11 Benefits of Hiking in Nature
A nature hike or walk is a chance to rest overstimulated modern minds. Hiking helps lower levels of anxiety, depression and stress. It helps you to relax. Spending time in the world of nature brings peace and can be a very effective therapeutic supplement to managing stress.
To go on a nature-walk, find a park nearby or take off on a long weekend to find one. A suburban flood plain or a city park will do the trick. Wear comfortable, protective clothes and shoes. Beginners should not go on an intensive hike immediately. Remember you are looking for serenity and peace, rather than a workout. Walk with relaxed, slow alertness.
When you are camping in nature, there are many opportunities to discover the local hiking trails. Nature walks set the stage for peace without the demands or alertness necessary for walking in city streets. Breathe comfortably and deeply, smelling the clean air that surrounds you. Immerse yourself in the natural world of plants, trees, and earth.
There is no need to over-process or over-analyze anything. Enjoy the colors, the sounds that the birds make and the earthy smell of the ground. Go ahead and feel a sense of gratitude for everything around you, as you begin to enjoy the benefits of a nature hiking. With the beautiful weather finally making an appearance, hiking for health is highly recommended. Nature brings such a great boost to physical and mental well-being.
Hiking is an incredible way to get back to nature after a long, busy, and stressful work week. Not only can hiking improve your connection and appreciation with the environment around you, but there are several fantastic health benefits with hiking that only serve to sweeten an already fantastic deal. Gear up with your favorite essentials for some body-healing exploration, and soak in the amazing views and the magic healing of hiking.
So let’s discover 11 benefits of hiking / walking in nature:
1) Intelligence Boost from Nature Hiking
A recent study has found that frequent hikes as a form of exercise serves to help stimulate and increase an individual’s problem-solving capabilities by about 50% immediately after completion of a hike. With the loud hustle and bustle of city life, as well as everyday technologies acting as sources of constant distraction, hiking offers a wonderful reprieve from the distractions of modern day life, which allows for clearer and better thinking.
2) Decrease in ADHD & Depression
You don’t have to be a regular outdoorsman to appreciate the health benefits of hiking. A study conducted by Frances E. Kup and Andrea F. Taylor contrasted two separate groups, one which walked through a city environment and one that took a hike through nature. They found that a simple 90-minute hike outdoors significantly decreased the likelihood of developing mental illnesses such as ADHD and depression. The group who walked through the city did not experience any improvements. This is all the more reason to find an opportunity to get away from the city every now and then.
3) Alzheimer’s Prevention
As mentioned before, hiking has been found to improve cognitive abilities. In addition to this, a study conducted at the University of British Columbia found that hiking as a regular form of exercise could actually prevent early onset Alzheimer’s disease. Hiking stimulates the same part of the brain that regulates long-term memory and researchers believe that there is a strong correlation that the participation in hiking will help in the long run.
4) Reduced Blood Pressure
Any form of exercise in and of itself can help to reduce blood pressure and stress levels. The release of endorphins can help the body to better regulate itself, resulting in better metabolism rates and blood sugar levels. Not to mention being one with nature can help one decompress, which only serves to further reduce overall blood pressure.
While it’s understandable that many people lead very busy lives and schedules, it’s important to remember that hiking is an incredibly cheap and easy activity to partake in. Strap on a good pair of shoes, grab a few friends and family, and hit the nature trails to not only appreciate the world around you, but receive the numerous health benefits that hiking has to offer.
5) Boost Your Immune System
The cell activity related to the anti-cancer effects of a forest will help boost your immune system as well. One 2010 research review indicates that the natural environment benefits the function a human being’s immune system and thus, healthier, longer lives. One Dutch study that involved over two hundred fifty thousand participants revealed that the percentage of green space in a person’s environment has a positive relationship with the general health of the residents.
Particularly in urban environments, green space nearby played an even greater role when it came to health. The Dutch researchers had indicated that their analyses revealed the residents’ health differences of rural and urban are explained to a large extent by the size of green space available.
The same research team did a follow-up study based on mortality and found that among people who lived very near green space, a broad range of disease was much less prevalent. Other studies show direct links between overall health and time spent in forests.
