The Health Benefits of Hiking
All of us have “Taken a walk” before to clear our mind or remove ourselves from a stressful situation. When you’re stressed or angry, the most natural impulse is to get up and walk around. Changing your perspective does wonders for your mental state.
Hiking is the best way to change your perspective while getting a nice dose of physical activity. Instead of walking around your house, you’re walking around in nature, getting some physical activity and putting yourself in an environment where it’s easy to meditate, relax, and unplug from the stresses of everyday life.
Stanford Researchers conducted a study in 2015 and found that spending time in the great outdoors reduces stress, anxiety, and the risk of depression. Simply walking around outside can immediately improve your mental health, and hiking is the ideal way to maximize your time in nature. While you may think that you need to be in your quiet meditation space at home to clear your mind, it's actually easier when you're hiking. No access to phones, no distractions surrounding you at home, just you and Earth.
How to Hike the Right Way
As you’re hiking, focus on your breathing, take notice of each step as you walk, be present. If something in the environment demands your attention, go with it. Get rid of your expectations and just be.
If you want even more focus, leave your phone at home. If you do bring your phone, put on some relaxing music or binaural tones to get your mind to the right place. Hiking meditation will also work if you’re going on a more strenuous hike. The physical activity will make it even easier to clear your mind and ignore anxious thoughts.
Speaking of physical activity, according to the National Park Service, hiking has a laundry list of health benefits including:
Lower stress levels, improved mood, and enhanced mental wellbeing
A reduced risk for heart disease
Lower blood pressure
Lower cholesterol levels
Improved control over healthy weight
Lower body fat
Improved bone density
Improved osteoarthritis outcomes
Increases in flexibility and coordination
A better quality of life
Unlike walking down a paved street, hiking usually has multiple inclines, declines, and uneven terrain that will work your stabilizer muscles as well as your heart and lungs. Look at it as a more extreme form of walking.
You can also go hiking with your friends or family to have some uninterrupted bonding time that will improve relationships with the people closest to you. Sharing the experience with other people will also give you an extra boost of motivation to go hiking.
Make Hiking a Habit
You’ve probably heard the advice “put yourself in a position to succeed”. That’s what you’re doing when you make the choice to take a hike or go hiking on a regular basis. Putting yourself in nature is conducive to physical activity and meditation. Removing yourself from a stagnant, stressful environment is great on its own. Add in some hiking and unplugging from your phone and you have a highly beneficial habit that will continuously improve your physical and mental health.
If you’re looking to get started, just get outside. Walk around the public park near your house. Find an easy trail that you can walk down. You don’t need to hike up a mountain or cut yourself off from society completely. Do something simple. Once you feel the benefits, you’ll want to keep going.
Looking for a Hiking Partner?
Sign up for a nature hike led by Inspirational Retreats! Our professional hikers will lead you through a beautiful hike through nature that features meditation sessions and snacks. This is the perfect way to get started and make some hiking buddies that you can go with in the future.