• Benefits of Urban Hiking: Explore San Francisco

    by Dr. Payal Bhandari
    on Dec 5th, 2016

The San Francisco area has a wealth of green spaces within city limits, breathtaking views, and great climate all year round, making it the perfect place for urban hiking adventures. No wonder San Francisco made National Geographic’s list of the “Best US Hiking Cities.”

If you’re not familiar with urban hiking, it’s just like a hike in the wilderness, except that it’s in an urban area. This can include natural areas like parks, forested areas, and beaches, as well as concrete areas including sidewalks and staircases. To call it a hike, a spirit of exploration is needed, and you need to walk a serious amount of miles.

Urban hiking is also a fun and an excellent way to brush up on local history. Here are a few more benefits of urban hiking:

1. Urban Hiking Is Cost Effective

A wonderful thing about urban hikes is that they are extremely low cost. Hiking in the city is a free activity to do. No entrance fees, overnight costs, or many tanks of gasoline to pay for. All you need is a good pair of shoes and water bottle, and you’re good to go. If you can’t get to your starting point by foot, affordable public transport is readily available in San Francisco.

2. A Healthy Amount of Exercise Surrounded by Breathtaking Views

Exercise is beneficial to your physical health and an excellent stress buster. Taking to the streets on a regular basis will give you a full body workout, improve your mood, increase your endurance and stamina, and help keep you healthy. With more than 600 outdoor stairways, San Francisco is like an outdoor gym.

Some favorite views that are only accessible by foot include the famous Lyon Street steps, the Filbert and Greenwich steps, the historic Coit Tower, and at Bernal Heights Park. You are also able to explore all the different communities in San Francisco, some of which you may not know about. What better way to learn about the past while enjoying the beauty surrounding us?

When you learn new things, your brain forms new neural pathways and alters or strengthens existing connections. Your brain becomes healthy with improved memory capacity and sharpness for memory recall. According to research done at the University of California, Berkeley, the positive emotions you feel when observing incredible views have anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting effects. This can fight depression, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, and many other chronic conditions.

3. Help Is Close By

It is almost impossible to get lost when hiking in the city. In the unlikely event that you don’t have cell service to check your map or get injured, there will often be someone just around the corner to help out.

4. Be Surrounded by Furry Animals

Many pet owners love to take their pets on urban hikes. You will likely encounter people with dogs along your outing. It is a great way for your pet and you to bond with other pet lovers and to interact with dogs especially if you don’t have one of your own.  Being around a pet can have a positive impact on your mood and health. Petting a cat or dog releases endorphins and lowers the levels of stress hormones, blood sugar, and blood pressure.

5. Be More Social

People are generally friendlier during urban hikes than when they are simply trying to get from A to B in the city. Not only will you get to meet other fun-loving San Franciscans, but you’ll also meet many interesting tourists. The city also has many urban hiking groups and tours that you can join if you don’t want to hike on your own.

Socializing is good for your physical and mental health. According to research, people with an active social life live longer, have a stronger immune system, have decreased feelings of depression, and may even lower their dementia risk.

6. Easy Access to Amenities

There are always public restrooms and food close by, so you can pack light. If you forget something, there will be a shop nearby where you can get it. There are many public water points for you to refill your water bottle.

7. Urban Hiking Saves Time

If you’re doing an urban hike, you don’t need to wake up in the wee hours of the morning to drive miles into the wilderness just to get to the starting point of your hike. You’ll be able to do a proper hike and still have time to relax or do your chores in the afternoon.

Taking the time after a hike to relax and release muscle tension will help you to recover quickly from your workout and can prevent muscle strain injuries.

Popular Urban Hiking Spots in San Francisco

With so many amazing sights to see and adventures to be had in San Francisco, where do you begin? If you’re new to urban hiking or the area, these are some top recommendations:

Ready to Take on Your First Urban Hike in San Francisco?

Escape from the hustle and bustle of the city with an urban adventure in San Francisco. Whether you’re looking for spectacular views, lush greenery, sand between your toes, or just a good, healthy workout, urban hiking may be for you.

Make sure you pack light and take enough water to stay hydrated!

Author Dr. Payal Bhandari Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. is a leading practitioner of integrative and functional medicine in San Francisco.

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