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Long Distance Hiking for Increased Health and Lifespan

long distance hiking

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#1 happenchance

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 02:27 AM


Does walking 20 miles a day with a 1 to 2 thousand foot elevation gain for about 120 days in a row increase health and promote a longer lifespan?

 

All sorts of longevity studies suggest that this may be the case and my subjective personal experience tells me this is true, but I have no way to measure it.

 

If it were possible to physically measure the effects of a long distance hike it might become possible to identify ways to improve it and make it easier for others to enjoy these benefits – on and off the trail.

 

I would like to offer my upcoming 3rd thru-hike of the 2,650 mile long Pacific Crest Trail for a legitimate researcher to study. Am open to some level of experimentation, mostly in improved diet, and possibly with life extension products.

 

Am 63 years old. In basically good health and physical fitness. Maintain a reasonably healthy diet. I am fully geared up, have the trip planned out and am able to finance it out of pocket. I am not looking for someone to subsidize the hike unless time or costs are increased beyond what my estimate of a normal hike would require.  

 

In the event that no researcher is interested, the following is a list of benefits which I associate with long distance hiking. Readers of this forum are encouraged to comment on it and add to it.

 

1) This sort of walking doubles and sometimes triples the demand for calories. Due to backpack weight restrictions, it is impossible to carry as much food as a hiker would like to have. As a result, hikers sort of starve their way to the next resupply point. Within a month this becomes a semi-permanent condition called hiker hunger. Is this a kind of calorie restricted diet?

 

2) Walking seems like the perfect form of exercise. At 20 miles a day plus elevation gain, does this produce an equivalent to the Jack LaLanne level of exercises he thought was needed for health and longevity?

 

3) Seems like all of the automatic functions such as digestion, blood circulation, perspiration, breathing and etc appear to operate better than normal all day long. While walking, it is also easy to monitor body functions and balance things out when needed, such as resting or drinking water or taking in nutrition or eliminating.

 

4) Being outdoors all day long in wide temperature and weather variations, surrounded by panoramic views, listening to nature sing, breathing freshly produced oxygen, drinking unadulterated water from the source and etc have long been known for its health benefits. What happens when this becomes the default norm over a 5 month period?

 

5) Seems like most stress comes from toxic people, life burning cultural situations and financial - political chaos. On the trail, its pretty much all gone. This alone would add years to anyone’s lifespan. How is this sort of thing measured?

 

6) The daily hike frequently becomes a kind of walking meditation. I particularly enjoy how the avalanche of accumulated experience almost automatically sorts itself out so that the truly important matters are then easier to think about. Is there a link between disorganized, undigested memories and physical brain degeneration? 

 

7) After a full day on the trail, hikers lay their exhausted, sore bodies down to get 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night and arise in the morning at very high levels of recovery. Sleeping directly on the ground appears to have the same effect that household earthing gear produces (duh). How to measure this?

 

8) Obviously there is more. Obviously each of these will have some positive benefit. But what is the effect of all of it together? Can these benefits be carried over from the trail into ‘real life’? (don't get me started) Can these benefits help non hikers?

 

What Say Ye?


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#2 Droplet

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Posted 12 February 2018 - 06:50 PM

May be best to post this under the exercise subforum in the lifestyle section. :)



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#3 happenchance

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 06:48 PM

Hi Droplet. You are right that my post should be moved to the exercise sub-forum. How do I do that?


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#4 sthira

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Posted 13 February 2018 - 08:13 PM

Wow, congratulations on your third PCT thru hike -- this is an amazing accomplishment! It's such a beautiful trail, and the cycle route is equally stunning. I've hiked and cycled some desert portions in Southern California, but boo-hoo I didn't have money or time to do it all.

Kudos to you, man, I get what a beautiful, life-changing project this is!

Does walking 20 miles a day with a 1 to 2 thousand foot elevation gain for about 120 days in a row increase health and promote a longer lifespan?

All sorts of longevity studies suggest that this may be the case and my subjective personal experience tells me this is true, but I have no way to measure it.

If it were possible to physically measure the effects of a long distance hike it might become possible to identify ways to improve it and make it easier for others to enjoy these benefits – on and off the trail.

I would like to offer my upcoming 3rd thru-hike of the 2,650 mile long Pacific Crest Trail for a legitimate researcher to study. Am open to some level of experimentation, mostly in improved diet, and possibly with life extension products.


Perhaps consider some citizen science here with fellow thru hikers? If you're hiking in a group, together, you could each gather up your individual baseline stats before you begin : height, weight, blood pressure, blood glucose, and some basic blood labs during a pre-hike doctor's checkup. Nothing too fancy -- the basics.

Then at trail's end, months and months later, you could retake these tests, and see what's changed? If you had some high LDL levels, for example, did all that hiking and sweat bring them down? Sharing numbers would be cool. You could even check in and write about your experiences here from time to time -- between coyote howls -- then we get it vicariously.

1) This sort of walking doubles and sometimes triples the demand for calories. Due to backpack weight restrictions, it is impossible to carry as much food as a hiker would like to have. As a result, hikers sort of starve their way to the next resupply point. Within a month this becomes a semi-permanent condition called hiker hunger. Is this a kind of calorie restricted diet?


