The Benefits of Hiking Cannot Be Understated!
Do you love to go hiking? Perhaps you’re thinking about getting started? It’s no secret that there are many physical benefits of hiking – many attribute hiking to weight loss and increases in energy! But did you know that there are also many mental, social, and emotional benefits of hiking as well! You don’t need a whole essay to tell you how good hiking can be for you!
Here at Board and Life, we have some great trail systems near our flat. That said, we love hiking but definitely don’t do enough of it. We know that starting to hike even once a week can help sharpen our minds and overall psychological health. So, we thought we would write about all the benefits to hiking so we inspire you to get hiking – and to remind ourselves that we should be doing it, too!
Of course, we want to point out that hiking might not be for everyone. If you are wanting to get in shape and make changes to your routine, be sure to check with your doctor or other health professionals to see your body and mind is ready for it!
Hiking can help you achieve the body that is right for you! // Photo: Unsplash
One of the most popular benefits of hiking that people think about first is weight loss. While it’s true that regular hiking can help you lose weight – it’s important to remember that that’s not the only thing you should be doing. Weight loss, in general, requires setting smart goals, lifestyle shifts, and consistent effort. That said, hiking is a great way to establish a fitness routine no matter how small it may be to start.
If you plan to start hiking to lose weight, don’t expect drastic changes after one session. You will need to do it consistently and over time to see physical results. Again, if you are considering hiking to lose weight – that’s great! If you are new to physical activity, be sure to chat with a health professional about the best way for you.
You’ll need to start slow and progress up and up – but doing it right means you’ll build the right habits early and save yourself from injury if you are generally inactive. It’s also important to have the right gear. Improper gear can cause more harm than good. If you need running shoes, Bruce has had Mizuno runners for years while Lisa has these great Merrell hiking shoes. If you need a good rain jacket that is water resistant and great for the wind, this exact black Northface jacket has been taking care of Bruce for years!
Building Core Strength
As for another health benefit, hiking is great for building strength around different areas of your body. Getting out on the trails is good for the legs and especially good for your core and lower back. Depending on how far you are going and how intensely you are hiking, these benefits can even be increased further. Depending on the terrain you tackle, uneven ground and lots of climbing are certainly good for overall mobility, calf strength, and balance.
It’s true that many people (because of sitting at desks/general immobility at work) begin to have issues with their lower back earlier and earlier in life. Hiking is a great way to make sure your back is strong. Building up these muscles throughout your life is a sure way to the keep your overall core stronger. This makes you less likely to have back issues as you age. If you are unstable to begin with but still want to hike, consider some lightweight walking poles. These will help you stay upright even in the wildest of terrain.
It’s always better to be fit when you are young and healthy as opposed to starting in your older age. Not saying that it’s impossible to do – but the more work you do early in life makes staying fit for longer that much easier!
Now, this is not to say that flat ground hiking and an easy pace won’t give you any benefits. It’s important to get out there and get moving as the first priority. You can always build up the strength to go farther and farther later on!
Feeling fit? Jump for joy! // Photo: Unsplash
As for the last of the physical benefits, hiking can help improve your cardiovascular fitness levels. Cardiovascular fitness is otherwise known as how fit you are to go for a run or do aerobic exercise (cycling, running, rowing) for a long time. This is compared to physical strength, which we discussed above. Most running-type sports help increase your cardiovascular fitness as well. The same can be said for hiking.
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. This is a good thing. Over time, higher cardiovascular fitness can reduce your chances of certain illnesses like cardiovascular disease. Remember, if you are going for more intense hikes, you might need hiking accessories like hiking poles or even a wattle bottle utility belt.
Improvements in Mental Health
In general, physical activity is good for our mental health. While there are many reasons why this is – the connections are clear. More physical activity – even if it’s a light to moderate hike – can have great benefits on your mind. Exercise is one of the most effective ways we can reduce anxiety.
First and foremost, 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!
You could try getting up early before heading off to work or school. Alternatively, you could go for an evening hike after work when you get home. This might not work for busy parents – but maybe the kids need a hike, too! Our point is, hiking has many benefits to mental health – many of which are specific to you and only you. You won’t know the benefits until you try for yourself!
A Connection to Nature Increases Emotional Health
There is something about nature that we are drawn too… // Photo: Unsplash
This is probably one of our favorite – and little known – tips about hiking. Do you ever feel like you are drawn to nature? Feeling like you want to be among it more and more? Can’t sit still and want to be outside? Then hiking is definitely for you. It’s been shown that we have a reduction in stress when we spend time amongst nature. This can be walking along a forest path or swimming in the ocean. Doesn’t matter.
As humans, we are biologically linked to nature in many ways – many of which science doesn’t understand fully yet. What we DO know is that being surrounded by nature can have profound positive effects on our mood. So, consider hikes as little boosts of connection to the natural world around you.
Increased Social Health
Grab a partner and get out there! // Photo: Unsplash
Believe it or not, social health is a thing. Research is showing that as populations age, social isolation is becoming one of the biggest causes of poor mental health and lower quality of life for seniors. This needs to be stopped – and it begins with the routines we built in adulthood.
If you are finding it hard to schedule in time to see friends and family, consider planning a small hike. Scheduling in time to be active and to catch up means that you spend time with the people who are close to you while you get your physical activity in for the day or the week. You don’t have to go on a multi-day hike right away – you can always start small and go for walks around your local park or trails. No matter what you do, it’s important to set goals since they can really help you stay on track!
If you have a dog, this can be a great excuse to get outside and get your furry friend some exercise as well! Depending on the breed, dogs can require lots of physical activity – often more than a tiny backyard can provide. Finding off leash hiking areas near you is a great way to get out and get moving. If there aren’t any, keeping your buddy on a leash also works! You don’t have to be crazy fast on your hike – just get moving.
Taking the kids hiking is a great way to introduce them to nature and physical activity – and this is key for building healthy habits early on in life. Plus, doing activities as a family can be lots of fun, something to look forward to, and help strengthen family bonds. It’s amazing what a little “together time” can do!
Take a deep breath and enjoy the view. // Photo: Unsplash
Are you feeling stressed? Try hiking! Going along with when we mentioned “being in nature”, nature is known to be a stress-reducer. One of the ways this happens is through our connection to being outside. The second reason we see stress-reduction from hiking is that of the physical activity itself. A third reason is that hiking can help us recharge.
Maybe you have heard of the idea of “recharging your batteries”? This is true for hiking. Not only do you reduce current stress levels when hiking, but you also recharge the batteries. This is also known as building resilience. Resilience is a term used to describe how we deal with stress, change, or challenges. Having a high resilience allows us to cope with these stressors well. Having a low resilience can lead to us having a hard time dealing with increasing levels of stress.
Think about this example: have you ever missed a bus or had something small happen in your day but it really set you off? Has the same thing happened other times and you didn’t really care? That’s probably because you had different levels of resilience stored up to deal with the stressor. Building resilience is very important for dealing with life’s expected – and unexpected – challenges and physical activity (through hiking) is a known way to help you build up your personal resilience!
And there you have it – 7 of the benefits of hiking! Whatever your motivations, hiking is a great way to get active, stay fit, stay sharp, and generally get a little more enjoyment out of each day. Obviously, there are individual benefits to hiking that we haven’t mentioned – but we’d love to hear about them! Get in touch on Twitter @BoardandLife and tell us what you love about hiking! We’d love to compare notes!
As always, Stay Curious,
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