Have you ever considered the benefits of hiking? I never really thought about it until I started. I found hiking to be a nice balance between my other fitness activities when I found that I was unhealthy and seriously needed to change health. What I didn’t know, was all the benefits of hiking that essentially turned a simple walk in the woods into a lifelong passion that I look forward to every chance I get. I’ve fallen in love with hiking so much that I find the need to tell others so that they too can become as passionate about it as I am.
1. Helps with Weight Loss
One of the major benefits of hiking is the ability to use the activity as a weight loss program. When I first started hiking, I weighed nearly 300 pounds. After a few years of thoroughly hiking, mainly just on the weekends, I’m right where my Body Mass Index (BMI) wants me to be. Of course, you always need to take other recommendations such as eating healthier and making better decisions for your fitness routines, but hiking will significantly help you alongside those decisions.
Hiking is a very positive method of losing weight. It isn’t as impactful to your body like running or cycling – you are simply walking longer distances. Unlike street walking or using a treadmill, hiking enables you to move to overcome various conditions of the trail such as stepping over downed trees, moving away from water puddles and climbing rocks. Hiking requires more attention thus making it more of a constructive form of exercise.
2. Good for the Brain
Hiking is extremely good for the human mind and brain. You might not believe it but just try to pause and think about it for a moment. When you’re hiking, you are constantly thinking about each move you make. You’re making sure you walk safely, looking out for wildlife, judging obstacles on the trail and while all that, enjoying the beauty of nature around you. Hiking keeps your mind active.
As humans, we need to constantly use our brains in a positive manner. We need to learn as much as we can and continue to evolve the health of our memories. Hiking allows this sort of activity to occur. When we are constantly using the power of our minds and thoughts, we’re ensuring that our brain activity is healthy. This has been said to help prevent memory loss as well as other issues relating to brain and mental health.
3. Creates Passion
When I first started hiking, I did it to balance my bicycling activities. I need both disciplines in order to create a healthy consistent routine to improve my health and fitness goals. However, without even knowing it at first, hiking turned into such a passion for me, that I look forward to doing it, again and again, every time I got the chance. Now hiking has become a normal activity in my life.
Hiking can help lead to other passions as well. Simple day hiking, for example, might make you want to backpack larger trails such as the Appalachian Trail or the Continental Divide Trail. It might bring you to more entrepreneur passions such as commercial video and photography. The single passion for hiking tends to routinely create other positive sub-passions among those who tend to hike more and more after they get into it.
4. Improves Mental Health
One healthy feature I have found in hiking is its physiological improvement functions. Before I got into hiking and fitness in general, stress was a killer. If I got stressed out or depressed about something, I’d always resort to negative relievers like alcohol consumption or eating junk food. However, now that I routinely hike, I have found that hiking creates a balance between my everyday stress and my leisure activities, and it has made me a happier person.
No one with a mental illness should only rely on hiking to reduce stress and depression. You should always consult your physician before anything else. However, I have found that hiking allows me to take a break from the norms of life and view something that is uncommonly seen around my normal stressful environments. Hiking is the only anti-depressant I need. It truly has turned me into a much happier person than I was before.
5. Helpful for other Fitness Disciplines
One of the greatest benefits of hiking I have found is how helpful the activity has been for my other form of passionate fitness – cycling. I’m very much into cycling whether it is on a trail in the forest or on the pavement on my road bike. Hiking allows me to form my lower body, which is a critical area to develop in order to be a better cyclist.
As a cyclist, I want to ride faster and climb steeper hills. By hiking in areas that are hilly, I can form my body and fitness better. Climbing on my bike is much easier to do now. Plus, with any choice of fitness, our bodies tend to get used to a constant type of fitness activity and it becomes harder for that activity to make a difference. By adding in hiking, I can change things up a bit and trick my body into thinking new forms of fitness are taking place.
6. Helps save money
Hiking is essentially a free form of exercise and leisure activity if you really think about it. Hobbies can be expensive and so can most fitness activities. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on my bicycles for my cycling endeavors. People spend thousands a year for a gym membership. Most forest trails and parks are free to hike in, enabling hiking as a very financial-friendly form of recreational activity.
While you need to ensure that you are wearing comfortable shoes and clothing when hiking, the financial aspect of it is low. You are not going to be required to spend a lot of money on starting a hiking routine. In fact, you’ll save money by choosing hiking to be your routine exercise because it doesn’t cost much, at least when comparing to other hobbies and forms of fitness. Think about it or look at other hobbies and compare the costs between the two!
7. Offers Social Benefits
When I first got into hiking, I mainly went on solo trips. This was new for me and I didn’t know many people doing it at that time. But after hiking every few weekends for a few months, I started meeting other hikers who were just as passionate about the outdoors as I am. My friend list has essentially grown significantly since I have got into hiking.
Hiking along other people allows you to develop a broader social skill and it is also safer. I won’t tell you to never hike alone because I do it myself from time to time. However, I will tell you to hike with someone else or a group if you get the chance to do. Share your love and passion for the outdoors with other like-minded people. It really helps – I met the love of my life while out hiking.
8. Help Save the Environment
Hiking will do several positive changes in your life but one of the greatest will be the adjustment of attitude towards nature and the environment. You’ll realize how important it is to protect and preserve nature. You’ll understand the need for a Leave No Trace mindset, and you’ll strive to do your part in helping to preserve the nature that you’ll start to love so much.
One of the best recommendations I can give you as a passionate hiker is to bring a trash bag with you when you are out enjoying nature. People are going to liter and no matter how loud we scream about it, it will continue to occur. We can do our part by picking up trash and taking it out of the forest. By doing something as easy as that, you are doing the environment and generations after you a huge favor.
Hiking is really one of the greatest hobbies to call your own. Whether you are hiking for weight loss or for social benefits – hiking will make you fall in love with nature. The psychological benefits of hiking and the physical benefits of hiking alone will make your life healthier. If you’ve not yet given hiking a chance, I highly suggest that you find an easy trail near you and start there. In time, you will fall in love with all the benefits of hiking that will be established.