I’ve always loved walking and nature, so while I was looking for weekend activities at the beginning of the summer, hiking seemed like an obvious choice.
It quickly developed into a hobby, and with the weather cooling down, and the leavings changing colors, it’s the perfect time to enjoy the last few weeks outside before winter hits.
Getting out into the fresh air, away from the bustle of the city, the clammy air in my office building, and the stuffy coffee shops around town, is a welcome relief to an often stressful and fast-paced life.
Hiking is a simple activity that only requires a good pair of boots, plenty of water and snacks, and a positive mindset to enjoy. In many ways, hiking has transformed my life and made me a happier person.
How? I’m glad you asked.
15 Benefits of Hiking
1. Improved Health
Hiking is great aerobic exercise that increases heart rate for an extended period of time, which helps to improve overall cardiovascular health and increase endurance.
It can help strengthen your core, lower body and upper body muscles as it involves a full range of motion. Hiking up hills or mountains with a backpack on will provide an even more intense workout.
Regular exercise like hiking has shown to have positive effects on high blood pressure, weight loss, cholesterol levels, and bone density. Spending time in a natural environment and a natural setting like the great outdoors while hiking can help lower blood pressure, lower your risk of heart disease, and improve your physical health.
Being outside in green spaces like a hiking trail or a national park can reduce your stress levels and improve your immune system too.
2. Stress Relief
The combination of being outdoors and walking can be a powerful stress reliever, leaving you feeling relaxed and refreshed after even just a short hike.
Experiencing nature has many positive effects on the body including mental illness too. All of the vitamin d you get from being outside can reduce your stress levels as well. Hitting up the hiking trail is truly one of the best forms of exercise across the board.
Nature has a way of helping us to gain clarity and put life into perspective. Hiking helps clear up mental clutter, enabling you to make better decisions and solve problems more easily.
Studies have shown that being outdoors can help improve cognitive ability and concentration. The physical exertion of hiking allows the mind to clear, often leading to an influx of creativity and mental energy.
Astonishingly, a recent study from Stanford University scientists discovered that individuals who strolled in nature for 90 minutes had heightened activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex – an area of the brain connected to depression and anxiety when deactivated .
4. Improved Concentration
Moving your body in nature has been proven to increase focus and concentration at work or home.
Regular physical activity has physical benefits but also mental benefits as well. What better way to work your body and mind than by being in the great outdoors?
5. Connection to Nature
Being out in nature has a calming effect and can help you renew your appreciation for the environment, while developing an understanding of how everything is connected.
Even if you live in urban areas you can still find a nature experience nearby. Even urban environments often have botanical gardens or something similar for you to enjoy.
A little time in nature can have huge benefits!
6. Improved Self Confidence
Setting a goal, such as reaching the top of a mountain, and then achieving it can give you a sense of accomplishment and boost your self confidence.
Hiking is great for your overall health which will improve your self-confidence!
Hiking provides an opportunity to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, giving you a chance to enjoy the beauty of nature and find peace in its natural rhythm.
Walking outside in nature is one of the best ways to just relax. It’s a form of exercise that might not even feel like exercise. It will help your body fight mental fatigue and you’ll tap into the part of your brain that allows you to relax!
8. Builds Strength
Hiking is a great way to build strength, as you are constantly walking uphill and going over rough terrain, which can be challenging for your muscles.
Hiking requires much more balance than simply walking, as you are constantly going over uneven terrain, which can help improve your balance and flexibility.
The physical exertion of hiking helps build endurance and increases stamina, making it easier to take on more difficult hikes and tasks.
One of the reasons is because hiking is a full-body workout. You use your core muscles and are completing essentially weight-bearing exercise in a positive environment.
Being in nature often inspires creativity and new ideas, giving you a newfound appreciation for the environment around you.
10. Mental Health Benefits
Hiking has been proven to reduce anxiety and depression while also improving mood. This can be attributed to the combination of physical exercise and being in nature, which has been shown to have a positive effect on mental health.
