Generally, everyone says that exercise is beneficial for many aspects of our lives, and we agree with that. However, if we talk about regular hiking, then we would not be wrong to say that it can have a significant impact on our mental and physical health. Hiking is not only fun, but it also allows us to think more rationally by switching off our stressful thoughts.
If you are looking to find out the potential mental and physical benefits of hiking, then you have come to the right place. In this article, we provide in-depth knowledge about the benefits of hiking, along with tips for beginners.
Why Is Hiking Important?
The fact that hiking is known as a low-impact cardiovascular exercise makes it ideal and suitable for people of all ages, given that they are not dealing with any type of heart disease. People also consider hiking as a weight-bearing workout, which means it improves bone density. Hiking achieves this for you because you build strength in many important muscle groups.
Due to the mental and physical benefits, more and more individuals are getting involved in hiking. According to numerous studies, hiking helps control weight, improves balance, reduces the risk of heart disease, removes symptoms of anxiety and stress, lowers blood sugar levels, and stabilizes blood pressure.
Additionally, hiking has significant mental benefits. These benefits multiply if the hike is away from crowds and urban areas in a natural environment. Many people say that mountain hiking is the most helpful, but that is not right. Hiking at any place where there are lakes, forests, trees, or beaches that don’t have huge crowds can improve mental health.
Mental Health Benefits of Hiking
Hiking serves as the best remedy to cure mental health. Let’s have a look at the mental health benefits hiking offers.
Enhance Positive Thinking
According to studies, the way we think has a significant impact on our mental health. It plays a chief role in mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression. Negative thinking can be devastating. Hiking can shift your thinking away from negative emotions and thoughts. Nature effectively reduces anxiety and depression and helps you enhance your mental health.
We have a lot of distractions around us that keep us busy. As a result, we do not get time for ourselves and become frustrated. When we step into nature, we give our minds a chance to step outside itself. Hiking can help you to get away from daily life distractions. You will notice yourself feeling great and extremely calm.
Make You Happy
Once you get rid of negative thoughts, your mind would be at peace automatically, making you happy. Spending time in nature makes you happy by increasing self-esteem, reducing stress, decreasing the feeling of depression, and improving overall mental health. The beauty of nature has the power to bring peace to your mind. There’s no doubt that hiking is one of the best ways to enjoy the beauty of nature.
Clear Your Mind
Although there are obvious physical health benefits of any form of walking but walking through nature has additional mental health benefits. Hiking through a natural environment clears your mind from any sort of negative thoughts. Moreover, hiking appears to decrease the influence of the portion of your brain that triggers bad moods.
Boost Your Brain
You can receive a hike-induced boost for your brain even if you are not suffering from any mental health issue. Different researches suggest that when it comes to problem-solving tasks, individuals who spend less time on technology and more time in nature are up to 50% more innovative. Also, frequent hikers have a stronger memory than those who do not hike that often. Hiking also restores cognitive functions such as focus and memory.
Unplug From Hectic Life
Do you get frustrated by the hustle and bustle of life? Then hiking is a great way to take a break from busy life and enjoy time praising all the beauty that nature offers. The hiking experience is sure to make you feel centered and calm. Leave your social sites at the back, and just enjoy the present time in nature.
Improve Your Appearance
The diverse scenery of streets, mountains, beaches, and forests is a lot more exciting and fascinating than the wall of an ordinary gym. Hence, it is easy to imagine how a walk through nature makes us feel happy, calm, and composed. It improves our outlook and how we deal with different situations.
Physical Benefits of Hiking
Numerous research and studies have repeatedly shown that physical exercise not only increases our overall fitness and health but also enhances and increases the quality of our lives. Hiking substantially reduces the risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and colon cancer. It also decreases the risk of dying of coronary heart disease.
Moreover, it reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety, contributes to healthy muscles, bones, and joints, helps control weight and relieve the pain of arthritis, and is associated with fewer physician visits and hospitalizations. Here are some ways in which hiking can reduce the probability of health issues.
Just like any other exercise, hiking is one of the best methods to stabilize levels of cholesterol in your body and lose weight. On average, for every mile you walk, you burn 100 calories (for an average person). How fast you walk is another way you can look at it. If you are walking at a pace of 2.5 miles per hour, you burn around 200–250 calories. Similarly, if you are walking at a rate of 4.5 miles per hour, you burn about 500 calories.
Another great benefit is weight loss. Individuals who lose weight through dieting tend to gain weight again quickly. Those who lose weight through walking or hiking sustain the loss and continue to lose weight with ease.
