Health Benefits of Hiking and Practical Tips to Get Into It
Not only is hiking fun but it’s also beneficial for our health for various reasons. You can spend some quality time with friends and enjoy the beauty of nature while at the same time reaping the health benefits. Keep on reading to discover in what way this activity can improve your health and learn how to get started with hiking.
Ways that hiking improves your health and wellbeing
Physical health benefits
A major perk of hiking is that you get double benefits – being immersed in nature and walking. Walking has many physical benefits, as it is known to reduce certain health risks, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. Hiking shares those same benefits. It is also a very effective way of getting in shape, as oftentimes you’re not walking on flat surfaces but rather going uphill or downhill. Going on regular hikes will make your body more toned and strengthen your muscles, especially in your legs and abdomen.
Being active and being in nature can also boost your immune system. That’s because regular physical activity strengthens the body’s natural antibody response, reducing the risk of viral infection. Furthermore, some plants produce certain organic compounds, such as phytoncides, which have antimicrobial and antiviral effects.
Mental health benefits
Making positive lifestyle changes can certainly help you keep your physical but also your mental health in check. Although everyday work- or school-related stress is so common that it’s almost considered a normal occurrence, stress can be detrimental to our health. Spending time in nature and doing any physical activity are both known to help mitigate anxiety and lower stress levels, which is why hiking can be a perfect choice. It can also reduce the risk of depression or manage existing symptoms.
Apart from physical and mental health benefits, hiking has been shown to improve our cognitive function as well. Generally, we spend vast amounts of time in front of computers and mobile phone screens, which our brains weren’t designed for. While hiking, you need to be alert and watch your step, so leaving gadgets behind while going on a hike can improve your focus and problem-solving abilities. This type of activity can also boost memory, as studies have shown that both nature and physical activity have those effects.
Tips to help you get started with hiking
Pack all the essentials
The first thing you need to know before starting your hiking adventure is what to pack. Packing only the essentials is crucial because overloading your backpack can cause you to have serious back pain. Once you’ve acquired an appropriate backpack, this is what you should always have with you:
- enough food and water,
- a map and/or compass,
- first-aid kit,
- a foldable knife.
Packing one of the top-notch multifunctional OTF knives is a great way to save space in your backpack. They can be used for cutting food and ropes, opening cans, and so much more. Also, the fact that they are retractable makes them safe to carry around.
Know your limits
Whenever you’re introducing a new physical activity into your daily routine, it’s essential that you start slow. Going over your limits is going to leave you feeling exhausted and may cause an injury. Therefore, in the beginning, it’s best to set a small goal for yourself, such as two hours of hiking in an area that is closer to your home. Then, you can build up from there, increasing the amount of time and choosing more challenging routes gradually as your stamina improves.
Always check the weather conditions
The final tip is to always check the weather forecast before you set forth on your hike. Then, you’ll know what to wear and what additional clothes to bring in your backpack. What is more, you’ll be aware of how safe the weather conditions are for hiking.
In the case of rain, for example, the terrain gets slippery, which increases the risk of injury. You don’t have to skip hiking when it’s raining but you need to be prepared. You can choose safer terrain and bring a raincoat and appropriate boots. However, if the weather forecast predicts extreme weather conditions, such as a thunderstorm, it’s best to avoid going hiking that day.
Evidently, hiking can be very beneficial for your physical and mental health and can help keep your mind sharp. It’s not complicated to do, and you can choose the track that suits your current physical abilities, which is what makes it the perfect choice for anyone. What beginners should know before going on their first hike is what to put in their backpacks, how to adapt the hike to their fitness level, and what kind of weather to expect.
About the author: Mike Johnston is an experienced blogger and editor with a background in creative writing and digital media. He’s produced thousands of pages of original, engaging content for numerous online publications throughout his career. Mike’s specialties are travel and lifestyle, but he also often writes about business, careers, and work-life balance.