The benefits of Hiking

Ok, Ok, so getting out and hitting the trails not for everyone.  Sure, theres the required fitness level, there’s the heat/cold, wet/dry, rocks, dirt, mud and sand to contend with, but for all the negatives you throw out there, the health benefits, the psychological benefits, the experience and motivation positives far outweigh them.

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For adults, regular hiking leads to:

Improved cardio-respiratory fitness (heart, lungs, blood vessels)
Improved muscular fitness
Lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
Lower risk of high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes
Lower risk of high cholesterol and triglycerides
Lower risk of colon and breast cancer, and possibly lung and endometrial cancer
Increased bone density or a slower loss of density
Reduced depression and better quality sleep
Lower risk of early death (If you are active for 7 hours a week, your risk of dying early is 40% lower than someone active for less than 30 minutes a week.)
Weight control; hiking burns up 370 calories an hour (154-lb person)

Wow !!  Really ??  sure.  There are ways to remain healthy and fit that are enjoyable at the same time.  You can even bring your friends and family along with you.  How goods that.

Some of the little known benefits of being in the outdoors and hiking are usually the ones that make you feel good about it.

The first one is being present in the moment.  Cuckoo you say !!!  Think about it.  Your walking on sometimes uneven surfaces, along creek beds, through mud.  All these things require you to concentrate on what your doing, aka being present in the moment.  You won’t even realise that you also practice conscious breathing.  Yes, its a thing !!  When your exerting yourself, you try to control your breathing by timing your inhales and exhales, taking deeper and longer breathes.  Not bad huh !?

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Exercise is well known to be a great stress release.  Throw away those stress balls and go hiking !!! It allows you to push yourself and sometimes step out of your comfort zone.  This builds self confidence.  Lets see a squishy stress bar do that !

Depression can be treated by Hiking in nature.  A study done at “Stamford”, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, found that people who walked for 90 minutes in a natural area, as opposed to participants who walked in a high-traffic urban setting, showed decreased activity in a region of the brain associated with a key factor in depression.  And Hiking’s free !!!!

Gregory Bratman, School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences: (646) 246-3903, gbratman@stanford.edu
Rob Jordan, Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment: (650) 721-1881, rjordan@stanford.edu
Dan Stober, Stanford News Service: (650) 721-6965, dstober@stanford.edu

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Hiking increases brain function and output.  Believe it.  According to a study by Ruth Ann Atchley and David L. Strayer, creative problem solving can be improved by disconnecting from technology and reconnecting with nature.  So keep your technology at home when hiking.  Sorry kids.   In this study, participants hiked while backpacking in nature for approximately four days and they were prohibited from using technology. They were then required to perform creativity and complex problem solving tasks, and found that those the hikers had  performance increases of up to 50%.

ADHD in children can be helped by hiking.  This is definitely worth a go.  A study conducted by Frances E. Kuo, PhD and Andrea Faber Taylor, PhD, researchers found that exposing children with ADHD to “green outdoor activities” as in Hiking, reduced their ADHD symptoms.  According to the study, the benefits of exposure to nature can extend to anyone with inattention and impulsivity.  Imagine that.!!

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Hiking helps your memory.  Not only does hiking burn on average between 400 and 700 calories per hour, it can increase hippocampal volume.The hippocampus is a part of brain associated with spatial and episodic memory.  Not only does exercise improve cognitive ability and possibly prevent cognitive decline, it can also reduce stress and anxiety, boost self esteem, and release endorphins (feel-good hormones). It’s astonishing that a physical activity as simple and low-cost as hiking can provide so many mental health benefits.

Wonder where the old saying “Take a hike” came from ???

Aromatherapy on your hike.  The Japanese have been practicing “Forest Bathing” for thousands of years.  Forest Bathing is exposing yourself to a sensual barbecue.  it “lets nature enter the body through all five senses”. Between 2.5 million and 5 million visitors walk the “Forest Therapy Trails” in Japan each year.  How can a few million Japanese people be wrong ??  Sucking in the aromas of the pine forest your walking through, Eucalyptus forest or along that path lined with flowers can have a positive affect on a persons psyche.   No more buying candles or oils, just “take a hike”.

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Relationships.  Yep, believe it or not, hiking promotes teamwork between couples, allows you to experience natures beauty together, a healthy couple is a happy couple.  But all turns bad.  A near death experience can draw a couple together !!!

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So why not take a hike sometime.

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