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The Main Physical and Mental Benefits of Hiking

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Hiking is an exercise, and it is a hobby. It refers to long, focused walks through mountain or country trails. It goes by many different names, be it hillwalking, backpacking, trekking, tramping or bushwalking; all depending on where in the world you are, but hiking is the predominant synonym. A lot of people engage in hiking nowadays, and to the uninitiated it may not seem to hold much reason. However, hiking is something best experienced and not described.

The allure of hiking is hard to attribute to a single thing. There’s the full extent of nature abounding around you, there’s the peace of your solitude in the wild or the happiness of bonding with family and friends, and then there’s just the element of fun in all of it. No matter what reason you decide to hike, you get much more from the activity than you might have known, and if you’re contemplating starting out, then here’s a list of the various things you can gain if you decide to take up the hobby.

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Physical Activity:

Perhaps the most obvious gain when hiking is the physical fitness benefit. Hiking is an aerobic exercise, and frequently engaging in it gets you improving on your cardiovascular and pulmonary health. Hiking is an enjoyable activity that burns calories, helping out with weight loss goals. The uphill climb requires a lot of leg work and a lot of balance, toning and strengthening the muscles of your legs and your core. The physical benefits of hiking are best seen with a healthy diet and great water intake. It’s important to ensure that your water intake is sufficient when hiking, so it’s always important to have a running belt loaded with water.

Improved Systemic Functioning:

Increased physical activity and improved fitness has widespread health benefits, reducing the risk of certain diseases and generally improving the functioning of almost all bodily systems. Hiking regularly keeps your blood sugar levels well-controlled, cholesterol down, and your blood pressure in the normal ranges. All these factors keep you healthy, and reduce the risk of developing conditions like diabetes mellitus and cardiovascular disease. Plus, hikes just generally keep you feeling great and less stressed!

Emotional Benefit:

Hiking is a fellowship with the beauty and openness of nature. Inhaling the pure air of the wild away from pollution of cities, and disconnected from the troubles of the urban atmosphere can be a beautifully solemn experience. It’s hard to imagine intentionally detaching yourself from the devices which we have become so accustomed to – phones, computers, tablets – but the freedom and peace of mind that comes from it is unrivalled when you have nothing but the beauty of nature around you. Sleeping under the stars in the cool night air, snuggled in your sleeping bag is an unrivalled experience. And counting the stars in your double sleeping bag with a loved one is still an experience frequently visited by romance novels.

Social Bonding:

Hiking can be enjoyed both in solitude and with a group to tag along with. With no electronic devices to demand anyone’s attention, everyone can interact with one another with nothing but the splendour of nature all around them. In the 21st century, the purest of human interaction is becoming more and more scarce, and hiking with a group of family and friends provides the opportunity to socialize and understand each other in a way that you might be surprised to know you were not familiar with. If you’re going to be stuck with a group of people, it is best to do it in the healthiest, most fun way available.

Mental Health:

It’s not unusual for someone to suggest taking a walk when you’ve got something weighing on your mind. If you’ve ever followed that advice, you might have discovered that walks and hikes really do do a lot to free the mind and clear up the thoughts. Hiking just has a way of improving your mood; there are no problems in the great outdoors after all. Not only does it help to eliminate those less than pure thoughts that might have been plaguing your mind, it gives you the chance to just take in the beautiful views that exist in the world, which bring a sense of happiness.

Creativity Boost:

Some of the best writers in the world take breaks from their work when in search of inspiration and new ideas, to retreat into the wild away from civilization. The scarcity of technology and distractions in the wild do something to really pump those creative juices. It’s hard to know exactly what the process behind it is, but it’s widely accepted that there’s something that exercise and nature can do to inspire new creative thoughts. A hike is no different. If you’re a writer, or an artist, or a musician, and you are experiencing artistic block, a hike is a great option to get those juices flowing. You might even opt to stay in the beauty of the landscape for a day to really pull as much inspiration as possible. In that case though, you need to stay safe. Make sure you’ve got a great tent to keep you safe from the elements, and a sleeping pad or sleeping bag to keep you comfortable. Discomfort will chase away your creativity faster than anything else.

In general, exercise is good for you and keeps you in good physical shape. Hiking is a form of exercise, and there are few alternatives that carry as much benefit as it does. The benefit of hiking doesn’t stop at the physical benefits, but goes deep into improving the psychological and emotional state, inducing creativity, and promoting social bonding. There’s just something about nature that makes hiking a different experience completely. Hiking is an all-round beneficial activity, and it is essentially a win-win in every field. So the next time someone tells you to take a hike, perhaps it’s not such a bad thing after all.


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