Next time you hear someone tell you, “take a hike,” you might want to thank them for looking out for your health. Hiking is a great way to get out there. It’s fun, requires very little equipment and can be done virtually anywhere. Being outside is always a chance to clear the mind and de-stress. Going on a hike offers tremendous benefits for your physical and mental health and well-being.
Here are 10 benefits you can gain from going on a hike.
Hiking is great for all fitness levels: With hiking, you can chart your own course, set your own pace and distance: Is it an easy walk in the bush, a slowly inclining scenic trail or a steep trek up a mountain? The great thing is you don’t have to start with an epic trip carrying 20kg up a mountain. If you have a low fitness level, start with a walk in the park (literally) and build up stamina and confidence from there. It’s now more important than ever to start exercising - Alarmingly, 56% of all adults in Australia in 2014–15 were not sufficiently physically active (Source: ABS 2016f; Table S1.4.16.). Don’t become a statistic.
Hiking increases fitness: Hiking is a full body workout that improves cardiovascular health and stamina and builds lower body muscle. Hiking – even at low to moderate intensities – gets your heart going, your lungs moving, and the blood pumping. It’s essentially training your heart to take on more physical activity.
Hiking tones the whole body: Regular walking can get your butt in better shape, but taking on inclines, using trekking poles to propel you forward, and clambering over rocks gives your body an all-over workout. Physiologically, you’re going to work your whole body, especially the lower body — namely the quads, glutes and hamstrings. If you’re carrying a pack, then you’re going to challenge the strength and endurance of your upper body as well. As hiking puts pressure on your bones, it encourages healthy bone structure and reduces the chances of osteoporosis.
Hiking helps prevent and control diabetes: Walking has always been one of the most recommended physical activities for people with diabetes. Regular hiking helps you control, or even prevent, diabetes by lowering your blood sugar levels. Hiking gives your muscles a workout, which moves glucose from your bloodstream for energy.
Hiking lowers blood pressure and cholesterol: Hiking through the trails on a regular basis decreases blood pressure and cholesterol, thus reducing the danger of heart disease, diabetes and stroke for those at high-risk.
Hiking calms the mind: In a modern world of constant text messaging, email, and social media, we seem to have a constant attention deficit. Out on a hike, with the absence of these distractors, you can unplug and instead connect with the world around you, set your mind at ease, and enjoy the peace and tranquility of the road, trail, or peak you are traveling. Stepping into the outdoors gives you time away from the electronic world around you which is sadly something we rarely experience today.
Hiking is a social activity: People go hiking in groups with friends or even with tour groups. Hiking can help you forge bonds while you shape up. Plus, interaction with the larger hiking community encourages you to engage with your workout as a lifestyle, rather than a chore, which will make you more likely to stick with it for the long haul.
Hiking increases creativity: Research shows that spending time outdoors increases attention spans and creative problem-solving skills by as much as 50 percent. The authors of the study also point out that the results may have as much to do with unplugging from technology as they do spending time outside.
Hiking increases mood and happiness: Japan is the birthplace of "forest bathing", the practice of immersing yourself in nature. It’s a meditative, sensory activity, and one that has produced a wide range of insights. One study compared two groups of people taking walks of the same level of physical exertion, one through a forest and one through a city. The results showed a decrease in blood pressure and stress hormones for the forest walkers and not for those in the city.
Hiking opens your world to new adventures and places: Being out in nature, away from the chaos of our daily lives and technology, can allow people to connect with themselves and nature in a way that brings about peace and a sense of well-being. hiking allows for a change of scenery from our daily routines. We should already be striving to break up our routines (work/school, eat, sleep, repeat) frequently. Scheduling in a short hike can be a great way to do that. Sometimes life can feel “stale” – and that’s totally normal for most people. As long as you’re aware of that, you can act to change it – with a hike Off The Grid!
And there you have it – 10 of the benefits of hiking!
Whatever your motivations, hiking is a great way to get active, stay fit, stay sharp, be social, and generally get a little more enjoyment out of each day.