How Hiking Will Make You Happier
Categories: Health

How Hiking Will Make You Happier

Next time someone tells you to take a hike, ask them if they want to join — they might need to just as badly as you do. (Talk about finding the silver lining of an insult!). Walking is one of the lowest-impact forms of exercise on your body in regards to physical strain, yet it provides many positive health benefits. For those who are seeking to engage in a form of exercise that does the mind and body good, do the following: Put your shoes on, grab your iPod and head for the hills.

As an aerobic exercise, hiking can help you maintain cardiorespiratory fitness, muscle strength, bone density, sleep control and even weight control, depending on how often you hike and how vigorous your paths are. According to the American Hiking Society, it can also help reduce your risk of developing heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, anxiety, osteoporosis and arthritis. Much like other forms of exercise, hiking is something can be personalized to your liking. But something that most modern Millennials can seriously benefit from is it’s rejuvenating powers for mental health. (Remember, your brain needs just as much TLC as your body!)

Within our technology-rich society, higher-order cognitive functions are heavily utilized, and the time we spend convening with nature is less demanding. A study published in 2012 focused on the relationship between environmental stimuli and human cognition, and found some pretty interesting results. Within the four days that participants immersed themselves in nature and disconnected from all forms of multi-media and technology, there was a 50% increase in performance on a creative problem-solving task. Researchers believe that this study demonstrates an advantage to being exposed to natural stimuli, as well as a benefit from decreasing exposure to attention-demanding technology.

Craig Romano, columnist for Northwest Runner and Outdoors NW magazines, says that “a hike can lead you to go beyond your comfort zone — which is good — as it forces you to asses, reflect, and contemplate who you are and what really matters in the world.” With that in mind, set aside a date to explore your surroundings and come back good as new!

How do you use the environment to replenish your mind and body? Share in the comments below! 

(h/t Huffington Post + photo via Taller de Imagen/Getty)