Many people die from different heart diseases, and it is not good. But according to various studies, exercise, including hiking, can help decrease the risk of heart disease. Individuals who do not exercise frequently are more likely to have coronary heart disease. Daily or weekly hiking improves blood circulation, and as a result, the risk of heart disease reduces.
The increase in the risk of having diabetes is mainly due to the lack of physical activity. As we have already mentioned, hiking is one of the best exercises for people of all ages. Therefore, a hike once a week can have a significant impact on the health of people who suffer from diabetes.
For an individual having Type I diabetes, which is insulin-dependent, hiking can reduce the amount of insulin that the individual needs. For an individual having Type II diabetes, which is non-insulin-dependent, hiking along with a proper diet can reverse the course of the disease.
Nowadays, hypertension is a common disease, and we have many people around us who suffer from it. People often call it a silent killer because symptoms are undetectable and can lead to heart stroke, heart attack, and other serious health problems. Physical exercise, such as hiking, reduces blood pressure by 4 to 10 points. If an overweight individual can regain an average body weight, hiking can lower blood pressure by 5 to 20 points.
Our body produces adrenaline to deal with perceived or real danger. If you do not release it from your body, muscle tension increases, which leads to feelings of anxiety. You can release adrenaline by walking. Regardless of how slow or fast an individual walks, hiking shows an immediate decrease in stress and tension. Hiking also keeps your brain healthy as your body is releasing endorphins.
Arthritis and Osteoporosis
Walking and hiking help reduce the adverse effects of osteoporosis by slowing down the rate of calcium loss and increasing bone density. Thus, they decrease the susceptibility of bones to break by strengthening them. Numerous studies have shown that people with osteoporosis who walked for 1 hour for 3 days per week increased bone density in different parts of the body by 6%.
Tips for Beginners
If you are new to hiking into the woods or up a hill or mountain to benefit your physical and mental health, then you must consider a few things before you go.
Consider Your Fitness Level
Although hiking is appropriate for individuals of all ages and fitness levels, when you start hiking, it is critical not to push yourself beyond your limits. On the first hike, take it easy and try to plan only a small hike to know what your limit is.
While hiking, take frequent rest breaks and hike at a pace you feel comfortable with. If you need a longer rest break, then try to find a quiet and peaceful spot so that you can absorb all the possible benefits of nature.
Prepare Essential Stuff
While hiking, you would need some essential things, such as water and food. To carry them along with yourself, you would need a lightweight backpack. But if you are also carrying heavy stuff such as a camera, we suggest going with a backpack with a waist strap and padded shoulder straps to ensure your back does not feel like it is carrying a ton of bricks.
You would also need a pair of high-quality hiking shoes or boots. To prevent blisters, you should wear woolen socks. Other things to pack for hiking include a small first aid kit, trail map, power bank for your gadgets, a compass, a flashlight, and an insect repellent.
Go for the Right Trail
As a beginner, you should go for an easy trail. Choose a path that is longer than the distance you usually travel but not more than your regular walking capacity. After deciding a route, look for it on the map. Get to know the place and possible dangers that you might come across during the hike.
Check the Weather Forecast
We advise that you check the 24-hour weather forecast before starting a hike so that your hiking experience does not get ruined. It will also help you decide if you need to pack extra items and the type of clothing to wear. For example, if the weather forecast says it would be a sunny day, you must wear light clothing to prevent overheating and take more water to keep yourself hydrated. If the weather forecast shows the probability of rain, then you must take a raincoat or umbrella.
Join a Hiking Group
Being a beginner, you might not feel comfortable hiking yourself. We suggest joining a local group that has some experienced hikers in it. In this way, not only will you enjoy the hike more, but they will also guide and motivate you to tackle trails.
Make Yourself Safe
Whether you are going alone for a hike or with a group, let someone from your family or friend circle know the route for the hike and where you will be. Ask that person to keep a check on you from time to time just to be safe. In case your mobile phone loses its signal, you can also carry an emergency device such as a SPOT tracker. These devices offer emergency assistance through satellite.
Leave No Trash Behind
It is your responsibility to keep trails clean. Take your trash with you and keep the mountains and trails you visited as beautiful as you found them.
Hiking is more than just fun. It is one of the most natural things we can do. It gives us a great chance to exercise and breathe a bit while enjoying the beauty of nature. Hiking is a great exercise to enhance mental and physical health. The takeaway from this article is that hiking is the cure to many health issues, but it also offers so much more than that. So, take a break from your hectic life, go for a hike, and enjoy the beauty of nature while making the most of it.