9 Amazing Benefits of Hiking – Physical, Mental and Social

family enjoying the benefits of hiking

Looking to improve your overall fitness, both physically and mentally? Are you aware of the untold benefits of hiking? Read on as I think you will be truly amazed at the incredible advantages that this simple activity can bring you

What are the Benefits of Hiking?

There’s a reason why, for decades, the answer to all kinds of ailments has been to ‘walk it off’. Heading out into the great outdoors has been a widely accepted cure for all kinds of problems, from stress and anxiety to feeling sluggish after an extra-large roast dinner.

But, unlike avoiding swimming within an hour of eating, this is no old wives’ tale. Walking outside really does actively benefit us – and there’s arguably no better way to engage in this ancient practice than to strap on your finest walking boots, grab some walking poles and head out on a hike. But what exactly are the benefits of hiking?

From boosting fitness to improving mental wellbeing – and even helping us in our social lives, hiking offers all kinds of tangible benefits. We thought that we’d break a few of these down in a handy list, so that next time you’re heading out into the wilderness on a long walk, you’ll not only feel fantastic – you’ll know why.

And if you ever need a little extra justification for bringing a friend or loved one along for the experience – you’ll have plenty of reasons as to why hiking is so good for us…

The benefits of Hiking: Helping you become a better person – physically, mentally & socially

1. Improves overall fitness, and builds muscles

physical benefits of hiking

We all know just how important exercise is for our overall health. We’re constantly reminded how vital it is that we factor in regular exercise into our daily and weekly routines, but for many of us, this can be tricky. Physical Benefits of Hiking

The ever-looming presence of the gym, with its sterile machines and intimidating hardcore patrons, can make the concept of regularly working out less than appealing – which is where hiking comes in. One of the biggest benefits of hiking is that it actively contributes to our overall levels of fitness in a big way.

While cardiovascular activities like running and cycling are great (depending on your definition of ‘great’, admittedly), hiking can actually offer equal – if not even better – benefits in terms of fitness.

The muscle groups stimulated during a good hike include quadriceps, hamstrings, and our lower leg and hip muscles – and hiking with a backpack is a great boost to core strength. Plus, walking is a weight-bearing exercise, so it helps to build bone density.

2. Helps you lose weight (sure to be one of the popular benefits of hiking!)

It’s not just our core fitness levels and muscles that receive a vital boost during a good walk – one of the other great health benefits of hiking is that it helps us to lose weight. Lots and lots of weight. According to Livestrong, hiking can burn between 440 and 550 calories per hour.

That is a lot. A big lot. If you weigh an average of 160lbs, and you went for a 3-hour hike, you could potentially burn upwards of 1200 calories – more than half of the recommended daily intake for an adult. Do this twice a week? You’ve effectively burned off 1-1.5 days’ worth of calories. Phew!

It’s worth pointing out that the way we all think about weight and calorie intake and burn is deeply personal – everyone will have different goals, and it will be more important to some than others.

There are also a lot of other factors to our weight profiles, particularly diet, but if weight loss is something you’re actively pursuing, hiking could be a fantastic addition to your routine.

3. Improves blood pressure, and lowers the risk of heart disease

One of the great things about regularly engaging in a spot of good exercise is the fact that the benefits are all-encompassing. This is particularly true when it comes to blood pressure and how healthy our hearts are – and it’s not surprising to hear that the health benefits of hiking don’t just include weight loss and a boost in fitness: it’s a fantastic way to lower blood pressure and the risk of heart disease as well as other serious conditions.

Research by the CDC has found that walking for an hour a day, five days a week can cut the risk of a person experiencing a stroke in half. The aerobic activity of walking also strengthens the heart, gives a fantastic boost to our HDL levels (“good cholesterol”) and lowers levels of LDL and triglyceride (the bad stuff).

The CDC also found that those who engage with cardiovascular exercise like hiking are half as likely to experience heart problems as people who don’t exercise – those are some stats we can get behind!

