The Health and Wellness Benefits of Hiking
There are many health and wellness benefits of hiking. You can wipe hours of stress away with 30 minutes of hiking. An hour in the woods renews and invigorates me. Two hours on my favorite trail, up and down hills, around two lakes, and dodging tree roots leaves me physically and mentally in better shape than when I started.
Wellness Benefits of Hiking
Benefit One: Exercise
- Hiking can be a great cardio exercise. Sure, you can do the same on the treadmill, but a difficult trail with varied terrain is hard to beat
- Lowers risk of heart disease
- Lowers blood pressure
- Known to control or even cure type two diabetes.
- Strength conditioning – not only the lower body but the entire package.
- Weight control – I shudder at the thought of what my weight might be without the trails
Benefit Two: Stress Relief
I love being on the trails and enjoy the physicality of it, but I could get that at my local high school’s track. What brings me back time and time again is the commune with nature. The combination of low-impact physical activity combined with the great outdoors is mood-altering.
Stress and anxiety relief – Whenever I find myself overwrought, anxious, or worried, the trails are the best prescription I know.
Mood lift – Even when I’m in a good place, hiking lifts my spirits higher.
Energy boost – If you exercise, you’ve experienced an energy boost at the end of a workout. But the boost at the end of a hike is something more. It’s not only a physical boost but spiritually uplifting.
Where Can You Hike?
The state of Indiana has many parks with trails of varying degrees of difficulty. There’s a 3900-acre city park ten minutes from my home, Eagle Creek Park. Or I can walk through my subdivision to a creek and trails only a short distance from my home. If you look, you’ll find plenty of choices in your neck of the woods too.
Look for parks that are close – Finding a spot to hike only a few minutes from home or work makes it easy to head to the woods and hard to make excuses.
Hills are good – It might seem counterintuitive but hiking up and down hills adds to my enjoyment. I might get winded, but I feel better for it.
Varied terrain – Not only hills, but smooth paths, rough places, near water, or deep woods all add to the pleasure of hiking.
Why Does Hiking Raise Our Spirits?
Beyond the gain, I receive from physical activity and the release of endorphins, I feel at home on the trails. Being in nature feels natural. The sound of the woods, crickets, squirrels, the wind through the trees, the rush of a waterfall, or the swish of a whitetail deer are calming.
I drive hiking companions a little crazy because I often stop and say, smell this, taste this, or ask if they know the story behind a particular plant. It’s fun (at least for me), and it feels great.
Take a Hike!
The next time you’re feeling a little stressed, worried, or anxious, take a hike. Commit 30 minutes to your local park, walk along the nearest creek or head to the woods behind your sub-division. I’ll guarantee you’ll feel better, and it will improve your mood.
Here’s an excellent post on how to hike from the Mayo Clinic.
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Photo by Randy Clark