Head for the Hills

Medically reviewed in February 2021

If you're looking for a healthy place to take a vacation, consider heading for the hills.

People who live in mountainous regions appear to have lower mortality rates than people living in low-lying areas, a study determined. Researchers believe this may be due to the physical demands of walking on hilly terrain with less oxygen. If you live in the lowlands, make your power hikes high-altitude workouts by heading for local hills.

A study of roughly 1,200 men and women who lived in either lowland or mountainous regions revealed that mountain dwellers experienced lower total and coronary mortality than people who lived closer to sea level. Researchers speculate that mountain dwelling may boost heart health because it requires people to walk on uneven, hilly terrain in high-altitude, low-oxygen conditions. Working out at a higher altitude where there's less oxygen forces your heart and lungs to work harder, strengthening them more than if you were exercising closer to sea level. If you live in the mountains or regularly exercise at high altitude, you also may increase your number of red blood cells and use oxygen more efficiently. However, if you are working out for the first time or have a medical condition, the strain of high-altitude hikes may be too much. Consult your healthcare provider first.

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