Exercise has phenomenal benefits say researchers all over the world. And hiking IS exercise folks. Increased levels of clarity, focus, positive mood and creativity are all benefits of a regular hiking routine. Plan your hike near some water (ocean or lake) and you can expect greater results in calm and clarity of mind. So walk with us as we meander through some of the benefits to getting out there and finding your hiking happiness.
Walk Your Way to a Healthy Body
So many people have surrendered their hard earned fitness regimens to the inevitable challenges of following a stringent work-out routine. Who doesn’t want to follow the latest state-of-the-art workouts?
The reality is sticking to them can be a huge challenge in this frenetic day and age. And we don’t think that’s really fair. Right? If you are finding yourself on the flipside of that amazing (and expensive) set of home gym DVDs, then starting slow and sure might be your only way to permanently restore a regular exercise regimen.
Hiking is the secret to getting back in shape.
As activities or exercise goes, hiking is enormously versatile. It can be as simple as walking around your city’s green lung for twenty minutes or if you don’t like that way, spending weeks on the Pacific Crest Trail. Not only can the distances be varied, but you can control the speed too!
Hiking could be your chance to take up exercise again and unlock the full potential of your mind.
Exploring the Benefits of Regular Hiking
A quick look at the health benefits reveals a robust list of disease-conquering benefits inherent in this simple activity. A regular bout of walking in the outdoors has shown to improve dementia, obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease and even hypertension. Wow!
Boxed in between concrete citadels (towers) keeps even the least gifted artist paralyzed and permanently removed from their dedicated muse. It makes complete sense that the wide open vistas of the great outdoors unlocks the wide open vistas of the great indoors I.e., your imagination.
Studies have shown that children and adults alike can soar their creativity currents by simply spending more time perambulating in nature.
Can you imagine how Henry David Thoreau’s version of ‘Walden’ (look it up) would’ve turned out if the author had written it in a dingy city-scape packed with noise and pollution? We have an idea and surmise the opening (and closing) lines like this, ‘Sitting quietly in my window I consider the world around me. It’s not quiet and I have no more words. The end”.
Hiking and increased Higher Brain Function
A fascinating study done by Atchley, Strayer and Atchley (2010) and published here, took a closer look at human beings’ higher brain functions. If you are not sure what those are…well..we are talking about mental capacities which include the ability to choose what you place your attention on (aka selective attention), creativity, problem solving, the ability to inhibit stimulation (absence of which would be demonstrated by a toddler running into a busy street after their ball), and being able to multi-task.
In their study the researchers highlight a global decline in these higher functions despite advances in so called supportive technology. What is exciting is what these researchers discovered:
After four days in the wilderness it was shown that immersion in nature improved creativity and problem solving by 50% in their group of hikers. Impressive!
Walk Your Way to Happiness and Psychological Well-Being
Anxiety and depression can be called the bubonic plague of the 21st century. It’s THAT prevalent! Given the copious studies underpinning positive impacts from outdoor activities its surprising that the down trodden and terrified aren’t all forced (as part of therapy) to take a daily stroll in the sunlight.
A study looking at why people hike (in this case the Appalachian Trail) conducted 43 interviews and what they found was a real eye-opener into the human condition.
The final analysis revealed a list of factors prompting people to engage in hiking which included ‘self-fulfillment’, ‘self-reliance’, ‘fun’, ‘enjoyment of life’, and ‘warm relationships with others’.
In addition, and using some highfalutin statistical methods, the researchers discovered strong links existed between hiking and exercise, exercise and health, health and fun and enjoyment of life.
All you need to get started: The Best Waterproof Hiking Boots
There are literally hundreds of studies citing the psychological benefits of exercise in general and hiking in particular. The literature truly is enormous so we’ve whittled it down to a few good reads which you can access here, here and here (Appalachian Trail study included).
We Are Programmed to be Attracted to Nature
Not only are we programmed genetically to be attracted to nature, but if we do follow through with this genetic priming, are we assured of a positive psychological response. The research says so.
Also interesting: Hiking with Kids: Heed these 10 Tips by Experienced Parents
Hiking Unites People – Why Everyone Should Hit the Trails
The wonderful thing about hiking is its capacity to bring people and children from all walks of life and every conceivable socio-economic background together. Out in the wild people become connected on a level that transcends all boundaries and for this reason alone, we feel the entire planet should hit the trails.
Don’t get lost: The Best Handheld Hiking GPS Devices Reviewed
The History and the Future of Hiking
Do you know how hiking evolved from the upper-class European sport of alpinism into an activity that nowadays is practiced by millions of people worldwide?
Jeff Doran, an avid hiker and passionate history buff, answers this and other important questions in his new book Ramble On: A history of Hiking.
The book also takes a look at some of the current issues that impact hikers and trails, such as overcrowding and social media, and takes a peek into the future on how these trends could unfold and offers possible solutions.
If you found this post helpful, please let us know. We look forward to hearing about your wonderful experiences out and about hiking your favorite destinations.