The combination of exercise and spending time in nature has been linked to lower levels of stress hormones and improved mood.
Hiking can help foster a sense of mindfulness as you are fully present in the moment and taking in your surroundings, rather than ruminating on problems or worrying about the future.
11. Social Bonding
Hiking is a great way to connect with friends and family, and provides an opportunity for meaningful conversations while enjoying the outdoors.
From preparing for the hike together to being on the hike to recapping it, there are plenty of opportunities for social bonding and shared memories through hiking.
Hiking is a great way to spend quality time with your pets and give them the exercise they need. It’s also a great way to explore nature together and bond as you take in the sights, sounds, and smells of the outdoors.
At the end of the day, hiking is fun! Whether you’re exploring a new area or revisiting an old favorite spot, there’s something special about being outside and active.
Hiking isn’t just a great way to stay fit, but it can also be a powerful tool for improving your mental and emotional wellbeing. So, grab your hiking gear and hit the trails—you’ll be glad you did!
13. You disconnect.
If you’ve got your iPhone in your palm while you’re hiking, you’re doing it wrong.
One of the best aspects of taking a long, concentrated walk in nature, is that it encourages you to get away from the constant Facebook notifications and text messages that clog your phone.
During longer hikes, and when I’m backpacking for multiple days, I know better than to drain my phone battery. Even during shorter day hikes, the urgency that comes with answering every text during a typical day, disappears as soon as I begin to walk and observe earth’s natural wonders.
There’s nothing quite like making eye contact with a mother dear and her freckled babies during a dewy morning hike through the woods. If you’re too busy Tweeting, you’ll never notice the small wonders surrounding you.
14. You get to be present.
Climbing over fallen trees, ducking under branches, and dodging poison ivy is hard work. It takes constant focus and awareness of your surroundings.
During a typical day, I often find my thoughts trailing off. I think about what I ate the night before, or what my plans are for the next weekend. I’m distracted and unaware.
When I’m hiking, I’m constantly focused on putting one foot in front of the other. I’m conscious of my body. Of the blisters forming on my toes, and the trickle of sweat behind my left ear. I’m aware of the clarity of my mind, and I’m aware of my contentment with life.
When I’m hiking, I don’t think about the reports due on Monday, or the date last weekend that went horribly wrong. I just stay present. This allows me to enjoy the simple pleasures that come with exploring nature, and temporarily escaping typical responsibilities.
15. It boosts my morale.
Hiking has shown me that joy and happiness is simple. Life is often complicated by our jobs, our university courses, and our relationships.
None of these outside factors need to change in order for us to find happiness; hiking has shown me that. A weekend spent partying often leaves me feeling groggy and hung-over. A weekend of hiking leaves me feeling refreshed, accomplished, and pleasantly sore.
According to AmericanHiking.org, “Endorphins released by your body during a walking workout can lift your spirits and keep them there throughout the day or night – keeping your brain as healthy as your body.” It’s obvious that hiking is a great physical workout, but I’m always pleasantly surprised by the mental health benefits that accompany a nice hike.
Hiking has many positive side effects, and is a simple way to get into nature and away from the hustle and bustle of modern life.
It can be as simple as trekking through your own property for an afternoon, as adventurous as taking a road trip to Yellowstone National Park for a week-long hike, or as daring as thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail.
There are beautiful trail systems across the U.S. (and abroad), and there may be some noteworthy trails right in your hometown. Whatever your preferences, hiking has many positive outcomes.
Just remember to stay safe on the trail, stay hydrated, and always hike with another person. Hiking is an activity that has greatly boosted my positive outlook. It has shown me that happiness is simple, and that it’s all around me; sometimes I just have look for it.
Whether you are an avid hiker or a novice, there are numerous benefits to be gained from taking a hike. From improved physical and mental health to stress relief and social bonding, hiking is an activity that can help us stay healthy and happy. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start exploring the great outdoors!
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