Why You Should Start Hiking (and Where to Go)

Hiking is a great way to change up your exercise routine. Check out how hiking can benefit your health—plus we’ve got tips on the best places to hike in NYC.

October 10, 2016 | HF Healthy Living Team

Everything that happens to your body when you exercise shows how important physical activity is for your overall well-being. So how is hiking different?

Hiking can make you happier and healthier in many areas of your life, not just including walking as a way to stay fit. Find out how you can benefit from hiking now.

Hiking Improves Emotional Well-Being

Spending time in nature is proven to enhance emotional well-being, boost creativity, reduce stress, and more. In one study, psychologists found that exposure to nature resulted in overall higher-level brain function.

According to this study, taking a break from smartphones and laptops increases creative thinking as well: hikers who’d spent time in nature improved their scores on a creativity test by 50%. Nature has also been proven to lower stress, as the scenery combined with exercise decreases stress hormones.

Also, multiple studies prove that families who participate together in outdoor activities often benefit from improved family interaction and stability.

It Provides Physical Health Benefits

Hiking and walking can help prevent or lower many physical health problems, such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and blood pressure. In one study, people who took a 15-minute walk in the woods showed a two percent drop in blood pressure and a four percent drop in heart rate.

The inclines and terrain encountered on a hike tend to burn more calories than a simple walk would, though hiking is still considered a moderate exercise. It can even help reverse the negative effects of osteoporosis by slowing down calcium loss and increasing bone mass.

Now that we know hiking can improve your overall well-being, the next step is picking the perfect spot.

The Best Places to Hike in NYC

Yes, you can hike in New York City! Check out some hiking spots throughout the five boroughs below.

Bronx River Forest

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Venture to this freshwater river in the Bronx, complete with a floodplain forest and more.

Marine Park, Brooklyn

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This park holds more than five hundred acres of persevered natural areas, as well as an island just for birds.

Inwood Hill Park, Manhattan

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Check out the only natural forest in Manhattan filled with glacial potholes, along with a freshwater and saltwater marsh.

Alley Pond Park, Queens

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Venture to Queens to see NYC’s tallest and oldest tree, kettle ponds, an obstacle course, and zip lines.

Conference House Park, Staten Island

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Here you can walk by the house where the Revolutionary War peace conference was held, and spot some beachside views along the way.

Get more info on these spots, as well as a full list of hiking trails in NYC here. New to hiking? Check out these safety tips to get started today. There are also a number of fall hiking events to explore as well.

If you’d rather not hit the trails, try walking through some of NYC’s best parks instead.


© 2016 HF Management Services, LLC.

Healthfirst is the brand name used for products and services provided by one or more of the Healthfirst group of affiliated companies.

This health information or program is for educational purposes only and not intended to treat, diagnose, or act as a substitute for medical advice from your provider. Consult your healthcare provider and always follow your healthcare provider’s instructions.

“Health Benefits of Hiking,” American Hiking.org. Accessed September 19, 2016.

“The Health and Social Benefits of Recreation,” Parks.ca.gov. Accessed September 20, 2016.

“Creativity in the Wild,” Journals.plos.org. Accessed September 21, 2016.

“This is Your Brain on Nature,” National Geographic.com. Accessed September 21, 2016.

“Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight,” CDC. Accessed September 22, 2016.

“Hiking Trails,” NYC Parks. Accessed September 22, 2016.

“Hiking Activity Card,” CDC. Accessed September 22, 2016.

“Hiking,” NYC Parks. Accessed September 26, 2016.

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