Healths

Nature Heals: Health Benefits Of Hiking Outdoors 

Hiking sounds like a fun activity – have you tried it? When you go outdoors and spend time amid nature, the feeling is unparalleled. Not only do your stress levels reduce, but you also experience a sense of calm and joy.

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City life is not ideal for our bodies, especially with the lack of pollution and open spaces. Hiking in nature is a great way to combat both the physical and mental stresses of living in a city. 

Hiking sounds like a fun activity – have you tried it? When you go outdoors and spend time amid nature, the feeling is unparalleled. Not only do your stress levels reduce, but you also experience a sense of calm and joy. The good news is this is not just a figment of your imagination – hiking does offer a slew of physical and mental health benefits. 

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Over time, you will experience an increase in your stamina and at the same time, lose those extra pounds too. What's more, hiking outdoors also helps to regulate your blood pressure and blood sugar levels, and over time, can tackle depression too. 

Physical health benefits 

Let's first understand that hiking is a cardiovascular exercise – the nature of the activity can greatly benefit heart health, and also keep the other vitals in check. 

Moreover, engaging in this activity can also build the muscles in your legs. It can also strengthen your core muscles and enhance balance. When the terrain is steep, many more muscles are required to climb upward. This helps to activate the quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. In the case of uneven terrain, smaller muscles are at work, increasing stability and balance. 

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Interestingly, hiking is an activity that can be performed by people of all age groups, and at different fitness levels. A beginner can hike in the neighbourhood park, while someone who is more trained can hike a mountain. The more challenging the hike, the more cardiovascular benefits it offers. 

Mental health benefits 

It's not just the physical benefits – hiking also helps with your mental health. When you hike a mountain, it can increase feelings of calm, happiness, and pleasure. Furthermore, it can also decrease feelings of anxiety and fatigue. 

There's also a study that was conducted by Stanford University that showed how spending time in nature can reduce rumination. That's not all – the same study also revealed that spending time in nature can help to improve mental well-being and reduce negative thought patterns. 

Those participants who were a part of the study also experienced a decrease in subgenual prefrontal cortex brain activity, the part of the brain that is associated with withdrawal. 

How can you get started?

As mentioned above, spending time in nature can really offer you a range of physical and mental health benefits. If you are a beginner, go hiking on a far simpler and shorter trail. Wear shoes with stiff soles that can support your feet. When you invest in good footwear, you also prevent yourself from getting injured. 

Also, carry a few snacks and a water bottle to stay hydrated. If you are going to a location that is chilly, make sure you wear enough layers that keep you comfortable. Don't forget to apply good sunscreen, even on a cloudy day. If it's your first time, you can also take your friend along, so that the hike is enjoyable for you. 

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All in all, you should hike outdoors – but start from a simple one and eventually transition to a complex trail. Be cautious and take all precautions – make sure you share your coordinates with someone close, so that they can be there for you, in case of an emergency. 

The last word 

Hiking may be a new activity, but trust us, you are going to have a lot of fun. As a beginner, you may have certain apprehensions and that's pretty natural – but go with an open mind, and you never know you may never want to return. Also, notice how your body feels physically, mentally, and emotionally after the hike. 

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Doing something amid nature is always refreshing – for one, it gives you an opportunity to get away from your screens. You never know you may come back as a different person!

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