If I were setting off on hiking the entire enchilada, I'd probably record along the way all consumed calories into an online program like cronometer. It'd be fascinating to know exactly how many calories day in and day out this adventure requires. Knowing where you stand as far as RDA is concerned would be very, very helpful. I lost a lot of weight on extended hikes; but didn't define the weight loss as "calorie restriction" proper since my calories weren't restricted. CR refers to restricting calories below your basal metabolic rate. You're burning off calories through strenuous hiking, but if you attempted CR on the trail I think you'd probably injure yourself. A hike like this isn't the time for CR -- safety and good times come first, imho.

2) Walking seems like the perfect form of exercise. At 20 miles a day plus elevation gain, does this produce an equivalent to the Jack LaLanne level of exercises he thought was needed for health and longevity?

3) Seems like all of the automatic functions such as digestion, blood circulation, perspiration, breathing and etc appear to operate better than normal all day long. While walking, it is also easy to monitor body functions and balance things out when needed, such as resting or drinking water or taking in nutrition or eliminating.

4) Being outdoors all day long in wide temperature and weather variations, surrounded by panoramic views, listening to nature sing, breathing freshly produced oxygen, drinking unadulterated water from the source and etc have long been known for its health benefits. What happens when this becomes the default norm over a 5 month period?

5) Seems like most stress comes from toxic people, life burning cultural situations and financial - political chaos. On the trail, its pretty much all gone. This alone would add years to anyone’s lifespan. How is this sort of thing measured?

6) The daily hike frequently becomes a kind of walking meditation. I particularly enjoy how the avalanche of accumulated experience almost automatically sorts itself out so that the truly important matters are then easier to think about. Is there a link between disorganized, undigested memories and physical brain degeneration?

7) After a full day on the trail, hikers lay their exhausted, sore bodies down to get 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night and arise in the morning at very high levels of recovery. Sleeping directly on the ground appears to have the same effect that household earthing gear produces (duh). How to measure this?

8) Obviously there is more. Obviously each of these will have some positive benefit. But what is the effect of all of it together? Can these benefits be carried over from the trail into ‘real life’? (don't get me started) Can these benefits help non hikers?

What Say Ye?


All of what you've written is wonderful, and I completely agree that intelligently, thoughtfully approached long distance hiking is great for body and soul. It's transformative. However, I don't think any amount of healthy lifestyle behavior is likely to extend human longevity. For lifespan extension we need clinical advance -- therapies, drugs and interventions -- that repair and replace what's been damaged by living life. You're hiking, it's very healthy, but we're all still aging right on schedule.

Personally I think what you're doing is what humanity has evolved to do -- ancestors wandered in a gypsy-hunger day by day. Our bodies are adapted for just this activity -- long distance walking -- and humans have been walking vast distances for hundreds of thousands of years. But extending human span? That's something different.

Once again: congratulations, and if you find time between the desert flowers and the night stars, open a thread here and update readers here on your epic awesomeness!
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#5 happenchance

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Posted 16 February 2018 - 06:10 AM

Hi sthira

 

Very nice to find that you have experienced the lifestyle first hand. Sometimes it is hard to get across to people what is going on out there because they tend to think that camping is the same as hiking. Its all good of course, but there are important distinctions.

 

In your conclusion you sum it up very well: it is a return to a way of life we got away from only a couple of generations ago. For millions of years we walked big miles everywhere. Now we sit all day in the middle of mechanized pollution and chaos.

 

What would happen if we were able to take the longevity advances made possible by the good side of industrialization and then returned to our ancestral nomadic ways? That essentially is what long distance hiking is.

 

Citizen science is probably the best way to study these issues at this time. I could not afford to have medical tests done and its probably too late to get much interest from the other hikers.

 

What I might be able to do is make a more detailed case for how long distance hiking might contribute to the longevity quest. Even if only as a way to live healthy so as to better enjoy the achievement of long life.  

 

Maybe see you out there someday!

 


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#6 Griff

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Posted 20 March 2018 - 12:30 AM

Happenchance great posts and welcome to this forum community!



#7 happenchance

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Posted 20 April 2018 - 01:40 AM

Thanks Griff!

 

Wish I had thought to start posting on hiking as a longevity practice on this forum several months ago.

 

Running out of time now and have no idea when it will be possible to do this again.

 

One thing for sure, there are more and more older hikers on the trail.

 

I will begin a discussion with the people interested in this subject and see where it goes.

 

Really appreciate the support and feedback!

 


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#8 Griff

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Posted 06 May 2018 - 03:04 AM

Honestly Happenchance if you read this, I have had more of a change of heart, which took months and years to develop. I have been pretty sick of Longecity.org, of stagnation. They only have active subforums in a few sections, such as Nootropics or Philosophy. 

 

I think you will find a more active and rational community on reddit, such as "Longevity" subreddit. It is highly, highly active. There is a ton of other subreddits too, such as focused on Hiking.

 

Longecity.org is pretty much dead to me, of no open elections for many years now, which does not follow the original Longecity.org Constitution. The Owner of longecity.org pretty much collects profits from donations and ad revenue.


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