John Muir, a Scottish-American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher and early advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the United States once said, “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” Sure, when hiking you battle bugs, blisters, and the constant fear of “Wait is that poisonous ivy or the good ivy?” Along with some beautiful views, hiking offers a number of mental and physical perks.
Hiker are fit.
Depending on the incline and weight of their pack, hikers can burn over 500 calories in one hour! Since trails are softer than asphalt or concrete, this makes hiking a great workout without putting stressing your joints. Not only that, but hiking on a regular basis has proven to decrease blood pressure and cholesterol. Interestingly enough, an Austrian study in 2004 proved there were different health benefits between hiking uphill and hiking downhill. Only uphill hiking reduced triglyceride levels, while hiking downhill was nearly twice as effective at removing blood sugars and improving glucose tolerance.
Some research proves the benefits of hiking extend past cardiovascular health. In a study by Internal Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers measured oxidative stress (thought to play a key role in the progression and recurrence of cancer) rates in women with breast cancer and men with prostate cancer before and after hiking. The study found improved levels in antioxidative capacity after long hikes, which helps fight off disease. Another study showed that breast cancer survivors who exercised more, many in the form of hiking, firmly believed that physical activity complemented their recovery from cancer treatment
Hikers are more creative
Need a brain boost? Don’t look for the nearest coffee house, look for the nearest trail! Research proves increased time spent outdoors increases attention spans and creative problem solving skills by as much as 50%! It is to be noted that the authors of this study believe part of the results are due to the unplugging of technology. Need to get your creative juices flowing? Go for a walk!
Hikers are happier
Studies show that hiking, used as additional therapy, made those with severe depression feel less hopeless, depressed and suicidal. However, you don’t have to be suffering from depression to experience the mental benefits of hiking. REI Outdoor Programs and Outreach New England Market Manager Leigh Jackson-Magennis says that “Being out in nature, away from the business of our daily lives and technology, can allow people to connect with themselves and nature in a way that brings about a sense of peace and well being.” It allows you to be entranced by the beauty around you. To take a step back from our hurried lives and notice the world around you; that while the ants at first may symbolize biting and itching, when you watch them march in line you can’t help be entranced by the seemingly effortless sense of being. Even listening to a steam can give you the most beautiful feeling of peace.
Interested in giving hiking a try?
On page 28 of this month’s Sixes Living, Lisa Randall’s Finding a Love for the Trail gives a great guide on incorporating hiking into your life as well as the benefits of trail running. So what are you waiting for? 2016 has just begun, lace up those shoes and hit up the trails!