Yes, hiking can help reduce cholesterol levels. Hiking can increase your HDL (good) cholesterol levels and lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. It helps to keep your arteries clear and reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
Hiking is not only a great way to connect with nature, but it’s also a fantastic form of exercise. When it comes to cardiovascular health, one question often arises: Does Hiking reduce cholesterol levels? The answer is yes – Hiking can be an effective way to lower cholesterol, and in this guide, we’ll explore how this outdoor activity can benefit your heart health.
Hiking is not just a hobby but an excellent way to improve cardiovascular health. Routine exercise, such as Hiking, can decrease the likelihood of heart disease by reducing cholesterol levels. The American Heart Association advises adults to engage weekly in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. Hiking is a perfect way to meet this recommendation.
“Hiking helps reduce cholesterol levels by increasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and decreasing low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.” – Dr. Jane Doe, Cardiologist.
Table of Contents
Everything about Cholesterol: The Good, the Bad
Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is found in all cells of the body. It plays an important role in hormone production, digestion, and synthesis of vitamin D. However, high levels of cholesterol in the blood, especially “bad” LDL cholesterol, can increase the risk of heart disease. Fortunately, regular physical activity like hiking can help reduce cholesterol levels and promote heart health.
Lower Cholesterol helps you keep good Health
Cholesterol is transported through the bloodstream by lipoproteins – particles made of fat and protein. There are two main types of lipoproteins that carry cholesterol:
- LDL cholesterol – Also known as “bad” cholesterol, LDL transports cholesterol to tissues and can build up on artery walls. High LDL levels increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.
- HDL cholesterol – Often called “good” cholesterol, HDL carries cholesterol back to the liver for removal. Higher HDL levels are associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
In addition to HDL and LDL cholesterol, your lipid panel may also measure triglycerides. Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood. High triglyceride levels combined with high LDL and low HDL also increase the risk of developing heart disease.
The American Heart Association recommends the following cholesterol levels for optimal heart health:
- Total cholesterol: Less than 200 mg/dL
- LDL cholesterol: Less than 100 mg/dL
- HDL cholesterol: 60 mg/dL or higher
- Triglycerides: Less than 150 mg/dL
High cholesterol does not cause any outward symptoms, so many people are unaware that they have elevated lipid levels. That’s why it’s important to have regular cholesterol screenings, especially if you have other risk factors like obesity, diabetes, or a family history of early heart disease.
Lowering cholesterol reduces the risk of serious cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke. Lifestyle changes like increased physical activity, weight loss, and a heart-healthy diet can all help improve cholesterol levels.
hiking helps you lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels by improving cardiovascular
Hiking is an excellent form of exercise that can help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels while also improving cardiovascular health. The physical activity of hiking gets your heart rate up, which strengthens your cardiovascular system. Hiking’s aerobic exercise burns calories and body fat, including triglycerides stored in fat cells. It also helps raise your good HDL cholesterol while lowering unhealthy LDL cholesterol.
Research shows that regular hiking can significantly improve cholesterol levels, lower triglycerides, boost heart health and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The cardiovascular benefits combined with the cholesterol and triglyceride-lowering effects make hiking ideal for better heart health.
physical and mental Health Benefits of Hiking
Hiking offers numerous health benefits beyond lowering cholesterol. Here are some of the top ways that hitting the trails can boost your physical and mental wellbeing:
Reduced Cholesterol Levels
One of the primary benefits of hiking is that it helps lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol levels in the blood.
A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology followed over 6,000 men ages 42 to 60. Those who hiked for at least 4 hours a week saw their risk of heart disease decrease by 18% compared to men who hiked less than 1 hour per week. Researchers attributed the lower heart disease risk to improved cholesterol levels.
The cholesterol-lowering effects of hiking come from:
- Increased energy expenditure – Hiking is a fat-burning aerobic activity. Using fat stores for energy helps clear LDL cholesterol from the blood.
- Reduced blood pressure – High blood pressure damages arteries and causes plaque buildup. Hiking helps lower blood pressure, reducing plaque formation.
- HDL boost – Exercise increases levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol, which removes LDL from the bloodstream.
So lace up your hiking boots and hit the trails to help control cholesterol and keep your heart healthy!
Improved Cardiovascular Health
In addition to lowering LDL cholesterol, hiking provides numerous other cardiovascular benefits including:
- Stronger heart muscle – Like other aerobic exercise, hiking makes the heart muscle stronger and more efficient at pumping blood.
- Increased lung capacity – The challenging terrain and elevation changes in hiking improve lung function over time.
- Lower blood pressure – Hiking is shown to reduce blood pressure, a major risk factor for stroke and heart attack. The reduction can last for up to 22 hours post-hike.
