5 Reasons Why Hiking is the Ultimate Wellness Activity
By Richard Campbell
In recent years, wellness has emerged as a burgeoning multi-million dollar industry, with a seemingly endless number of new products and services that promise fantastic consequences for your health and wellbeing. From mindfulness mountain retreats to healing crystal-encrusted water bottles, you’ll find an extensive range of products, all claiming to alleviate the stresses of modern life.
However, there’s one wellness activity that has proven benefits for physical health and mental wellbeing, and best of all – it’s completely free!
Hiking certainly isn’t a new activity, but it’s one that’s received a lot of attention in recent years as a fantastic way to boost your fitness and mental wellbeing. Heading out into nature for a hike is one of the simplest, least expensive, and most enjoyable things you can do for your health today. With a range of proven benefits for physical fitness, mood, cognitive functioning and mental wellbeing, there’s no better time to get out on the trail! Here are our top five reasons why hiking is the ultimate wellness activity.
- It’s A Great Stress-Buster
Getting out of doors and into nature is a proven stress-busting activity, taking your mind off the daily grind. Modern life is stressful for a number of reasons, and many of us find it difficult to switch off from the problems we face in our day-to-day lives.
Going for a hike can be a great way to refocus, creating time for reflection and allowing you the space to put your problems into perspective. What’s more, these benefits have been proven in a series of scientific studies that examined the impact of hiking on stress, mood disorders, and mental illnesses, particularly for those living in urban areas. Hiking was shown to lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels, reduce blood pressure, and lower the risk of developing certain mood disorders and psychological illnesses. Getting out into nature could be the best thing you do for your mental health today.
- It Can Improve Your Physical Health
Hiking, especially over hilly or rough terrain, is a fantastic workout, helping you to build cardiovascular fitness, strength and stamina. Scaling a steep hill is a great way to get your heart pumping, but it’s also possible to go at your own pace, meaning that this is an ideal activity whatever your fitness level. Hiking has been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, which can reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other diseases associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
Hiking offers a full body workout, especially over rocky landscapes where you may need to use your hands. It specifically targets large muscles such as the quads, hamstrings and glutes, and also helps you to develop core strength, excellent for maintaining balance and coordination. What’s more, it’s an accessible activity, requiring no special skills or equipment, and you won’t need to pay any astronomical gym fees! Exercise should be fun, not a chore – pick a varied trail in a beautiful location and you’ll be so distracted by the glorious views that you’ll barely notice the hours slip by.
- It Can Boost Your Creativity
Anyone who has completed an epic day hike knows how it can boost your mood and energy, giving you a rush of endorphins akin to a ‘runner’s high’. However, hiking has also been shown to have powerful effects on creative thinking, meaning that getting out on the trail may be a great option if you are dealing with a thorny problem or stuck in a creative rut.
A study carried out by researchers at Stanford University demonstrated that creative thinking and problem solving increased by an average of 60% for participants who were walking, and even more for those who were walking outdoors. It’s not clear exactly why this occurs, but going out for a hike can help your brain to think flexibly and come up with creative new solutions to difficult problems.
- It Will Help You To Sleep
Modern urban life, with ubiquitous screens, lights, and distractions, can make getting a good night’s sleep very difficult. Indeed, poor sleep quality is widely regarded as a growing health crisis, and has been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disorders, stress, mental health issues and obesity.
The good news is that hiking is an excellent way to improve sleep quality. Recent research suggests that moderate exercise that elevates your heart rate for a longer period of time can be as effective in combatting insomnia as sleeping pills. This type of cardiovascular exercise can reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea, and regulate your body temperature and hormones to ensure that you get a proper night of rest. What’s more, exposure to sunlight during the day and sleeping outdoors at night on a camping trip, can help regulate your sleep patterns, and combat the negative effects of high levels of screen exposure in the evenings.
- You’ll Learn To Live In The Moment
One of the biggest advantages of hiking in nature is that it can help us to become more present, focused and connected to our natural surroundings. Studies of the benefits of hiking have demonstrated that walking through urban environments doesn’t have the same relaxing effects as hiking in nature, due to the attention-grabbing distractions in cities and towns.
On the other hand, when we walk through a forest, across meadows, or up a mountain, we tend to become more calmly aware of our natural environment, and more present in the moment. Next time you head out for a hike, pay attention to what you are experiencing and feeling, from the scents, sights and sounds of the nature around you, to the way in which your body responds to the demands of the trail. Hiking is a wonderful activity to help us to become more mindful and to help us live in the moment.
This summer, do your body, mind and spirit a favor, and head for the hills! Integrate a little hiking into your routine, and we’re confident you’ll feel the benefits. For a little inspiration, check out 10Aventures.com for all the best trails and hiking advice.
Find more of Richard Campbell’s writings at www.10adventures.com