John Muir once said, “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.”
Hiking is a fantastic way to “use it or lose it” and to gain mental health benefits from being outdoors in nature. I am a chronic pain, fibromyalgia patient who broke my neck and jacked my back almost 30 years ago in a car accident. I look normal and try to act normal, but I know I have become a master at masking my pain. Pain is pain period. Not feeling good or not feeling motivated are powerful physical and mental sensations that gain power and momentum all on their own if we let them. If I’m going to feel awful sitting in a chair why not feel awful breathing fresh air? Fibromyalgia, chronic pain and hiking all sound awful in the same sentence for some…. but for others it “can” define us. But I refuse to allow that and I beleive….Just fake it until you make it sounds simple and it is. I hike to feel better.
The noted benefits for outdoor walking or hiking continue to expand with research. Research shows that everybody can benefit with better overall health from hiking. Getting up and out can reduce your stress and increase your energy. The more you do the better you will feel. You must start moving and then keep it up to get the consistent benefits of a hiking. As with anything start slow and start planning unfamiliar places to explore. If you can hike at least 30 minutes a day-4 days a week you will start to see the benefits. Ultimately your goal should be to hike an hour a day-4 days a week. If you were to do more vigorous exercise such as running, backpacking with weight or hiking uphill you would need half the amount of time to obtain the health benefits. Utilizing hiking poles decreases stress on your knees by a said 30% and increases an upper body workout during your hike. They also help in balance for rough terrain and help going up or down hills. Poles help reduce hand swelling that may occur and increase your cardio workout.
Hikers are said to be happier. The mental health benefits are endless. Just being outdoors and observing Mother Natures beauty is stress reducing. Hiking alone can increase your self-confidence (but take solo hiker precautions-safety first). Or hiking with members of your tribe is a wonderful time to discuss issues, brain storm current ideas and continue to bond. It’s your choice to make a solo hike for a spiritual experience or being with friends as a social experience. Whatever works best for you is what you should do. And while you are just out there enjoying yourself be aware that the following benefits of hiking are working for you.
Hiking’s health benefits are as following:
Improved cardio-respiratory fitness
Improved muscular fitness
Lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
Lower blood pressure
Reduced risk of diabetes 2
Lower risk of colon or breast cancer
Lower risk of high cholesterol and triglycerides
Increased bone density or a slower rate of loss
Weight control (hiking can burn 350 calories an hour or more)
Spending time outside increases attenti)on spans and creativity
Improves anti-oxidative capacity (helps to heal from cancer
With the above list of all the possible benefits hiking can provide to you and your over-all health, it can inspire you to engage in a healthier lifestyle. It certainly has done that for me. I absorb the beauty I hike in and never fail to be intrigued by the amazing perfection of Mother Nature. What happens to me when I hike makes be feel seduced by the fresh air and energized to see what lies around the corner. I can honestly feel painless at times. I would much rather help my health hiking then sitting in a chair and feeling bad. At least when I am sore after a hike I feel as if I earned the aches from walking the miles I just accomplished.
Bottom line……pain or no pain Hiking is good for your over all health….so let’s get out there and explore more!