Now that we have looked into the numerous physical benefits of hiking, it’s time to focus on what hiking can do for the mind. So, let’s move on to the wide-ranging mental benefits of hiking.

4. Makes you more creative

Hiking isn’t just great for the body; it’s also great for the mind – and soul. And this is one of the great things about this activity; there is so much more than just a single benefit of hiking. Engaging in regular hiking can even make us more creative.

mental benefits of hiking

Forgive us if that seems like rather a wishy-washy statement, and bear with us, as there’s actually a fair amount of evidence to corroborate these claims. Mental Benefits of Hiking

It’s not quite as simple as strapping on some boots, walking for 3 hours, and then composing a Concerto in time for tea – but hiking does actively boost how creative we are:

One of the biggest things that hinder our creative progress and mind power is our attention spans – in the modern world, we are beset by emails, texts, notifications and the bleeping, buzzing ‘PAY ME ATTENTION’ sounds of our mobile phones and other devices; all of which condition us into becoming easily distracted, and hindering our ability to focus for extended periods.

Research by Ruth Ann Atchley and David L. Strayer found that spending time outdoors increases our ability to focus, our attention spans, and our problem-solving skills by up to 50 per cent.

If ever there were a case for the mind-numbing impact of modern life, this was it, and this is possibly one of the most socially insightful and profound benefits of hiking.

Crucially, the researchers don’t simply put this down to one thing, but the variety of benefits that venturing into the great outdoors can have. Hiking offers us the chance to get fresh air, and plenty of vitamin D-boosting sunlight, along with getting us away from our electronic devices for hours at a time – something that we all-too-rarely get to experience.

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Combine this with the fact that Stanford University researchers found that participants gave more creative responses to questions when walking on a treadmill than those sitting in a chair.

5. It can help your body heal

While there’s plenty of evidence to support the argument that hiking can help prevent all kinds of health problems, there’s even some indication that it can help the body to recover after serious conditions such as cancer.

There are a lot of forces at play in conditions such as cancer, many of which we don’t fully understand, but there’s some evidence that indicates hiking might play a role in improving the antioxidative capacity in oncological patients.

If that all sounds a little too sciency, the essence of these findings is that among the many benefits of hiking may be the indication that the activity helps patients either suffering from cancer, or in recovery from treatment, fight off disease – and help the body in its work to reduce the progression, recurrence, and onset of cancer.

It’s also important not to underestimate the psychological benefits it can provide, with many people living with cancer citing how much better hiking can make them feel, and how well it can fit into their recovery.

6. Improves overall mental health

It’s hard to underestimate the psychological benefits of hiking. Simply getting out of the house, flat, or other indoor space you spend most of your time, and enjoying the tranquillity of nature and a stimulating fresh breeze can do wonders for the soul – and there’s plenty of evidence that hiking can actively improve our overall mental health.

Conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health difficulties, are more prominent than ever – in fact, mental health charity Mind notes that in the UK, 1 in 4, yes, a quarter of the population, will experience a mental health problem every year.

It’s not at all uncommon for us to struggle with conditions like depression – but new research has found that even a 90-minute walk in nature can have a dramatic effect on the brain, and the way we feel.

Research already exists that indicates how a walk outside can provide an uplifting boost to our mood, but new data collected by researchers at Stanford University, have found that the roots go much deeper than that.

They asked participants to fill in a rumination questionnaire (rumination is basically repetitive and usually negative self-reflection – and it’s a key element of mental health problems such as depression and anxiety) and conducted a brain scan before participants completed a walk in either an urban or an outdoor environment.

They then asked participants to fill in the questionnaire again and took a comparative brain scan. Their findings? We’ll give you one guess.

The participants who had taken the walk in a natural environment showed significant and consistent reductions in ruminative thought, both through the questionnaire responses and their brain scans.

This suggests that hiking doesn’t just perk you up a bit, it actually changes the way your brain works, and draws focus away from negative, repetitive thoughts.