What could the connection possibly be? The team pointed out that the positive effect that nature had on mental health boosted longevity and overall health. Also, the better quality of air, facilitation of social contact, encouragement of physical activity, recovery from attention fatigue and stress all added up to a much better quality of life in general.
6) Physical and Mental Stress Relief
Stressed and tense? Go on a nature hike. Students who stayed in a forest for a couple of nights had lower cortisol levels than those who remained in the city. As you know, cortisol is the stress hormone and lower levels are always better. There was also a decreased heart-rate and cortisol in people who stayed amidst nature compared to those in the city. Nature therapy does relieve stress. Even a window view of nature is associated with higher job satisfaction and lower stress among office workers, one study found.
Aside from physical stress, when you feel like your brain is slowing down to a grinding halt, this may be a sign of burnout. Get your mental energy back in gear by exposing your mind to nature. Take a walk surrounded by a nature-trail and watch your mental energy bounce back with a vengeance. One sure way of getting that much-needed mental boost is to feel awestruck with natural beauty that can only be found by going on an outdoor hike.
7) Improved Short-Term Memory
The University of Michigan held one study in which a memory test was administered to two sets of students. One set took a walk down the street in the city while another took a turn around an arboretum. When the students returned, they were tested again. Those who walked through the trees did almost twenty percent better than they did the first time. There was no significant improvement seen in the students who walked around the city. Another study done on people who were suffering from depression revealed that taking a nature walk boosted memory more than a walk in an urban setting.
8) Better Focus
Do you feel unable to focus and that your attention is waning? The natural environment restores not just your health but can help get you better focus. Researchers in one study attempted to deplete a group’s ability to focus. Next, they split the group in two, with one set going on a nature walk while another set went on a city-tour. The nature group scored best on the post-hike test, which involved proof-reading. Similar results come from numerous studies. The way nature can affect your focus is so remarkable that it may even help those suffering from Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). In fact, ADHD-sufferers experienced better focus after twenty-minutes in a natural environment.
9) Enjoy Better Vision
Outdoor activity may have a beneficial effect on eyes, reducing myopia or nearsightedness, particularly in children. One research conducted in 2012 states that increased outdoor time spent in nature reduces the progression of myopia in adolescents and children. One study from Australia followed two thousand children for two years and found that there was less of a prevalence of myopia among twelve-year olds when they spent more time outdoors previously.
10) Your Legs Will Never Look Better
Most hikes involve climbing up a big hill or even a mountain, then coming back down, a combo that’s a great workout for your legs. “Trekking up a mountain is a lot like climbing the stair climber or doing lunges over and over, which strengthens your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves,” says Joel Martin, Ph.D., an assistant professor of exercise, fitness, and health promotion at George Mason University.
11) Makes you Fit & Happy
Research shows that such experiences benefit your state of mind: People who spent 50 minutes walking through nature reported less anxiety and more happiness compared with those who walked near traffic, according to a study in the journal Landscape and Urban Planning. “We know that just looking at photos of nature reduces stress,” says Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. (See every default desktop background ever.)
Hiking up sharp inclines, clambering over rocks, or using hiking poles is certain to give every area of the body a workout. Physiologically, you are not only able to work multiple muscle groups (calves, glutes, hamstrings, and quads), but also help the upper body and engages the core. Benefits of hiking or trekking up hills help to increase the aerobic threshold and burn a good number of calories, especially incline climbing.
Use the trekking poles to give extra support, stability, and propulsion and engage the upper body more efficiently in an allover workout and burn more calories. Hiking with a heavy pack will further challenge the endurance level and strength to help tone the upper body.
Many of the hiking trails are softer so more joint-friendly compared to concrete or asphalt, so less stress is caused to knees and ankles compared to a runner.
Is hiking good exercise for weight loss? Simply put hiking can help to achieve a healthy weight and waistline with the ability to lose 225-250 calories per hour (for hikers weighing in the region of 150-lbs) – although to appreciate the full benefits of hiking weight loss it is vital to combine this cardiovascular activity with a well-balanced and healthy diet to maintain the results for the long-term.