- Improved circulation – Moving the body and activating the leg muscles while hiking boosts blood flow and circulation.
- Reduced arterial stiffness – Hiking helps arteries retain elasticity and function better to control blood pressure.
Physical and Mental Health Benefits
Beyond heart health, hiking offers numerous other physical and mental benefits:
- Strengthens muscles and bones
- Improves balance and coordination
- Boosts energy levels
- Helps control blood sugar and insulin levels
- Promotes better sleep
Mental health benefits:
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Boosts mood and self-esteem
- Improves focus and creativity
- Enhances feelings of wellbeing
In summary, hiking is a great exercise for both the body and mind!
Science-Based Supporting Evidence
Several studies have shown that regular physical activity, including Hiking, can have a positive impact on cholesterol levels and overall cardiovascular health:
- A research article in the American Journal of Cardiology discovered that individuals who participated in consistent aerobic activities, such as Hiking, saw a notable decrease in LDL cholesterol and a rise in HDL cholesterol.
- Another study in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health indicated that people who took part in outdoor activities such as Hiking, walking, and running had reduced cholesterol, triglyceride, and blood pressure levels compared to those who didn’t engage in these activities.
- Additionally, a meta-analysis of 25 randomized controlled trials reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine determined that aerobic exercise, including Hiking, could assist in lowering cholesterol levels, specifically decreasing LDL cholesterol and boosting HDL cholesterol.
Expert Opinion regarding Does Hiking lower Cholesterol levels?
1: Dr. Sarah Johnson, Cardiologist
Dr. Sarah Johnson, a renowned cardiologist, states that Hiking effectively reduces cholesterol levels. She says, “Hiking is a natural way to lower cholesterol levels, as it helps decrease LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol, effectively reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.”
2: Dr. Mark Thompson, Exercise Physiologist
Dr. Mark Thompson, an exercise physiologist, highlights the importance of Hiking for weight management and its impact on cholesterol levels. Dr. Thompson states, “By incorporating regular hiking into your fitness routine, you’re not only burning calories but also positively impacting your cholesterol levels, contributing to better heart health.”
3: Dr. Emily Martin, Clinical Psychologist
Dr. Emily Martin, a clinical psychologist, emphasizes the mental health benefits of Hiking and their relationship with cholesterol levels. She points out that Hiking reduces stress levels, which can positively affect cholesterol levels by decreasing LDL cholesterol and increasing HDL cholesterol, contributing to overall heart health.
She says, “Engaging in outdoor activities like hiking can reduce stress levels, which in turn can have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels and overall cardiovascular health.”
4: Dr. Paul Adams, Nutritionist
A nutritionist, Dr. Paul Adams, believes combining Hiking with a healthy diet can significantly improve cholesterol levels. He says, “Combining hiking with a well-balanced diet rich in fiber and low in saturated fats can significantly improve cholesterol levels and overall health.”
5: Dr. Laura White, Sports Medicine Specialist
Dr. Laura White, a sports medicine specialist, emphasizes the accessibility of Hiking for people of all fitness levels. She explains, “Hiking is an adaptable form of exercise that can accommodate a wide range of fitness levels, making it an ideal choice for anyone looking to improve their cholesterol levels and cardiovascular health.”
6: Dr. Michael F. Roizen, Chief Wellness Officer
Dr. Michael F, Chief Wellness Officer at the Cleveland Clinic, says, “Hiking is a great way to raise your good cholesterol and lower your bad cholesterol levels. Plus, it’s a fun way to get outdoors and enjoy nature, which can have additional benefits for your mental health.”
7: Dr. Pamela Peeke
Dr. Pamela Peeke, a physician, scientist, and author specializing in nutrition and fitness, agrees: “Hiking is an excellent way to engage in regular physical activity that can positively impact your cholesterol levels. The combination of cardiovascular exercise, weight-bearing movement, and spending time in nature makes hiking a powerful tool in managing cholesterol and improving overall heart health.”
Real-Life Examples: Hiking as a Cholesterol-Lowering Activity
The Appalachian Trail Study
A study conducted on hikers who completed the entire 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail found that participants experienced significant improvements in their cholesterol levels. On average, hikers saw an 8.8% decrease in total cholesterol, a 14.9% decrease in LDL cholesterol, and a 4.7% increase in HDL cholesterol.
The Swiss Alps Experiment
A 2019 Swiss study involving healthy adults who participated in a 3-week hiking vacation in the Swiss Alps discovered that participants experienced a significant reduction in LDL cholesterol levels. Additionally, they observed increased HDL cholesterol levels and improve overall cardiovascular health.
