Many people see hiking as just another popular outdoor fun activity. But hiking does more than keep you occupied during your free time. And because a significant number of people do not understand the benefits of hiking, they’d rather spend their weekends or free time on their couches watching their favorite TV shows.
Technology has made everything easier for human beings. Today, instead of heading to a restaurant to have your lunch or dinner, you can order and have it delivered to your doorstep. At workplaces, people spend three-quarters of their days seated. It’s no wonder there’s an increase in cases of lifestyle diseases such as cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes.
But we’re not going to talk about lifestyles today. Studies have shown that hiking can improve our physical and psychological health. Being on the trail is like working out, only that that it’s more fun. Picture this: One person is at the gym doing squats, running on the treadmill, doing push-ups, and other forms of exercise.
On the other hand, another is hiking on a mountainous terrain, taking in the breathtaking scenery below and breathing fresh air. The latter is evidently having more fun.
Up to this point, you can tell that hiking is the perfect hobby. And if you haven’t taken it up as a hobby yet, read on to discover the benefits of hiking.
1. Boosts Bone Density
Bone mineral density, commonly referred to as bone density, is the amount of minerals found in the bone tissue. With a high bone density, you will be able to keep osteoporosis at bay and avoid fractures.
A placebo-controlled study involving healthy menopausal women was conducted to determine if walking affects bone density and bone loss. It revealed that women who walked for more than 7.5 miles per week had a higher mean bone density than women who did less than a mile each week.
This shows how vital hiking, a weight-bearing activity, is in increasing your bone density. Walking also decreases your leg’s rate of bone loss. Keep in mind that to get better results, go for steep trails that will make the activity intense instead of going for flat trails that require little effort.
2. Helps One Build Muscle
Hiking is almost the same as doing a full-body workout because nearly all parts of your body are involved. It’s good for strengthening muscles in the core and legs, but this does not mean those are the only muscle groups that benefit!
When you walk up a steep trail, the claves, hamstrings, glutes, and quads are engaged, whereas the hips, core, and ankle muscles are engaged when going down. To build the arms and back muscles, carry a hiking pole with you and have a moderate weight backpack (or even heavy if you want).
3. Keeps Your Weight In Check
Statistics indicate that by the year 2030, 20% of the world’s population will be obese, and another 38% will be overweight. Habits such as inactivity and bingeing on fast foods have contributed to this. Do you know that you can control your weight and avoid conditions like osteoarthritis and hypertension by hiking?
The weight loss rate is influenced by factors such as gender, weight, age, and aerobic intensity. And don’t expect to start seeing results after going on two or three hikes, though. Losing or controlling weight through hiking is a gradual process. If you’re a beginner, start with an hour of hiking each week on a trail near you.
4. Hiking Makes You More Creative
Scholars believe that nature influences the way we think. When walking alone in a natural environment, my mind usually wanders a lot. During such walks, it’s like the creativity box is destroyed, and you start thinking clearly, coming up with plenty of ideas. At the end of it, you feel refreshed and ready to implement your ideas.
Despite not being focused on hiking entirely, one study showed that being in a natural environment positively affects our creativity. Participants in this study reported that they were curious and more flexible in their thinking after spending time with nature.
The research further revealed that nature plays a vital role in the first two stages of the creative process: The Preparation phase and the Incubation Phase. So, being in natural environments regularly is crucial, especially if your profession requires a lot of creativity.
5. Keeps Cardiovascular Diseases At Bay
Yes, hiking keeps your heart healthy and boosts your endurance levels. For beginners, the first fewer hikes may be challenging, especially if you aren’t physically fit. You will feel exhausted during and after the walk.
But as you gain more experience, your fitness level goes up, and you can hike faster and longer without continually feeling like you’re running out of oxygen. Besides that, hiking positively impacts factors that influence cardiovascular health like blood sugar levels, cholesterol, and blood pressure.
