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Hiking is Good for Your Health

Hiking, as a form of regular physical activity, can offer significant protection against a range of chronic conditions. Starved Rock, Matthiessen, and Buffalo Rock State Parks contain varying difficulties of trails, both for beginners and experienced hikers. By incorporating hiking into your lifestyle, you can reduce your risk and manage various health conditions. Here are some chronic conditions that hiking can help protect against:

Cardiovascular Disease

Regular hiking strengthens the heart and improves cardiovascular fitness. It reduces the risk of high blood pressure, lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, and improves blood circulation. Also, resting heart rate gradually decreases with consistent exercise routines. These benefits significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attacks, strokes, and coronary artery disease.


Regular physical activity, including hiking, has been associated with a reduced risk of certain types of cancers, such as breast, colon, and lung cancer. Hiking , contributes to cancer prevention through improving immune function and reducing inflammation.

Chronic Pain and Joint Disorders

Contrary to common perception, hiking can be beneficial for individuals with chronic pain and joint disorders such as osteoarthritis. The muscular control hiking requires strengthens the muscles around the joints, improves flexibility, and reduces pain. Stronger muscles relieve their joints of pain-inducing loads. Hiking also promotes lubrication of the joints, reducing stiffness and improving mobility. Do your knees a favor and get on the trails!

Depression and Anxiety

Spending time in nature and engaging in physical activity like hiking has proven benefits for mental health. Hiking improves mood by releasing endorphins in the brain. Better yet, join a local hiking group like the Starved Rock Hikers Community or participate in a Starved Rock Foundation event to improve your self-esteem and quality of life!


Hiking is an excellent calorie-burning activity that can contribute to weight loss and weight management. Regular hikes, especially on challenging terrains, help burn excess calories and improve body composition. Losing one pound of body weight corresponds to relieving a joint from four pounds of pressure.


Bones will adapt to the loads that they are placed under, and hiking is a great weight-bearing exercise to help strengthen them and improve their density. The stress placed on the bones during hiking stimulates osteoblasts, which are responsible for bone remodeling. This reduces the risk of future onset of osteoporosis and the potential for fractures as you age, allowing you to chase waterfalls for as long as you want.

Respiratory Conditions

Hiking in fresh air and natural environments can be particularly beneficial for individuals with respiratory conditions such as asthma. The combination of physical activity, deep breathing, and exposure to clean air helps strengthen respiratory muscles, improving lung capacity and overall respiratory function. Essentially, your lungs have to work less hard to supply your muscles with oxygen.

Type 2 Diabetes

In Type 2 Diabetes, the body loses sensitivity to insulin, a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels. Physical activity increases muscles' insulin sensitivity and uptake of blood sugars to provide you with the energy to finish your trek!

In conclusion, hiking can be very good for your health on top of being a lot of fun! Not sure where to get started? Visit our Find a Hike feature to locate the hike that best fits you.

See you on the trails.

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Every time you purchase a product from Starved Rock Hikers, you are also helping the park. A portion of our annual proceeds are donated to the Starved Rock Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports Starved Rock & Matthiessen through educational programs, guided hikes, exhibit updates, and more.

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