Harvard Heart Letter

Take a hike!

Hiking isn't just a good cardiovascular workout. It may also enhance your strength and balance while lowering your stress.

hiking
Image: Tomwang112/ iStock

Autumn can be a great time to spend time in the great outdoors after summer's heat, humidity, and bugs have dwindled away. Hitting the trail in a local forest or other natural area may also offer some heart-related benefits that go beyond your typical neighborhood walk.

"The nice thing about hiking is that it exists along an entire continuum, from a gentle walk on a flat wooded path to mountain climbing," says Dr. Aaron L. Baggish, associate director of the Cardiovascular Performance Program at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. Nearly everyone, regardless of age or athletic ability, can find a hike that offers the right level of personal challenge. And hiking may even offer some unique physical and mental benefits, Dr. Baggish says.

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