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Trekking up the health trail

Trekking up the health trail

The benefits of trekking are many – physical, mental and social. Trekkers explain what got them started and what keeps them going
Trekking is a popular adventure sport and has many health benefits.
The health benefits of trekking are not limited to improving physical fitness and mental wellness, but also social wellbeing and cultural knowledge.

The rush and cacophony in cities are hard to escape – the buzz in the ears through the day, artificial lights blinking in the nights and of course, the crowded spaces. The cars, motorbikes blaring horns… How about a break in routine, a break to recharge? A break amidst nature.

Nature heals, and amidst the bounty of the earth, we learn to slow down and appreciate the little things around us – the sunset or sunrise, the bees circling a flower and birds chirping.


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The many joys of trekking

Trekking is an adventure sport that is done on foot. It is the exploration of nature, like the jungles, mountains, hilly and lowland areas,” says mountaineer Khorsing Terang from Assam, India.

Harish G, who organises treks in Karnataka, India, got hooked right from his first trek though the 4.5 km stretch was demanding. But he admits that it energised him.

“I started my first trek full of energy. It was a 4.5 km trek [one side],” says Harish. “After covering 20-25 per cent of the trek I was exhausted and completely covered in sweat, but I could feel the wind around me and that was a new feeling. With that motivation, I continued the trek.  It was challenging but when we reached the peak, the view was mind-blowing.”

People trek for different reasons. Some people trek for recreation. Others do it to stay fit. And there are some who do it to expand their social network or enhance their awareness of nature and culture.

Everyone feels a sweeping sense of peace during and after a trek as exertion in nature is known to reduce anxiety and stress levels. Diverse as the driving force can be, trekking comes loaded with benefits.

Trekking improves physical fitness

“The basic requirement for trekking is that the individual has to possess generic fitness,” says Suman Chowdhury, a software developer-turned-mountaineer and founder of Himalayan High, a trekking and mountaineering expedition organiser.

Trekking requires strong ankles and feet ligaments. Of course, the physical condition improves with every trek. Over the course, it will increase one’s strength and fitness.

“When you keep trekking, your legs become stronger,” adds Chowdhury.

Terang explains how trekking leaves one with no choice but to move. It is a compulsion, but a happy one.

“When we stay at home, we may feel lazy but while trekking, you keep walking which helps us become fit,” adds Terang. “It’s a good exercise for the heart also because walking helps improve circulation of blood, but people with already existing heart problems should avoid trekking in high altitude regions because as altitude increases, the oxygen levels decrease which could be problematic.”

Dr Jagadish Basumatary, a mountaineer and assistant professor at Tezpur Medical College, Assam, talks about how a trek becomes a test of many physiological parameters. “Trekking is good to determine how good one’s cardiovascular and respiratory system is. Our hearts and lungs perform to their maximum capacity during a trek,” he points out.

Dr Soumya Somasekar, surgical oncologist at Ramaiah Hospitals, Bengaluru, has gone on several treks and vouches for its health benefits. “Trekking improves the body’s metabolic rate by increasing muscle mass, especially in the legs, thus, improving our fitness and endurance levels,” says Dr Somasekar. “It is also a good cardio exercise which strengthens our heart, maintains healthy blood pressure and blood sugar levels and lowers cholesterol levels which in turn reduces the risk of diabetes, heart attacks and strokes. Trekking helps burn calories and reduce your body fat.”

Trekking promotes mental wellness

Anxiety and stress are a reality for many in the fast-paced world. A trek in nature could offer a direct and holistic remedy.

“During trekking, we are amidst nature and wilderness, which diverts our mind from city life, the rat race and related stresses,” elaborates Dr Somasekar. “This kind of activity has been shown to combat symptoms of depression and anxiety comparable to the extent of use of antidepressant drugs. Trekking is a physical activity which increases the levels of serotonin in the brain which promotes well-being and elevates mood. It also helps in meeting new like-minded people, increasing our social circle which has benefits of emotional and mental wellbeing.”

Dr Basumatary adds, “The individual learns to remain calm and composed while facing adversities during a trek. It helps to develop one’s quick thinking and decision-making abilities. This also strengthens one’s mental health. On the trek, there are friends to share laughter with. Tiredness also seems to be enjoyable. So, it is really a great stress buster.”

Social and cultural connect

While trekking on your own has its highs and there are many takers for the lone journey, most embark in groups. And through the course of the trek, bonds and friendships are formed. Even the most hardened introverts are known to open through the course of a trek.

Trekking can also involve homestays, where the trekkers live with the local people at their residences, interacting and learning about their culture, cuisine, lifestyle, etc.

“We can follow the local roads and make friends with the local people; they tell you about their lifestyle and also guide you,” says Terang.

“Trekking is just not about physical fitness or mental wellness, it’s about natural beauty, photography and appreciating nature. It’s about the conversations that you have with yourself and your companions while trekking. A good trekker is a positive human being,” concludes Chowdhary.


  • Trekking is an adventure activity where one can get exhausted and yet not realise it because of being fully immersed in the beauty of nature.
  • It strengthens the heart, helps maintain healthy blood pressure and blood sugar levels and lowers cholesterol levels.
  • Trekking increases the levels of serotonin in the brain which promotes well-being and elevates mood.

Share Your Experience/Comments

One Response

  1. Trekking is indeed the most natural, wholesome and rewarding workout out there. Thanks for covering it, and putting words to the emotion.

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