There’s plenty more to be discovered, and these findings suggest that we’ve only just scratched the surface of the potential psychological benefits of hiking.

7. It helps you unplug – Unclog that cluttered mind with this benefit of hiking

  • The average (American) adult, spends 4 hours a day – or 86 hours a month – on their phones
  • Children aged 8 and under spend 48 minutes a day in front of mobile screens alone – up from 15 minutes only 4 years ago
  • If trends remain the same, the average adult will spend a staggering 5 years and 4 months of their life on social media
  • Our growing obsession with mobile phones and iPads has led to a 13 per cent drop in time spent with friends over the last 15 years

We’ve not put these figures in to berate our readers (as we appreciate that as you’re reading Roaming Spices, you’re almost certainly using a screen right now…), or to try and make anyone feel bad – our new modern world of technology is a wonderful thing, and we can do things we once never dreamed about, with ease.

What is important, however, is to retain a sense of perspective. The statistics listed above are just a few examples of how our world is actively changing, and if we don’t stay aware of the impact, we can lose sight of just how important it is to actively disconnect from time to time.

Enter hiking. It’s a simple point, but in modern times, it’s become one of the biggest benefits of hiking – it gives us a chance to unplug. A long hike is a physical reminder that the world we live in is beautiful, vast, and varied – and yes, it’s still there even when we have our heads buried in the bottomless pit of content that is Twitter.

Making hiking a regular part of your routine is an absolutely fantastic way to deliberately pull your attention away from the digital world, and reconnect with the things that really matter.

8. It makes us happier… A benefit of hiking that will bring a smile to your face!

We’ll caveat this point with the fact that everyone is different. The assertion that hiking makes us happier would probably be viciously refuted by the average 14-year-old, whose cries of ‘But do we have to?!’ will strike a resonating chord with any outdoorsy parents or relatives who have ever dared ask the kids to lace up their boots and help them pack a picnic.

With that said, it’s worth noting that one of the best benefits of hiking is that it can actively contribute to increased feelings of happiness – particularly among those who struggle with depression, or low self-esteem. One study found that in the most extreme cases of high-risk suicide patients, mountain hiking led to a drastic decrease in feelings of hopelessness.

This may sound like a slightly backwards point, as this seems to suggest that hiking doesn’t actually make you happy, it just makes you less sad (not quite the same thing).

But happiness is a complicated thing – and the chance to share an afternoon with loved ones, out in the beauty of nature? Ok, maybe we’re being self-centred, but it certainly makes us happy…

9. Hiking can be a great boost to our social lives

This one depends a lot on how you approach hiking, and the way it fits into your own routine and lifestyle, but there’s a solid case to be made for the benefits of hiking in our social lives.

social benefits of hiking

One of the great things about hiking and walking as a hobby is that there are almost no restrictions on who can take part, and how they can go about it. Social Benefits of Hiking

Granted, if you plan to soar up Mount Snowdon, you might want to prepare a bit first, and it might not be suitable for complete newcomers (see our account of our own experience climbing Snowdon for a few useful tips!) but generally speaking, hiking is an incredibly inclusive thing to try.

This means that as activities go, there are few better ways to enjoy the company of friends, loved ones, and even strangers, than by engaging in a hike together. What’s the main way to pass the time during a long hike?

Chat, about anything and everything that comes to mind. It’s an inherently social activity, and inviting along those dear to you, can give you a fantastic chance to spend some real, quality time together. What better way to embrace these social benefits of hiking!

It’s also worth pointing out that, depending on where you live, there might even be a local hiking group you can join. Sites like Meetup provide a platform for like-minded strangers to share experiences, with the intention of making new friends and enjoying something together as a way to bond.

It’s always worth doing a little research to see if there’s anything like this that you could take part in, as it could turn hiking from an excuse to drag the kids away from Call of Duty, to an opportunity to widen your network of friends.

