In today’s day and age it seems pretty knowledgeable that we should get outdoors more. Considering office jobs or remote jobs being more common, and vehicles being used for a majority of transportation, some fresh air would benefit us tremendously. Hiking is such a wholesome and therapeutic hobby to pursue.
You can do it year round and there are endless trails and options to choose from. It doesn’t have to be a hike in the mountains to an extravagant destination; it can be as small and intimate as a local hike in a nearby state park. The fresh air with sounds of tranquility and birds chirping are such a serotonin booster after a long day at work. Let’s look at the many benefits that hiking outdoors can provide in mental, physical, and social aspects!
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Mental Benefits of Hiking
The first topic I want to establish is the mental benefits of being outdoors and hiking; mainly because I feel like these benefits are so underrated. Hiking outdoors doesn’t just promote physical benefits but also benefits mental health in so many aspects we are not aware of. Mental health is something that I believe everyone deals with whether they know it or not. I think in our world today there are a lot of stressors we deal with on a daily basis that add to our cortisol levels. When our cortisol levels are higher it makes us feel more tired and burnt out and it affects our emotions.
Then we don’t have much motivation or energy for work or daily tasks that we need to do to provide. Plus when our emotions are elevated things around us tend to escalate as well. So how does hiking help us mentally? Nature can generate many positive emotions such as; a sense of calmness, joy, peace, and being outdoors can even facilitate concentration. Going hiking in nature is proven to reduce negative thoughts which is a big factor for me. Luckily, since nature has a wide definition from rivers and lakes, to mountains and parks, or even trees and woodland, the availability to the benefits of nature aren’t too far from you!
Hiking outdoors can reduce stress due to the endorphins that are released to boost your mood. Exposure to nature or even viewing scenery of nature can reduce anger, or elevated emotions which is such an easy natural way to de-escalate. Did you know that ecotherapy is a type of formal treatment that involves doing activities outside in nature to help with mild to moderate depression. Ecotherapy is the practice of being in nature to improve psychological and physiological health. It has been proven to help decrease anxiety and depression, help improve symptoms of post- traumatic stress disorder, and improve attention- deficit/ hyperactivity disorder in children.
These are just facts being thrown out, but from experience I can vouch that being outdoors itself brings me a sense of calmness and peace. Can you imagine how much we would benefit from putting thirty minutes aside in our daily schedules to get outdoors and go for a walk or take a small hike.
Physical Benefits of Hiking
The physical benefits of hiking I feel are pretty known and not surprising, so I don’t want to spend too much time on this one. Like most cardio exercises, hiking helps reduce your risk of heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol and even some cancers. It helps regulate blood sugar levels and can enhance your balancing skills. Hiking is a weight- bearing activity, which builds muscle mass and helps prevent osteoporosis.
Hiking is a little more special than just walking due to the elements of both cardio and strength training. On top of that, being outside in the sunshine provides your body with vitamin D. Vitamin D aids calcium absorption and promotes bone and immune health. Did you know that roughly 42 percent of U.S. adults are vitamin D deficient. Along with intaking natural light, hikes outdoors help regulate and improve sleep quality.
Studies suggest being around nature helps us shift to a natural sleep cycle. I think too that being outdoors and getting moving around can lead to being more proactive in the future. From the physical aspect of hiking I have personally noticed that once I get moving around I find myself to have more energy. Hiking actually promotes blood flow to the brain along with carrying oxygen to the brain and other important nutrients.
Social Benefits of Hiking
Tying into the mental benefits of outdoor hiking comes with social benefits. With the amount that social media has evolved, connecting with friends over the phone is usually our go- to way of communication. Hiking outdoors promotes face to face interactions and helps urge us to put the phone down to have more intimate time with our family, friends, and even our own selves. When you put the screens down as well it forces you to be present and gives a chance to disconnect from stressors and connect with nature.
Due to the feelings of accomplishment or gratitude for yourself that hiking brings, it can lead to boosting your self esteem. In addition, that can boost your confidence which provides positive social benefits such as positive social interactions. Moreover, you are bound to meet strangers sharing the common interests of the outdoors which adds to feelings of belongingness. I think hiking is a good chance to unplug for a couple hours and resonate with the outdoors.
In conclusion, hiking gives us a natural and peaceful escape. It gives us the chance to unplug and be more engaged with the outdoors and be more engaged with ourselves, family, and friends. I think getting outdoors is certainly a necessity itself but also the experience and exhilaration of hiking. I believe there is a trail for every different mood you feel. The feeling of accomplishment is so rewarding, and the outdoors often gives a sense of calmness. If you decide to go hiking in the mountains or rainforest soon please make a checklist of necessities to pack to ensure safety. I think this is a great way to escape your comfort zone and learn something new about yourself. I hope you find your new adventure after reading this!