Spring has just begun! The weather is getting warmer, the days are getting longer, trees are beginning to fill with bright green leaves, and more days of sunshine and warmth await us. The newness of spring makes us want to get outside and spend time enjoying the wonderful change in seasons. It’s the perfect time of year to lace up your hiking boots and take to the great outdoors.
Hiking is the perfect weekend activity – especially in Spring, when the temperatures are just right. Turns out, hiking is more than just a fun pastime or even just great exercise. Going on a hike can boost your mood, increase your creativity, and even strengthen your relationships.
Here’s a great summary of all the benefits of hiking, a few hiking tips, and where you can find great hikes near you.
If you’re looking to mix up your cardio workouts, hiking is a great option for you. It’s a super effective cardio workout that’s great for your heart and isn’t too hard on your joints. As you set out on your first hike, you’ll be sure to discover that it’s a great way to build strength in your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and hip and leg muscles – both on the climb up and downhill as well!
Hiking is also a great way to decrease your blood pressure and cholesterol – reducing your risk of diabetes and heart disease. You might think that most of the benefits come while you are hiking uphill – when you’re breathing harder and it feels like you are using more energy. But it turns out that the downhill (which you’ll probably find more enjoyable) has its own special benefits.
A recent article about the benefits of hiking showed that “both the ups and downs have benefits when it comes to lowering cholesterol, but hiking downhill is two times more effective at removing blood sugars and improving glucose tolerance.” (1)
Another study showed that, when compared to walking on a treadmill, hiking had greater health benefits. Participants that hiked had less fatigue and more energy than the indoor treadmill walkers. (4)
And, if you’re trying to get in your 10,000 steps, hiking is a fun and enjoyable way to do just that. Being out on the trails is great exercise – you’ll definitely feel your leg muscles working during the whole hike (and maybe even the day after as well).
John Muir, often called “the father of the national parks” said, “of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” And, turns out that taking those dirt paths might be the way to find more happiness in your life.
If you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or disappointed, going on a hike is a great way to take your mind off of things. Exercise is proven to be one of many tools that help combat depression, and being outside in nature is another way to improve your mental health.
Hiking can be a great way to boost your mood. “Research shows that hiking has a positive impact on combating the symptoms of stress and anxiety – being in nature is ingrained in our DNA, and we sometimes forget that,” says Gregory A. Miller, PhD, president of the American Hiking Society. (2)
As humans, we were designed to be outside in nature. But, with the busyness of all of our lives, we often trap ourselves inside – in our offices, in our apartments, in everywhere except the great outdoors. Spending time in nature can be a great way to detox and reconnect with our roots.
Want to boost your creativity? Go on a hike!
Remember in elementary school when your teacher told you to stand up and move around “to get your creative juices flowing?” Well, it turns out that walking and moving around really does help wake up our brains and make us more creative. (3) Hiking disconnects us from the world inside our phones and screens and connects us with the real world. Research has shown that “spending time outdoors increases attention spans and creative problem-solving skills by as much as 50 percent.” (1) So, get out onto the trail and get those creative juices flowing!
Want to improve your relationship with a friend or partner? Take a hike!
It’s a good idea to take a buddy when you go on a hike – but not just as a safety precaution. Hiking with friends or family can strengthen your relationships and improve how you interact with the people around you. One study showed that “exposure to nature can help our relationships by making us more empathic, helpful, and generous” – three things that will help improve any relationship. (3)
Before setting out on your next grand hiking adventure, remember these quick hiking tips:
You might be thinking – hiking sounds great, but I don’t live near Yosemite or Yellowstone! The good news is that you can find great hikes in your own backyard. You don’t have to travel to Yosemite or Yellowstone to start your hiking adventure (although that would be really cool!).
With a quick google search, you can find hikes near you on sites like AllTrails, Trailforks, and Traillink. There’s more hikes out there than you think – and as soon as you start, you’ll discover which ones are your personal favorites.
Another great way to find the perfect hike for you is on Backpacker.com, where you can search for great hikes in different states and in different national parks. They have a ton of great information and tips all based on real-life personal experience.
So, grab your hiking shoes and head to the mountains! Your next grand hiking adventure awaits.