3 Ways Hiking Can Boost Your Mind and Body

hiker alpineAnyone who ties on a pair of boots to hit the trail knows full-well that they’re likely to encounter relentless bugs, potentially perilous weather, and their fair share of blisters and bruises, all for the sake of overcoming a challenge and finding quality time with nature.

Hiking can do more for you than offer a great view. Spending time on the trail brings several mental and physical perks as well, potentially leading to a healthier and happier life.

The Path to Creativity

You don’t have to down a five-hour energy shot or a cup of coffee to jump-start your brain. A little time on the trail can be all it takes to get your synapses firing on all cylinders. A 2012 study discovered that spending time outdoors increases attention span and creative problem-solving skills by as much as 50 percent. Of course, you coffee lovers (I’m not judging—I’m guilty, too) can always take your coffee to-go on the trail with you.

Hiking = Happy

Utilizing hiking as therapeutic intervention with people suffering from severe depression may help them to feel less hopeless or depressed and decrease suicidal thoughts. A few hours on the trail throughout the week may even be a turnaround point for suffering individuals, spurring them on to a healthier lifestyle. Sometimes something as simple as getting away from technology or the hectic events in our daily lives can allow us to connect with ourselves in a way we never knew we could. “The link between exercise and mood is pretty strong,” writes Boston University professor of psychology, Michael Otto PhD in a 2011 paper. “Usually within five minutes after moderate exercise you get a mood-enhancement effect.”

Get Toned on the Trail

Of course we hike for the exercise, but how exactly does it impact our bodies? A 200-lb man can burn nearly 550 calories in just one hour of hiking, depending on the level of incline and the weight of his pack. Hiking is also attainable for those with a few more years on the trail or those who have physical limitations due to injury, as trails tend to be easier on joints than asphalt or concrete. This decrease in pressure on your joints means less aches and pains at the end of the day. Hiking can even lower your blood pressure, potentially reducing the risk of heart disease.

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