Making the case that hiking trails are a matter of human health, the American Hiking Society unveiled a report recently highlighting the many health benefits to hitting the trail.

The report, Hiking Trails in America: Pathways to Healthwas released at a press event on Capitol Hill with lawmakers, dignitaries and guest speakers offering their support.  

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In the report, the American Hiking Society sounded a call to action urging the public to share information about trails and to make those trails more easily accessible to all, especially in urban areas where there is a need to connect trail systems to provide longer routes. They also called for an increase in trail funding to complete long distance trail systems throughout the country.

A highlight of the report is its attention to the economic impact of trails on local communities, the outdoor industry and the nation as a whole. Trails were responsible for the direct creation of thousands of jobs in 2012, as well as for billions of dollars in economic activity.

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The report acknowledges the importance of passage of the National Trails System Act of 1968 that created a national trail system as we know it today and gave us such gems as the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail.

We all understand that when an exercise is enjoyable it’s more likely people will stay with it. Today only one in five American adults meet the guidelines set out for physical activity by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hiking is a fun activity that people at any level of fitness can participate in, and it requires no special equipment beyond a sturdy pair of boots or shoes.

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Once you hit the trail you’ll begin to enjoy the beauty of nature all around, whether along a mountain trail or traversing an urban path. That’s when the health benefits kick in, too…since regular hiking can lower blood pressure, help achieve a healthier body weight, and even improve mental health as it relieves stress. 

Photo credit: Hiker at Rocky Mountain National Park, Flickr CC