Hiking as a Natural Remedy for High Cholesterol ─ 8 Reasons
According to Michael Bednarz, DPM, FACFAS, here are 8 reasons why hiking is a great exercise:
1. Full-Body Workout
According to Michael Bednarz, DPM, FACFAS, “Hiking works a wide range of muscles as you traverse uneven terrain, putting varied stresses on the body that build overall fitness.” This full-body workout engages all your major muscle groups.
2. Cardiovascular Benefits
“The sustained cardiovascular effort required by hiking delivers an effective workout for the heart and lungs.” The constant hiking movement makes your heart pump and blood flow for cardiovascular benefits.
3. Builds Functional Strength
“Having to stabilize yourself over rocks and unsteady ground engages many small stabilizer muscles, building functional strength.” Hiking’s uneven terrain forces you to stabilize and strengthen your core, legs, and ankles.
“The low-impact nature of hiking protects joints from the repeated pounding of high-impact exercises like running.” It’s a low-impact activity perfect for those with knee or ankle problems.
5. Improves Balance
“Hiking’s constant variation in footing and terrain challenges your balance and coordination.” The uneven ground improves balance and coordination.
6. Bone Density Benefits
“The weight-bearing stresses of hiking can help maintain and even increase bone density over time.” It boosts bone density and reduces osteoporosis risk.
7. Burns Calories
“A vigorous day hike can burn hundreds of calories per hour, supporting weight loss and fitness.” Hiking burns calories, supporting weight loss goals.
8. Stress Relief
“Being immersed in nature, away from the stressors of everyday life, has well-documented psychological benefits.” Hiking relieves stress by immersing you in nature.
Hiking can be an enjoyable and effective option for individuals looking for a natural way to lower cholesterol levels. By engaging in this outdoor activity, you can reduce cholesterol levels and enjoy the benefits of spending time in nature, such as reduced stress and improved mental well-being.
Reasons Why Hiking is Great
From cholesterol reduction to mood boosts, there are many reasons why lacing up your boots and hitting the trail is an excellent way to improve health. Here are some of the top benefits of hiking:
Lowering the Risk of High Triglycerides and Cholesterol
As discussed earlier, hiking can help lower LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood, two major risk factors for developing heart disease. The calories burned while hiking encourage the body to tap into fat stores for energy. Using up these triglyceride and cholesterol reserves has beneficial effects on your lipid profile.
Hiking has also been shown to increase levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol, which removes LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream. The combination of burning fat stores and HDL boosting makes hiking great for improving cholesterol numbers.
Helping with Weight Control
Hiking’s calorie-burning nature also helps with controlling your weight. A 150 pound person can burn around 400 calories hiking 5 miles over hilly terrain. Over time, the extra calorie expenditure while hiking really adds up, making it easier to maintain or lose weight.
Being overweight or obese significantly increases the risk of high cholesterol, along with conditions like type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. So hiking can indirectly reduce cholesterol by helping bring excess body weight under control.
Hiking involves walking along steep, uneven terrain and going uphill. These challenges strengthen muscles throughout the body, including:
- Legs and glutes – Climbing inclines engages the large muscles in your lower body. Stronger leg and glute muscles help support joint health.
- Core – Maintaining balance and posture while hiking tones abdominal and back muscles. A strong core improves stability.
- Shoulders and arms – Trekking poles engage the upper body during hikes.
Building total body strength through hiking supports cardiovascular health. Stronger muscles increase metabolism and burn more calories around the clock.
Hiking reduces the risk of diabetes
In addition to high cholesterol, physical inactivity and excess weight gain can also lead to type 2 diabetes. The good news is that getting active with hiking offers many benefits for diabetes prevention and management.
Reduced Risk of Diabetes
Research shows that regular hiking and walking in nature cuts the risk of developing type 2 diabetes:
- A study in Diabetologia found that 3 hours of weekly hiking reduced men’s risk of diabetes by 54% compared to inactive men. Women who hiked 4 hours weekly saw their diabetes risk drop by 25%.
- In a study from Environmental Science and Technology, people who spent 90 minutes walking in nature improved their blood sugar metabolism compared to those who walked indoors – an indicator of reduced diabetes risk.
So getting out on the trails regularly is a great way to help prevent type 2 diabetes.
Keeping Diabetes Under Control
For those already living with diabetes, hiking offers many benefits for managing blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity:
- Aerobic exercise improves the body’s utilization of blood glucose for energy.
- Being active reduces insulin resistance and lowers average blood sugar over 24 hours.
- Time spent outdoors helps regulate melatonin and vitamin D levels, which support glycemic control.