Studies indicate that hiking boosts glucose tolerance, keeps cholesterol at optimal levels, and decreases hypertension risk. So, hiking won’t make you develop heart problems if that’s your concern.
6. Improves Your Mood
You’ve probably read or heard the important role workouts play in relieving stress and anxiety. It’s true, and we can say the same about hiking, though hiking isn’t like other forms of exercise. When on a hike, you’re actively engaging with nature, and that makes it unique. Also, hiking isn’t as physically demanding as other outdoor activities such as rock climbing and rafting.
So, how does going on a hike improve your mood? Researchers found that walking in green spaces facilitates attention restoration. You must be wondering how. Human beings typically suffer from attention overload – the mental fatigue that results from spending too much time using our phones and computers.
There’s no phone, computer, or any other gadget to distract you when on a trail. You’re deeply immersed in your walk, eager to enjoy the earth’s natural beauty and to reach the end of the trail. So, if you’re thinking about improving your mood and focus, start planning to go on the trail of your choice.
7. You Gain Better Balance
This is one advantage of hiking that many people don’t talk about. Some hikers don’t even realize that hiking helps them gain better balance. Experts recommend picking an uneven terrain with rocks, streams, and other obstacles that require balancing as you pass through them.
Such a terrain challenges you to keep your balance and prevents you from falling. Remember that one fall can cause an injury that will take weeks to heal-though that’s not always the case, but it’s good to take precautions, right?
When walking, your leg and core muscles are constantly in use, strengthening them, and improving your balance. Aside from that, you become more aware of your surroundings and movement, and this prevents falling.
It’s also crucial to note that as we age, our balance declines and we are prone to making mistakes while walking, for instance, misjudging our distance from an object that could trip us. Some people go on hikes with trekking poles for balance and support, and that’s perfectly okay. In fact, I recommend acquiring a hiking pole of the hiking trail is uneven.
8. Strengthens Our Relationship With Nature
There have been many environmental protection campaigns over the past few years urging people to go green.
A study revealed that by being in a natural environment, we connect with nature and this encourages us to preserve the environment.
Some environmentally friendly practices include walking and/or cycling more instead of driving at all times and reducing the use of plastic materials. Therefore, people who hike are more willing to sustain the environment for future generations.
9. Provides An Opportunity To Disconnect From Your Daily Routine
How long have you been using this phone, tablet, or computer? Several hours guess. And you finally found this gem of a blog post, so it’s a good thing I guess.
The number of internet users is ever increasing. During our breaks at work, we spend time looking at our screens. Heck, we even forget we’re at a date and glance at our social media once regularly!
I can keep on waxing lyrical about the ups of technology, but I think it’s prudent to call out some behaviors. Too much screen time makes us robots, for lack of a better term. Hiking can provide the much-needed time to unplug from the addictive internet.
Switch off your phone or data and go out there and experience the natural world. You will come back feeling energized and less anxious.
10. It’s Great For Relationships
People are usually unhappy when relationships with their families, loved ones, friends, or coworkers are strained. It’s because people seek to love and to be loved. To make it even worse, we are regularly exposed to stressors throughout the day. Things like disagreements with colleagues at work can ruin good relationships.
When you’re hiking as a group, it’s all smiles and laughter as you explore the trail. Hiking is the perfect opportunity to bond, especially for people who were at loggerheads earlier in the week. At the end of the hike, stress and anxiety are usually over, and everyone is happy.
But what if you’re hiking alone? I can hear someone asking this question. Yes, hiking alone also improves relationships with other people. You get that ‘alone time’ with nature as you strive to conquer that trail. When you complete the trail end, you will feel invigorated.
I go on hikes occasionally, so I have experienced this feeling. Hiking alone is beneficial, especially if you have to deal with many people or clients at work.
Evidently, we cannot understate the benefits of hiking. Our ancestors didn’t live in concrete jungles like us so our connectedness to nature is natural. A few minutes or hours of hiking is excellent for both our mental and physical health. Have you been hiking? Please comment about your experiences and any other advantage I’ve not mentioned.