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And even when it is just the kids – after an hour or so on the trail, even the most stoic of grumpy teens tend to soften up a bit. Particularly at the promise of a Kit Kat at the next stop!

Benefits of Hiking – Conclusions

Well, there you have it! 9 of the best benefits of hiking, all summarised and tied up neatly (or not, we make no promises – but hopefully, you get the gist!).

The key takeaway from all of this isn’t that hiking is the cure to this or that or the perfect fix for one problem or another. It’s much more than that.

Hiking is one of the most natural, fulfilling things we can do. It puts us back in touch with the world we inhabit, and it gives us a chance to exercise, bond with loved ones, and just breathe a bit. All the evidence is there – it’s not just hokum; hiking really does have tangible benefits.

We’d love to hear about your own experiences, too. Have you found that hiking has had a particularly profound effect on one area of your life? Have you got any hiking experiences you’d like to share? Do you disagree with all of the above, and in fact believe that hiking is REALLY bad for us?

Feel free to leave us a comment below, we’d love to hear from you! And if you’ve enjoyed this article, do feel free to share it with your friends across any and all social media platforms, we greatly appreciate it!

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About Gavin Evans

Hi, I’m Gavin — I’ve been fortunate enough to travel fairly extensively throughout my life but it was only in 2017 that Didem and I decided to start blogging about our travel experiences, focusing on hiking. We aim to inspire you to go hiking and enjoy the vast array of benefits that hiking offers. We hope you enjoy the journey!

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I love hiking and I hike in the mournes co down northern Ireland not only does it increase my fitness levels it gets me into nature.

I can stand there admiring the beauty of the landscape and realise how lucky I am to live so close to them.

The views just make me stand in awe.

For me, there’s nothing like mountain hiking.
just getting away from the normal every day routines is great.

Hi Darren, I couldn’t agree more! I also love setting off into nature and getting my legs moving. It clears my mind, makes me happier and a whole lot healthier! Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to add your comment. We really appreciate it! Keep up the hiking. Best wishes, Gavin

I go hiking 150 times a year and one benefit you left out is how beneficial hiking is when it comes to improving your balance

Hi Jay, I really appreciate your feedback and I will definitely look at adding a section on how hiking improves balance. Thanks and happy hiking! Best wishes, Gavin

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Health Benefits of Camping

The modern world is always changing. Men and women who walk down the street, wear different faces – from business clothes to corporate wears, ready to engage in their respective occupations every day. However, some people try to keep up with the unrelenting pace of the world without monitoring their health. They work until their bodies wear out, jeopardizing their well-being.

In this hectic world, there are times when one needs to break away from the routines of everyday life. When planning a recreational activity, you should choose a beautiful and relaxing activity. In this article, I’m going to highlight some important health benefits of camping; please read to the end

Clean, Fresh Air

Studies show that an extra intake of oxygen releases serotonin, a chemical messenger that stabilizes a person’s mood. Because camping activities usually take place in a place very close to nature, people can breathe in fresh and clean air. Also, outdoor activities can improve digestion, improve blood pressure and strengthen the immune system.

Most workers live in cities where there is a high rate of pollution. Camping sites provide low rates of pollutants, so a breath of fresh air from time to time can give out serious health benefits to a person.

Exercise for your Brain and the Body

This is probably the most significant feature of a camp activity – exercise. A person’s body burns about 200 calories per hour while fishing alone. However, most camps are made up of many other physical activities like cycling and hiking so that the body moves continuously. These activities help the blood to circulate better and helps strengthen the muscles. Also, there are also mental exercises, especially during team-building activities. The puzzles and problems must be dealt with instantly so that a person’s mind is trained to think under pressure.

Reduced Stress

Sources of stress, such as traffic, office work, deadlines and other tasks, can drain a person’s physical and mental state. Engaging in stress-free activities such as camping can reduce the amount of stress a person suffers.