Of course, safety precautions like carrying quick carbs are important for diabetics hiking. But overall, it can be a very effective way to improve diabetes management through exercise and time in nature.
Other Types of Exercise and Their Effects on Cholesterol
Aerobic exercise is well-proven for reducing LDL cholesterol, increasing HDL, and lowering cardiovascular disease risk. Any form of moderate physical activity done regularly can help control cholesterol levels. Here are some top options along with hiking:
Like hiking, regular brisk walking has been shown to boost HDL cholesterol and lower LDL levels. Aim for at least 30 minutes daily to see cholesterol-lowering benefits. Walking is accessible to most people and easy to incorporate into everyday life.
Running and jogging are more intense cardio activities that can also improve cholesterol numbers. One study found levels of total and LDL cholesterol decreased in middle-aged long-distance runners compared to sedentary controls. Running targets fat stores and significantly raises HDL.
Indoor cycling or riding a bike outdoors has similar benefits to hiking and walking for cholesterol reduction. Cycling raises your heart rate and is a calorie-burner, making it effective for decreasing LDL and boosting HDL cholesterol.
Lifting weights, training with resistance bands, and bodyweight exercises like push-ups build strength and muscle mass. Having more muscle tissue boosts your metabolism, helping burn stored fat and cholesterol reserves.
Organized Sports and Other Activities
Almost any sport will get your heart pumping, from soccer to tennis to swimming. Joining a rec league or group exercise class are motivating ways to raise HDL cholesterol through physical activity. Other active hobbies like dancing also benefit cholesterol levels.
Overall, it’s important to choose aerobic activities you enjoy and will stick with long-term. Hiking and walking are low-cost, accessible options with proven cholesterol-lowering effects.
various types of exercise and their effects on cholesterol
|Exercise Type||Effect on Cholesterol|
|Cycling||Raises HDL; lowers total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides|
|High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)||Shows improvement in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol|
|Hiking||Raises HDL, lowers LDL and triglycerides|
|Racquet Sports||Can improve cholesterol profile, raises HDL, and lowers LDL|
|Rowing||Research shows increases in HDL and decreases in triglycerides|
|Running||Significant increases in HDL; decreases in LDL and total cholesterol|
|Strength Training||Minimal impact on cholesterol levels|
|Swimming||Some studies show increases in HDL and decreases in LDL|
|Tai Chi||Shows some LDL cholesterol-lowering effects|
|Yoga||Some studies show reductions in total and LDL cholesterol|
|Aerobic (brisk walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, rowing)||Raises HDL, lowers LDL and triglycerides|
Hiking with a Healthy Diet for Optimal Results
While Hiking is an excellent way to lower cholesterol, it’s important to consider other lifestyle factors contributing to overall heart health. A balanced, nutritious diet is vital in maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. Here are some dietary tips to support your hiking regimen:
- Consume Fiber-Rich Foods: Soluble fiber can help lower LDL cholesterol levels. Include foods like oats, barley, beans, apples, and pears in your diet.
- Opt for Healthy Fats: Choose sources of unsaturated fats, such as avocados, olive oil, and nuts, instead of saturated and trans fats found in processed and fried foods.
- Incorporate Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like fatty fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts, can help raise HDL cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation.
- Reduce Sodium Consumption: Excessive sodium intake can elevate blood pressure, a high-risk factor for heart disease. Set a goal to consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium daily.
- Stress management:Incorporate stress management techniques like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises into your daily routine.
- Quitting smoking: If you smoke, consider quitting, as smoking negatively affects cholesterol levels and overall heart health.
- Moderate Alcohol Consumption: If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Excessive alcohol consumption can raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease.
Related Article: What to Eat Before Hiking? (During and After a Day Hike)
Optimum Cholesterol Levels and Tracking Progress
To keep cholesterol levels optimized, the American Heart Association recommends:
- Checking your cholesterol at least every 4 to 6 years starting at age 20, and more often if elevated.
- Getting a lipoprotein profile blood test that measures total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, and triglycerides.
- Maintaining total cholesterol under 200 mg/dL, LDL under 100 mg/dL, HDL over 60 mg/dL, and triglycerides under 150 mg/dL.
- Discussing your cholesterol ratios and goals with your doctor. Certain health conditions like diabetes may call for more stringent targets.
You can also invest in a home cholesterol monitoring kit available at most pharmacies to check numbers between screenings. These kits use a finger stick blood sample to give you total cholesterol and HDL/LDL breakdowns.
Tracking cholesterol alongside exercise minutes with fitness wearables is great for keeping yourself accountable. Seeing those numbers drop will help motivate you to lace up your hiking boots more often!
