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The beautiful outdoors is often seen an opportunity for physical activity, fresh air, and a way to reap the plethora of benefits hiking has to offer.
As with most hobbies, we are drawn to the activities because of the way they make us feel. We enjoy the positive feelings they bring into our lives, but do we ever stop to break down the benefits behind the results? Today I will walk you through my personal love, as well as the proven benefits of hiking. In the process, I hope to encourage you to receive the same joy and growth by getting outdoors and taking a hike.
Whole Body Health
Hiking has many benefits for the whole body, physical and mental. There are “mountains” of research that supports both the physical and mental perks of hiking. Additionally, the personal experiences and testimonies of others can in some ways be just as powerful as the research and numbers. It is the personal experiences that often keep us coming back for more.
Exercise the Mind
Through hiking, both the body and the brain are strengthened. Routine hiking amps up the circulation in the body and causes a steady flow of blood. This motion supports the brain’s neuron health, which is linked to lack of depression, anxiety, and other symptoms of mental illness (psychologytoday).
Boost the Mood
If you are a hiker (or you happen to strike up a conversation with a regular hiker), it is usually evident that this love of hiking is deeper than simply a form of exercise. As a hiker myself I can speak from personal experiences why this hobby is so great. The fresh air, the smells of the foliage around me, and the sun’s rays shining down all play an important role in giving the brain a positive boost. There are times in nature, whether crossing a stream or climbing a mountain, that the brain signals a release of Adrenalin. Combine this with increased blood flow, and endorphin release, and it is easy to see how hikers are often in good moods!
Walking Toward Physical Growth
As an aerobic activity, hiking raises the heart rate and vigorously works toward strengthening this vital muscle. According to the American Heart Association, on average, a person should walk for at least 150 minutes every week. By simply walking, one can lower their cardiac risk factors, including blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, and more as found through studies at Harvard Health. With hiking, this 150 minute goal is easily achieved, and those partakers are well on their way to a healthier heart.
One strengthening strategy I like to use on the trail is a deep breathing exercise of inhaling to the count of 3 and exhaling to the count of 6. I continue this breathing for about a minute. Not only do I help strengthen my heart through breathing, I also reduce stress by focusing on my breath, lowering my heart rate, and filling my lungs with fresh air.
Strengthen the Small Muscles
Obviously, when one is hiking, they are actively engaging their larger leg muscles. The glutes, hamstring, quadriceps, and more are primarily used when walking a trail. However, they are not the only muscles receiving some love. Due to the uneven ground and natural terrain, the feet, tendons, and core are all used during a hike. If you choose to use a hiking stick or trekking pole, the arms also get a workout too.
Step into Simplicity
Simply said, hiking requires almost no cost to participate. While there are reasons to invest in quality hiking gear, the basics of getting started are simple. In addition, hiking can be done at almost anytime of the day or night and seemingly anywhere. This beneficial activity takes only the right location, a pair of shoes, safe hiking knowledge, and the heart to hike.
Hooked on Hiking
All said and done, there is a lot of evidence and testimonies that support why hiking is beneficial. Perhaps one of the best things about hiking is its simplicity and accessibility to those who do it. If you are not convinced already, experience the many benefits of hiking for yourself and see why so many are hooked on this hobby. Get creative, be blessed by the benefits, and go on a hike!