How do you feel after going for a stroll in the woods or spending time outdoors? Do you feel less stress, higher attention, and greater relaxation than the average person? If this is true, it is not a coincidence. You may have never gone hiking before, but you are interested in the exercise due to its advantages.
Hiking is beneficial for both hikers’ mental and physical wellbeing. There is a chance that some of the advantages may be realized almost immediately, such as a reduction in blood pressure and stress levels, enhanced focus, and enhanced immune system function. On the other hand, some advantages, such as weight loss and depression reduction, may build over time.
Positive effects on one’s physical wellbeing
Hiking is a cardiovascular exercise, and as such, it may provide considerable advantages to a person’s heart health while also helping to reduce their blood sugar and blood pressure.
Hiking helps enhance balance, coordination, core muscular strength, leg muscle strength, and core stability. The more challenging the terrain and the more strenuous the climbing, the greater the need for balance and core strength in order to endure the higher terrain. This is because more muscles are being used to navigate the terrain. As you rise, the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves of your legs are used, and as you descend, your glutes and quadriceps work extremely hard to prevent you from tumbling forward on the drop. Due to the uneven terrain, many of the smaller stabilizing muscles are worked, resulting in a general increase in stability and balance.
Hiking is an activity that may be enjoyed by individuals of all ages and abilities, since the difficulty of a hike can be adjusted to suit the hiker’s skills. A hike might vary from a leisurely walk along a local route to a rigorous climb of a mountain. The more uphill the path, the harder your heart will have to work, which has the potential to provide higher cardiovascular benefits.
Good for a person’s mental health
According to study, hiking in mountainous areas with large altitude fluctuations may increase feelings of valence (pleasure), euphoria (or happy), and relaxation, while decreasing feelings of anxiety and fatigue in the immediate aftermath of the exercise. One study indicated that stress-related responses, such as cortisol (a stress hormone) levels in the participants’ saliva, decreased after a stroll in the great outdoors.
Spending time outdoors, especially in natural settings, has been demonstrated to reduce rumination, often known as the habit of having repeated thoughts about negative emotions, according to a study done by Stanford University researchers. Spending time in nature has the ability to improve mental health and provide individuals who live in urban areas with the relaxation they need to eliminate negative thought patterns, according to the same study. The individuals in the research noticed a reduction in brain activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex (sgPFC). This area of the brain is related with withdrawal and is linked to rumination in both healthy individuals and those with depression.
In addition to reducing anxiety, spending time in natural surroundings may also boost cognition and affect, sometimes referred to as moods and emotions. Being in nature may also provide you the opportunity to be more mindful and present in the moment, which has been shown to reduce both stress and blood pressure.
How to Get Started and Where to Start
Clearly, time spent in natural environments has the potential to benefit our physical and mental health. The challenge now is how to begin enjoying these advantages. It will be easier for you to get started if you begin with shorter hikes on trails that you are more familiar with and that are near to you. Shoes with harder bottoms give a more stable grip on uneven and sometimes slick terrain, which may aid in foot support and lessen the risk of injury (hiking-specific footwear is ideal). Having a solid pair of shoes might help you prevent ankle injuries and falls when you begin hiking (and when you may have less leg strength and overall stability). To reduce the likelihood of blisters, these shoes should be worn in for some time.
Even if you do not anticipate being outside for an extended period of time, you should still bring plenty of water and a few snacks, and dress properly for the weather. In warmer climates, dressing in layers may help you stay warm, and you should always protect your skin from the sun by using sunscreen, even on cloudy days. Using a map or an application on your smartphone might offer you with a thorough view of the route you will take. Even better, bring a friend to join you on the hike. This will not only make the event more memorable, but will also enhance your feeling of community (which is also important for positive mental health). In the event that you find yourself in a dangerous situation while hiking, it is imperative that someone knows your whereabouts. Provide the name of the trail, its location, and the estimated time of your return to the trailhead.
Take a Shot at It
Try out trekking and see how it affects your body, mind, and emotions. It may, if nothing else, provide a chance to walk away from the devices and technology that dominate everyday life and to concentrate more on nature and your surroundings, which can offer a moment of awareness to your day. If you attempt hiking and observe how it affects your body, mind, and emotions, you should try hiking and see how it affects your body, mind, and emotions.