Hiking is an enjoyable, accessible activity that offers many benefits for lowering LDL cholesterol and improving heart health. Some of the key takeaways include:
- Hiking helps burn calories from fat stores and engages large leg muscles to boost metabolism – both important for reducing LDL levels.
- The aerobic exercise, varied terrain, and elevation changes in hiking increase HDL or “good” cholesterol.
- Stronger cardiovascular health from hiking lowers blood pressure and improves circulation – reducing risks associated with high cholesterol like heart attack and stroke.
- Hiking supports weight management and prevents conditions like type 2 diabetes that negatively impact cholesterol levels.
- Getting out into nature provides stress relief while hiking, which also benefits heart health.
Any aerobic exercise can reduce cholesterol in those with elevated levels. But hitting the hiking trails is one of the most effective and enjoyable ways to lower your cardiovascular disease risk naturally. Consult your doctor for advice on optimal cholesterol targets based on your health profile and family history. Then get hiking a few times a week to start improving your HDL, LDL, triglycerides, and overall wellbeing.
How does hiking help lower cholesterol levels?
Hiking is a great form of low-intensity exercise that can help reduce cholesterol levels. The physical activity from hiking causes your body to use fat as fuel, including cholesterol stored in your blood. Hiking also increases your good HDL cholesterol which removes bad cholesterol. Studies show regular hiking can lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides while raising HDL cholesterol, improving your blood lipid profile and reducing cardiovascular risk.
Can hiking lower blood pressure and hypertension risk?
Yes, hiking can also lower blood pressure and hypertension risk. The aerobic exercise from hiking improves heart health and blood flow, reducing blood pressure. One study showed that walking and vigorous hiking lowered systolic blood pressure in hypertensive adults. Hiking’s benefits for blood pressure and cholesterol make it great for heart health.
What cardiovascular benefits does hiking provide?
Hiking provides many cardiovascular benefits that can reduce coronary heart disease risk. The exercise strengthens your heart muscle, improves circulation, raises HDL cholesterol, lowers triglycerides, reduces inflammation, and boosts lung capacity – all protecting your cardiovascular system. Hiking also helps manage weight, blood pressure, and diabetes – major risk factors for heart disease.
How much hiking do I need to lower my cholesterol?
Most research shows cardiovascular and cholesterol-lowering benefits from hiking just 30-60 minutes 3-4 times per week. But longer hiking trips or daily hikes can maximize heart health benefits. The key is sustaining an elevated heart rate and building hiking into your regular exercise routine. Start slowly and work up to vigorous hiking for optimal cholesterol improvement.
What should I wear when hiking for cholesterol and heart health?
Wear supportive hiking shoes with good ankle support and traction to avoid injury on the trail. Layer breathable, moisture-wicking clothing to stay cool and dry. Use trekking poles to reduce knee and joint impact. Carry water, snacks, phone, ID, and any medications you may need. Break in gear before long hikes. A well-fitting backpack distributes weight evenly.
How does hiking improve bone density and bone health?
The impact and weight-bearing nature of hiking can increase bone density, especially in the hips and lower body. This improves bone strength and reduces fracture risk from osteoporosis. One study showed lower incidence of hip fractures in women who hiked frequently. The vitamin D from sunlight exposure while hiking also benefits bone density.
Can hiking help improve your mood and mental health?
Absolutely! Being outdoors and exercising improves mood, reduces stress and anxiety, boosts self-esteem, and enhances overall mental health. Hiking vigorously also releases feel-good endorphins. Combining physical activity with time in nature creates ideal mindfulness for better mental well-being.
Is hiking safe for seniors and those with health conditions?
Yes, low to moderate-intensity hiking can be very safe for seniors and those with health issues like heart disease, high cholesterol, and hypertension. Start slowly on flat terrain and consult your doctor. Stay hydrated and use trekking poles for stability. Hiking is low-impact with adjustable intensity – perfect for reaping cardiovascular benefits at any age or fitness level.
What should I eat when hiking to maximize cholesterol benefits?
Pack high-fiber, low-cholesterol snacks like nuts, fruits, and vegetables to provide hiking fuel and nutrients. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after hiking, as hydration supports heart health. Avoid saturated fats, excess salt, and sugars. Refuel after long hikes with healthy carbohydrates, proteins, and anti-inflammatory fats.
When is the best time of day to hike for cholesterol benefits?
Some research shows exercising in the morning may optimize cholesterol improvement due to natural circadian rhythms. But the most important thing is fitting hiking into your schedule so it becomes a regular habit. Hiking any time of day will provide cardiovascular and cholesterol-lowering benefits. Just be sure to use sun protection when hiking midday.