People who have been suffering from stress, sickness, or a trauma can spend quiet contemplative time in gardens or taken to the mountains or woods to heal. But nature is not just wilderness. The benefits of nature can also be found in our communities’ parks and green spaces.
Hiking is a powerful cardio workout that can: Lower your risk of heart disease, Build strength in your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and the muscles in your hips and lower legs, Improve your blood pressure and blood sugar levels, Boost bone density, since walking is a weight-bearing exercise, Strengthen your core, Improve balance, Help control your weight, Boost your mood. “Research shows that hiking has a positive impact on combating the symptoms of stress and anxiety,” says Gregory A. Miller, PhD, president of the American Hiking Society. “Being in nature is ingrained in our DNA, and we sometimes forget that.”
So what makes hiking more special than just walking? Hiking provides an element of cross-training because it is both a cardio activity and strength trainer all at once. Add in the fact that hiking can help increase your balance and stability as you navigate various types of terrain, all while burning calories. In this study, walking on uneven terrain like in hiking increases step width and length variability, joint mechanical work, and muscle co-activation compared with walking on smooth terrain. At the same time, metabolic output goes up. With that said, you’ve got a great, multi-functional workout to get you fit.
It can also be fun to just get out there and see who you meet. Strangers only are strangers until you talk to them and get to know each other while on the trail. Many people who choose long distance adventures like the Appalachian Trail get out there wanting to meet people and connect in a deep, meaningful way with a shared goal. This fosters building community and going beyond social barriers that often hold us back. Lifetime friendships can be made when we get on trail and relate to others while sharing profound experiences.