Also, spending more time in the sun can reduce the level of mesons in the body. Melatonin is a chemical messenger associated with fatigue and feelings of depression. Good camp activities not only lower the level of metathesis but also improve the mood and increase the tendency to be happy.

Socialization and Quality Time

Different organizations such as Scout Troops hold many camps. This activity allows members to meet new people and create friendships. Also, their socialization skills are sharpened because the people they interact with came from different places with different cultures and backgrounds.

Finally, families who participate in camping activities can enjoy quality time and strengthen their relationship. Family activities can include fishing, hiking, swimming, and even just sitting through a roasted marshmallow bonfire. These create precious memories and bring people together.

The camp activities produce many benefits for the total well-being of a person. Also, they offer a unique experience to everyone, especially those who can not find time to have fun. Everyone deserves a little break away from the routines of regular life and camping may be the perfect activity.

How Hiking Has Helped Me

how hiking has helped me

Benefits of Hiking on My Life and What it Can do For You Too

I have been an outdoorsman for most of my life. I love gearing up and going out for a weekend trip to the mountains for some fly fishing and backpacking. I love every aspect of the natural world. The way it shapes and creates everything around us, how we humans are at the mercy of mother nature, no matter how amazing we have become, or how amazing we will become.

Everything about the wild just has me in awe. Being a writer for the outdoors industry, I am always overwhelmed at the amount of inspiration I can gather up from a day trip to the woods.

But being 24 years old and feeling the growing pains of life I don’t think I have ever appreciated being out in nature as much as I do now. With all the things I love to do outdoors, hiking is definitely my favorite activity. Not only do I love the physical challenge and mental clarity I gain from hiking, it’s the simplicity and low cost of hiking that really got me hooked.

Jake Ryan Kempf

After school I moved out and started doing the whole grown-up thing, you know, paying bills, going to work, dealing with people you don’t really like, and drifting away from past relationships. With all of these things just kind of hitting me at once, and with having barely enough money to pay rent, the overwhelming feeling of stress and anxiety took over. This is me!

But me trying to be an optimist strapped on my worn-out boots and took my broke ass to some local natural areas and started walking. During the next few years of my life, I was hiking constantly and the low cost and low gear requirements just made it so easy for me to get out. I was hiking local woodlands, bird sanctuaries, conservation properties, and all types of trails.

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Although the bills never went away and the relationships were almost non-existent at this point, I still managed to find peace and clarity. Seriously, just going out for walks and disconnecting from the world for a couple of hours every day really helped me tame my stresses.

Not only did I feel myself become less stressed and less worried about the future, I gained confidence by learning skills and getting in touch with my more primitive self and learned how to trust who I am and what I can do.

This helped me to be more creative and understanding. Watching nature do its things and being part of its process, really gave me the swift kick in the ass I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself and just enjoy my life.

How Hiking Will Help You

Hiking could be the most incredible thing for you. Besides amazing physical aspects, hiking also has incredible mental benefits as well. With so many people living in concrete jungles and having jobs that require long hours sitting in front of a screen, getting out of the city and disconnecting from technology even just for a day can make a huge difference in your life. Some of the amazing benefits of hiking and getting out in the wild are:

Stress Levels

Many small studies have stated that just being in a green space – gardens, nature sanctuaries, even local parks – reduces stress levels. With stress management being a major issue for many people, a simple hike through a nearby green space may be just what the doctor ordered.

Improved Focus

Hiking brings out a subconscious flow like mindset that comes so natural to us that we don’t even realize our brain is firing on all cylinders. We are taking in the sounds, the smells, the sights, and the movements of every observable thing on the trail.

That’s a lot to take in. One study shows that children who suffer from A.D.H.D have significantly improved focus after being in a park for just 20 minutes. I don’t know about you guys but with so much information being thrown at us on a daily basis, I find it hard to focus at times, but honestly just taking my dog out to the off-leash area near my house I find even that will improve my focus before I head back to the office.

