Hiking enthusiasts around the world know that regular romps in the wilderness are not only good for physical health, but for mental health as well.
As hiking requires physical movement over varied and challenging terrain, it provides a great workout for your body.
Meanwhile, the social and stimulating aspects of hiking, such as taking in beautiful scenery while accompanied by friends and family, provides a workout for your mind.
Few other exercises can so effectively benefit your body and mind at the same time.
When you’re ready to learn about these benefits in greater detail, then read on below to find out about three physical and three mental health benefits of hiking.
Hiking’s Physical Health Benefits
1) Arthritis prevention and relief
Walking is one of the very best activities for relieving arthritis pain in the knees.
Sure, you could walk around your neighborhood or around the mall, but hiking provides the varied terrain necessary for building up all of the muscle groups in your legs.
Recent studies have shown that taking 6,000 steps a day may not only prevent and relieve arthritis, but may even reverse it.
What better place to get these steps in than out on the trail?
2) Weight loss
As it is a form of physical exercise, regular hiking can definitely aid in weight loss (which, incidentally, can further aid in reducing arthritis pain).
You can easily burn around 300 calories an hour at a gentle pace, and you can increase your pace and trail difficulty as you feel yourself becoming fitter and healthier.
Plus, it is very difficult to get bored when surrounded by the great outdoors, as opposed to when running or walking indoors on a treadmill.
3) Diabetes prevention and reversal
Hiking can be a great way to manage both Type I and Type II diabetes*.
Not only can it lower your risk for Type II diabetes by keeping your body in great shape, but it can actually contribute to the reversal of Type II diabetes for those who are already suffering from it.
Furthermore, while there is no known cure for Type I diabetes, hiking can lower the amounts of insulin that your body needs, making symptoms easier to manage.
Hiking’s Mental Health Benefits
1) The strengthening of social ties
Humans are social creatures, and while some of us may be more introverted and prefer to spend time alone, we all nevertheless need a network of close relationships in order to feel happy, secure, and loved.
Hiking is a fantastic way to renew and strengthen these relationships, as it allows us to get closer to friends and family while away from the usual distractions of life.
One afternoon out on the trail with a close friend can be worth more than hundreds of text messages!
2) Reduction in feelings of depression
Renewing and strengthening social ties can also be a big part of helping the symptoms of depression, but the benefits of hiking for depression don’t stop there.
Researchers have found that spending time out in nature is actually a much better strategy for reducing the symptoms of depression than, for example, walking around a shopping mall.
While depression is a complex mental illness with no simple cure, hiking can definitely be part of a strong depression treatment plan.
3) Stress relief
Just as hiking can help fight depression, it can also help fight anxiety and stress.
When school, work, or your home life have you down, then it is healthy to take a breather now and then to spend some time far away from your worries and stresses. Moreover, hiking can even serve as an upper body exercise when you utilize trekking poles on your journey.
If you give yourself a break and surround yourself with some natural beauty for a time, then you will likely return to your life ready and able to successfully handle whatever it throws at you.