Is hiking an activity that’s part of a larger skill- like rest? How can we enjoy the benefits of hiking when we have work and family commitments? This article isn’t just a list of benefits from hiking. It’s much more than that.
It’s the result of over 7 years of personal experience and research into what the greater benefits of hiking are. It’s written for both men and women, all creeds, colors, sizes, planets- you get the drift.
And it’s mostly for beginners that have questions about hiking and its purpose. Yet, it will demonstrate how hiking is linked to our lives on another level.
It’s 2020 and a lot of events, twists and turns have taken place over the past year. As we’ve seen we had it all backwards.
You may see some things that just don’t make sense- like the concept of work and rest. We’ve heard a lot about work/life balance but, it’s more than that, the idea of rest and how it’s just as important as the other areas of our lives.
I’ll support my claims with studies, experience and by gaining insights from successful people who hike. I show you how to really reap the benefits of hiking.
If you are serious you can change your whole life with an activity like hiking. In this article, I'll focus on the activity of hiking. This article isn't everything that we know about the benefits of hiking. It is a starting point. As we learn more I will update this article with the latest data.
Hiking has been a part of our lives from the beginning. It’s influenced us in different ways including:
Hiking is better defined by taking to the trails and being out to immerse yourself more deeply in nature. There is also some elevation change that usually comes with hiking. Like reaching a summit or traveling along a ridge line. Trail and Summit
When we think of hiking we think of something that’s physically challenging. The activity of hiking seems like it's for certain groups of people. They are classified as outdoor fanatics or naturists. It may be compared to working out for some people. It’s painful and requires a lot of energy. I personally felt this way about running years ago. The current view of hiking for many is false. It’s an activity that can be just as important as work. In fact work and this type of active rest rely on each other. A hike can clear the mind. But, not only that. It feeds into other areas of your life like work and family.
Travis Kalanick the founder of Uber would walk 40 miles per week at the Uber headquarters.
I am sure that this was a way to re-center himself. A walk can bring on insights and allow you to solve problems in a way that many people don’t realize. You can access your subconscious bringing forth insights that would not ordinarily be available.
The American population consists of high levels of physical inactivity. According to the CDC all states and territories had more than 15% of adults who were physically inactive. This estimate ranged from 17.3% to 47.7% according to the CDC.
The result of this is higher rates of diabetes, obesity, heart disease and certain types of cancers. Furthermore inactivity, contributes to 1 in 10 premature deaths according to the CDC.
Getting enough physical activity could prevent the following:
- 1 in 8 cases of breast cancer
- 1 in 8 cases of colorectal cancer
- 1 in 12 cases of diabetes
- 1 in 15 cases of heart disease
Could there be a correlation between a sedentary lifestyle and colorectal cancer? I won’t say conclusively, yes or no but, it looks that way. Studies are being done to confirm this trend.
Let’s move on...
Gaining an Appreciation for Hiking
Most people gain an appreciation for the outdoors from their upbringing. It really doesn’t matter if you grew up hiking or not. Turn a new leaf and start today.
People have the attitude that hiking is just not important. They are losing out on a great pace time that will enrich their lives. In Japan, forest bathing is popular. It gives people a sense of calm and helps them better cope with the world. Here’s an article that discusses how to practice forest bathing and where to do it. As stated in this article the practice of forest bathing can boost immune function.
When I was in Europe, there were SANCTUARIES throughout each country. At the time, I didn’t really understand the point. My friends explained, that it was a way for people that were older to take a break and rejuvenate themselves. These sanctuaries had spas, staff available for massages and wellness counseling, activities for people and nutritious food. This was available for anyone who thought they needed it. It would be nice to see this in the United States.
One of the first steps is awareness. People will need to be aware of what’s available and they will need to have low friction access to accommodations. I believe this is possible in the United States.
Traditional Thoughts on Hiking
Think of active rest or hiking, in this case as a critical part of life. Hiking allows you to interact with our surroundings. We can explore new areas and challenge our bodies to function at their best.
Moving to a New Way of Thinking
This is America and we can’t force people to hike. But, we’ve already started on a new path. With COVID-19 many people have started getting outside. A walk could be the starting point. Planning a hike doesn’t take that much skill, as there are many trails throughout the United States.
The benefits of hiking are vast. Here are a few benefits of hiking from the American Hiking Society.
Evidence supports that contact with nature improves mental health significantly. In this paper, it was noted that this occurs in unexpected ways.
Contact with nature can affect the following:
- Treatment of children with poor self-discipline
- Coping with anxiety and stress, specifically in patients undergoing operations or cancer therapy
- Strategies to reduce crime and aggression
- Benefits for the elderly and treatment of dementia
- Concentration level in children and in OFFICE WORKERS
- Improving hospital environments
- Strengthened communities
- Increased sense of wellbeing and mental health
- Stress reduction
Here are some famous trail courtesy of hiking.org:
We recently published an article on a few tools that you'll need for hiking.
Rest and work are connected. Start to look at hiking as a foundation for a more balanced life. Hiking will bring new insights to the forefront, solutions to problems that may be unclear. It’s a way to tap into something we don’t see.
‘’We are constantly overlooking much of the world around us and no, there is nothing mysterious about it. The key is to realize that this is just what attention is: selectivity. For a brain with finite computing power, zooming in to focus on one thing always means picking up less information about everything else.’’ - Neisser
Mental health is something that is misunderstood. It is the foundation of the quality of life and it dictates productivity of our population on different levels- family, communities and nations . Good mental health is a necessity. The fact that we talk about this doesn’t mean that you are mentally ill. Good mental health allows you to function optimally.
In my 20’s I experienced a family tragedy. Although I was able to carry out my obligations the affects on me were apparent.
I had a lot of anxiety, unhealthy relationships and there were other affects that I didn’t even notice.
I would stress out over exams, studying and career. My self esteem was attached to accomplishments, achievements, degrees etc. Looking back, my focus should have been building solid relationships. While I was in Europe I made lasting friendships, and this one of the greatest of my accomplishments.
Mental health can help you accomplish the following:
- Develop emotionally, creatively, intellectually and spiritually
- Initiate develop and sustain satisfying relationships
- Face problems, resolve them and learn from them
- Be confident and assertive
- Be aware of others and empathize with them
- Use and enjoy solitude
- Enjoy life's and have fun
- Laugh both at ourselves and the world
The diagram above explains values held by our society. The blue triangle represents the three main values of individual, community and environment. The green circle represents the area where the values are in balance leading to greater health and wellbeing.
Overtime man has shifted values away from the community and environment toward self. As a result we are shifting towards a way of life that leads healthcare that treats disease. In order to regain a sense of wellbeing we should change our values and reconnect with our natural environment and community where we live and work.
Van den Berg A (2003) Personal Need for Structure and Environmental Preference. In Human decision making and environmental perception: Understanding and assisting human decision making in real life settings. Liber Amoricum for Charles Vlek. Ed Hendrick L, Jager W, Steg L.
It also affects the world around us. You’ll have more patience, gain clarity on problems and you have a sense of calm and empathy for others.
A paper written by the Countryside Recreation Network in Scotland concluded that nature has a positive impact on our health. It has a role in helping us recover from pre-existing stress or problems. Interestingly, it was found that it protects us from future stress and helps us to concentrate and think more clearly.
Many studies demonstrate that hiking is good for your health. As discussed it goes a lot further than what we define as health. Being in places that guide our attention to what we aren’t always focused on gives us access to benefits that affect everything around us. You can lose weight, build muscle, become happier and more content.
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