Builds Strength and Cardio

Hiking in all environments requires strength. Using your leg and core muscles to help walk up steep hills, hop over rocks and logs, and manoeuvre through the trails requires a lot of power and balance. These large muscles and smaller supporting muscles that are being worked are key to having a healthy body.

Hiking also increases your cardiovascular health. Just one hour of hiking can burn up to 500 calories . Yup, you read that right. Just one hour hitting the trails can burn 500 calories. Not only do you get some needed fresh air you can also get jacked!

Creativity booster

Having a creative roadblock? Take a hike. No seriously. Take a hike. Studies show that going for a hike and disconnecting from your daily stress has a great impact on your creativity. Not only that but it also helps you with problem-solving.

Having creative problem-solving skills is a great benefit for anyone. So next time you feel like reaching for that hot cup of coffee to get your brain boosted maybe take it to go and have yourself a caffeine-induced hike making you a creative beast.

Reduced Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression

With mental health being one of the major issues being talked about in the modern world, people are always looking for ways to tame their busy mind, and with so many great mental benefits, there is no question that hiking is one way to help reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Doctors talk about the benefits of hiking and how being in nature can reduce rumination. Rumination is the constant thought of something, and these constant thoughts can often make us feel dis-ease and overwhelmed causing symptoms of anxiety and depression.

The studies show that being in nature truly does help with the feeling of being overwhelmed by constant chatter. With my own experiences, I can vouch for this big time. This is not medical advice. I encourage anyone who thinks they are suffering from mental illness to consult a professional.

It Inspires

Ok, so nature has inspired some of the most amazing things in our world. Everything from beautiful art pieces like Van Gogh’s Irises, to our most technological advances . When you look up and see a plane flying high you can’t help but think that the Wright brothers were inspired by soaring birds.

It’s amazing to see how much of our human success was inspired by nature. How just going for a walk through your local park may give you the time to think about your next big idea, or how listening to a mountain stream and colorful birds chirping can inspire you to create songs or beautiful pieces of art. With humans being a product of nature it’s no wonder it inspires our daily life.

Disconnect From Technology

Unless you live with an uncontacted tribe in the middle of the Amazon, technology has impacted your life every day and will probably continue to do so. We carry computers in our pockets that know everything about us, sending us reminders constantly. Beeping and buzzing that has us refreshing our pages to get the newest dose of what’s hot.

Sometimes you just have to say, ‘screw it, I don’t care’ and disconnect. This feeling of disconnecting from technology is incredibly liberating. It gives you the opportunity to be alone and really think clearly.

Hiking is great for this freedom from technology for the pure fact that most of the time you just don’t have service, and don’t worry everything is going to be alright and you don’t need to rush back and see what your friends are up to on Instagram or the latest cat videos.

Give yourself some love and sit down on that wet rock and feel the air, smell the trees, and listen to the sounds of the natural world. Trust me, you need it more than you think.

Makes You More Confident

Hiking is one of those things that just kind of unknowingly makes you a stronger person. With it being so physical and so mental you get amazing bi-products like confidence. It truly does help you push your limits, makes you have to trust yourself, face your fears, and even builds relationships.

All of these things will make you more confident in taking on daily tasks, face situations, and deal with confrontations making you a stronger person. Hiking = confidence.

Conclusion

In my experience within my own life, I have undoubtedly had hiking impact me in the most positive ways possible. With all of the great studies conveyed backing up the effects hiking has on humans, there is no question that it is definitely something we need to do more of.

But what are your thoughts? How has hiking helped you? Do you have any amazing stories you want to share? Leave a comment below and let’s inspire one another to get out and get wild.

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how hiking has helped me

About Jake Ryan Kempf

I’m a passionate outdoorsman from Alberta, Canada. Being in the wild is where I truly feel alive. I love giving into my curiosity for the world and exploring new places. If it involves nature you don’t have to ask me twice, I’m ready to rock.

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Hiking helped me with my anxiety. Its true how it builds confidence. Good read !

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