As the cloud of winter finally begins to rise I find those few winter pounds are a few more than I had expected. That means it’s time to get active. As an outdoor enthusiast I love being outside enjoying nature. While I love many outdoor activities, hiking is the one consistent activity I have been involved in for for many years. When I’m experiencing challenges or issues in my life, be it internal or external, I find hiking to be time well invested. There are many benefits to hiking. Here is a list of what I consider to be the top seven benefits.
- Weight control
I’ve tried diets, diets and more diets and none work consistently. I’ve always heard the best way to lose weight is move more and eat less. Although sometimes I find that I want to move more so I can eat more (that’s another article). Hiking burns up 500 calories an hour (150-lb person).
- Stress & anxiety reliever
Hiking is a great way to relieve that built up stress and anxiety which drains the life out of you. When you are on the trail you utilize all of your senses and there is much to see, hear and smell that will fill up your mind and begin to push some of the bad out. It’s also good therapy for depression and feelings of hopelessness.
- Social benefits
Hiking is a great activity but it’s even better when you have a hiking buddy. There are also hiking clubs which meet up for hikes. Often they will add some spice to the hikes by adding a cookout or hiking to watch the sunrise.
- Helps your cardiovascular system
Depending where you’re hiking there can be a lot of sharp inclines and declines, add your backpack and you’ve got a good cardio workout. Even hiking a level trail with your backpack in tow can provide a good workout and benefit your cardiovascular system. Just make sure you start out slow and work your way to longer, harder hikes. If you haven’t been involved in any physical activity in a while it would be a good idea to get the go-ahead from your doctor before setting out on the trail.
- Its better on your legs and knees than running
Running also has a lot of the same benefits as hiking, however runners always seem to be dealing with one ailment or another as a result of running. Hiking is usually on a softer surface and doesn’t put nearly the stress or strain on the legs and knees as running does.
- It provides a whole body workout
Hiking is a whole body workout. Climbing steep hills, using hiking poles to push forward and climbing over rocks and downed trees is going to give your legs, butt and calves a great workout. Add a backpack and your upper body is now getting a good work out too.
- It provides wellness of the body, mind and spirit
The benefits of hiking extend to the whole person and spills over into the rest of your life. Once you condition yourself to be a hiker, you have more self confidence, and you feel better about yourself. Hikers consider what they are eating and how that will affect the next hike or limit their ability. Hikers find they are happier than before and the time out in the woods can often be a spiritual experience.
If you choose to start hiking remember, start slow and work your way up to longer, harder hikes. Hiking alone may not be the best idea. If you do choose to hike alone make sure someone knows where you’ll be hiking, and when you should be home. Always be prepared when you hike. Never set out without your backpack which should include; a first aid kit, your water bottle, fire starting material, a whistle or other devise for signaling for help, and your compass and a trail map. Dress appropriately for the environment which may include wearing long pants and hiking boots and stay on the marked trail.