It’s very obvious that getting back to nature can almost instantly bring a feeling of calm and contentment, but now research is showing that hiking outdoors can change our brain health. Research shows that our environments can increase or reduce our stress levels. Stress can impact our bodies by affecting our nervous, endocrine, and immune systems. It can also affect our emotions making us feel anxious or mad. As a result of these emotions, it can elevate our blood pressure and heart rates which can lead to more serious physical problems.
As much as we can control what we eat and our activity levels, one of the most natural ways to eliminate stress is choosing a natural setting to retreat to when feeling stressed. What better way to get outside and combine it with some hiking to not only increase your activity level but to better your mental health. Here are some ways that hiking can not only affect you physically but increase your emotional well-being.
- More of a Varied Exercise
Sometime you have to think outside of the box when it comes to achieving physical fitness. Gyms offer a variety of choices to get our bodies fit but sometimes we can fall into a phase where our workouts become somewhat monotonous. When hiking, not only can your workout be different each time, but the scenery and landscape can change. This can help keep you motivated to exercise as each hike can be different in so many ways. From walking in a local park to progressing to a steep hill and then on to a mountain are ways to increase the intensity. Choosing different terrains is a great way to mix it up so that you experience ways of using your body. When you start to increase the intensity of your hikes, you feel like you’ve achieved something more substantial than what you could ever achieve in a gym. Want to burn more calories? Pack up a lunch, some snacks, and some photography equipment and you are well on your way to expending some extra calories.
Have you ever noticed that when you exercise outside or hike, you forget about your physical capabilities? We are often able to achieve more outside than inside a gym due to the fact that our focus has changed. We are more relaxed when outside and in nature. When we are consumed by negative thoughts, this takes away the enjoyment of the moment or the workout. When in nature, our negative thoughts decrease allowing us to be in the moment and appreciate our bodies.
2. Realities of Hiking
Reality of our times now is that we live around technology. We are attached to our phones, computers, TV, and all the other modern day conveniences in our homes. We are spending more and more time in front of the TV which is not only effecting our physical bodies but our mental state of mind. Research has shown that technology mixed with noise can be incredibly disruptive to our creative process and problem solving capabilities. Hiking encourages us to step away from all of this and get back to a more simplistic way of living. Unplugging allows us to get more creative, soothe our minds, and reduce mental fatigue.
Each hike can be different even if you choose to follow the same path each time. You can rediscover the rhythms of each season where there are no rules and the unexpected surprises of nature will keep you interested rather than experiencing boredom. I have a favourite spot that I like to hike and trail run on frequently and each time I experience something so extraordinary. From wildlife to the changing of seasons, there is always something that takes me by surprise.
3. Boosts Brain Power
Exercise and mindset go hand in hand. We know that physical activity is great for our bodies in so many ways. Hiking allows us to burn a significant amount of calories depending on the length of the hike and difficulty of the terrain, but it is also proven that people who exercise outdoors are more likely to stick with their exercise programs. Besides the physical benefits, most of us have experienced a euphoric feeling when in nature. As a result of complex interactions of chemicals in our brain, the endorphins released motivate us and keep us on this ‘natural high’ that can last for hours even after the hike is completed.
Hiking outdoors opens up the doors to flexible ways of thinking that increase our brain creativity. When we’re outdoors, we’re not a slave to technology. The flood gates open to experience new thoughts and new ways of thinking. Our ability to problem solve effectively increases when we step away from our screens and experience an environment that allows us to get intimate with our thoughts.
Getting fit doesn’t mean you need a gym. Use your creativity to get active and enjoy fitness on your terms doing something you enjoy. Hiking is free, it’s relaxing, and can be enjoyed on your own, with your friends, or your family. So next time you feel like getting some exercise and feel stressed, think about finding a local trail to get away from it all to heighten your senses, burn some calories, and most of all, have some fun.
Eat Clean & Live Green!
Your Compassionate Coach,