As a kid I used to think going for a walk in the bush was the most boring thing anyone could do, that was until I was inspired to check out the Himalayas in Nepal and my whole world changed.
Hiking may seem like an ordinary endeavor at first – or a tiring one too, depending on who you ask. But there’s so much more to the activity than just pursuing trails with a backpack in tow. One of the benefits of hiking, for the most part, gives you a means to better your life.
Which made me curious after I first started to find out that the benefits of hiking for us can be life changing.
Atop Poon Hill in the early hours of the morning to catch the sunrise over the Annapurna range in the Himalayas, Nepal
First of all, hiking helps you improve your health. It is a great form of exercise as it builds up different muscle groups (ex. hamstrings, obliques, abdominals, and glutes). But apart from that, it also enhances your cardiovascular system, thereby improving your strength and stamina. According to the American Hiking Society, the activity can also help prevent the risk for heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, osteoporosis and arthritis. And as if that’s not enough, hiking also assists in burning 350 to 1000 calories in two hours, addressing endemic obesity problems. This is clearly so much more than what you could achieve going to the gym and it’s so much more entertaining too.
There have also been studies insisting the benefits of hiking for seven hours a week decreases the chance for early death by up to 40 percent. But then again, this might have something to do with the fact that hiking has also been proven to reduce stress and psychological problems. Walking for prolonged periods of time has shown to help dispose of adrenalin from the body and this consequently decreases muscle tension and anxiety. Simultaneously, hiking also releases endorphins, which are well known to lift people’s emotional states and trigger euphoric feelings.
One of the benefits of hiking is for either spectacular sunrise or sunsets like this one here in Coron, Philippines
What I believe is even more impressive and worth highlighting about the benefits of hiking is that it actually induces creativity. So, aside from invigorating your senses and reducing the amount of useless stimulation you get exposed to in your day to day life, hiking brings you back to the basics and allows you to focus on the bigger picture. Research has also proven that spending time outdoors allows people to improve their attention span and problem-solving skills by up to 50 percent. This is probably the reason why a lot of important and creative people – Theodore Roosevelt, Richard Branson, Jake Gyllenhall – love the great outdoors.
In addition to what has been mentioned, some benefits of hiking has also been linked to healing. As mentioned in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, the activity has an anti oxidative capacity, helping cancer patients cope with the lows of their illness. On top of that, it also has a positive influence on people’s immune functions, enabling them to cope and combat diseases when they develop.
Up on Mt Haleakala in Maui, Hawaii
Hiking is also very beneficial when it comes to developing relationships because it is something that can be pursued with friends and family. As a group activity, hiking can build trust and reliance between participants, which goes a long way in real life and what relationships are built on.
If you never really thought about getting out there and hiking much like myself a few years ago, to notice some of the benefits of hiking you can start off with just 20 minute walks each day to take advantage of some of these benefits. Or if you want to get into it like I have you can start doing 2-3 or more hour hikes or even amplify it as I did in the Himalayas with a few days trekking.
Pairing this up with health eating habits (another passion of mine which I won’t get into now), your are destined to be living a much happier and healthier life.
Have you hiked, do you hike and where in the world are some of your favorite spots? I am always looking for new hiking adventures.