker, Jones Lake, and the communities that dot the landscape.
Vancouver is full of great hiking opportunities. There is no shortage of fresh air, beautiful scenery, or wildlife. These are our top picks for the best hikes around Vancouver.
If you want to learn more about how hiking can improve your overall physical performance, contact a physio or physiotherapist at Backs in Action.
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