The benefits of hiking go beyond regular exercise, according to the available evidence.
Some medical professionals have started including hiking in the treatment plan because of its positive effects on patients. The combined effect of physical activity and time spent in nature makes hiking a perfect activity to boost overall health and wellness.
Here are some of the advantages that hiking has been shown to have scientifically.
1. Hiking Is One of the Best Ways to Keep Your Mind in Shape
As a full-time writer, I often struggle to rationalize taking a midday trek. However, I’ve read that hiking may also help keep my intellect in peak condition in addition to making me feel good physically.
We benefit from any physical activity. Working out your heart and lungs through cardio exercises like the elliptical trainer, stationary bike, or treadmill will help you feel younger and more robust. More oxygen flows to your brain when you exercise, which has several positive effects.
Trails are a vital component of hiking that is missing from many other types of physical activity. That means doing so needs skill in a world where nothing can be taken at face value. Trails are great for your brain because they force you to make minute and significant adjustments to your course in response to things like slippery ground, overhanging branches, concealed barriers, trail signs, and possible encounters with wild animals.
Hiking is beneficial for both your heart and your brain, as it stimulates the regions of your brain responsible for navigation and memory, as described by neuroscientist Daniel Levitin in his book, Successful Aging.
2. You Can Maintain Your Sense of Peace and Joy While Hiking
In general, physical activity has been shown to reduce anxiety.
However, what truly sets hiking apart from other fitness options is that it takes place in the great outdoors.
Other forms of physical activity, such as river rafting or hiking, also rely on nature, but they are less common because they take more time and equipment than a simple hike.
Hiking may provide the necessary connection to nature in virtually any setting, from a city park or public garden to a mountain trek.
The scientific evidence supporting working out in a natural setting is overwhelming.
Walking in natural places, as opposed to a metropolis or along a road, has been shown to help us recover from “attention overload,” or the mental exhaustion that comes from living and working in an increasingly technological world.
Walking in outdoors has been shown to reduce stress and guard against depression because of the calming effect it has on the mind.
Researchers Craig Anderson and others have found that spending time in nature increases sentiments of awe—a state of astonishment combined with a sensation of being little in the presence of something bigger than yourself—but the exact mechanisms by which this occurs remain unclear.
The benefits of experiencing awe include an uplifting disposition and an increased willingness to help others.
3. Hiking Is Good For Your Relationships
It’s probably not a surprise to learn that going on a hike is helpful for our mental and physical well-being. However, there is growing evidence that it also improves our interpersonal relationships.
That’s because many of us like our hikes in the company of others, and research has shown that doing physical activity with others increases feelings of closeness and safety.
I’m sure my buddy was relieved to have someone to help her hobble down the mountain when she recently fell on the hike and severely fractured her ankle.
Having a companion can be an excellent opportunity to interact with another person. You can do it in a place free of other distractions, even in less terrible situations.
Independent raters found that mother-daughter pairs that spent 20 minutes walking in a greenhouse performed better on a cognitive task. They had more positive relationships with one another.
In particular, after a stroll in the natural setting, participants reported feeling more connected, happy feelings, and less negative emotions.
Further studies have shown that spending time in nature improves our ability to empathize, help, and be generous in interpersonal interactions.
But what about going on a hike by yourself?
In my own experience, I’ve found that solo hikes may benefit my relationships for the reasons listed above: they help me relax, renew my focus after periods of exhaustion, and inspire amazement.
When I return from a hike in a positive frame of mind, it shows in my relationships with people.
Caregivers can benefit from taking time away from their duties to enjoy the outdoors.
After all, you deserve a break every once in a while, and doing so will make you more emotionally available to people when you return.
4. Taking a Hike Is A Great Way to Spark New Ideas
No doubt I’m not the only person who finds that time spent outdoors encourages idea generation. Many of my songs have been written while I was out on a path, while I wasn’t consciously thinking about writing anything down.
During an Outward Bound program, David Strayer and his colleagues examined young adults before and after three days in the wilderness. They found that the hike boosted the participants’ ability to think creatively and solve problems.
Natural environments have been shown to improve creative thinking. Some researchers attribute this to the fact that we can better let our thoughts roam and relax in these circumstances. It can help us make connections between seemingly unrelated concepts.
Some people believe that the vastness and unpredictability of nature help them be more inventive.
5. It’s A Great Way to Bond with Nature
Hiking is beneficial for our health, and it might be helpful for the environment, too.
For example, we could lessen our environmental impact by using automobiles less. It is possible if we have the stamina to go places and cover more considerable distances.
Indirectly, hiking helps the environment since it brings people closer to nature.
Building empathy for the natural world can increase our investment in preservation initiatives.
This means people and the planet can benefit from outdoor activities like hiking.
This has convinced me that hiking is great exercise.
I’ve resolved not to spend the entire day inside in front of a screen. Instead, go out of the house every so often, if only for a short walk.
Moreover, I feel a deeper spiritual connection to the natural world.