Hiking is an activity as old as humanity itself. For thousands upon thousands of years, people have been walking the earth, traversing the highest mountains and ascending the rockiest cliffs. Not only is it a vital process for exploration and discovery, but it also is one of the healthiest journeys you can ever embark upon.
Hiking up hills and mountains is one of the best activities you can do for yourself, as it is healthy for every part of your body, mind, and soul. For this reason, it’s important to enjoy this activity with friends and family – because something this good shouldn’t be kept a secret.
Not only are there mountains of research to support the health benefits of hiking, but there’s proof. The Diabetes Care Journal studied that 69% of diabetics who increased their physical activity by walking every day were able to reduce their blood sugar levels and increase insulin production on a regular basis. And that’s not to say that hiking is only good for diabetics – it’s good for everyone, even if you feel healthy and fit. By hiking at least once a week, you will see a dramatic increase of health benefits. Plus, it’s a great way to bond and spend time with the family.
Need more motivation? Check out these top 7 reasons why hiking is always a good idea.
1. Hiking Increases Your Heart Health
Take your cardiovascular workouts to the next level with a fun family hike. Whether you need to start out on a small hill or you’re ready for a more adventurous walk, you’ll be getting plenty of benefits either way. It’s almost impossible to list all the ways in which hiking is great for your health, but let’s start with the heart.
You can increase your heart rate and lower your risk of getting heart disease by hiking at least a couple of times per week. It’s a good cardio workout through and through. In fact, the entire cardiovascular system in your body will strengthen and improve with each hike you do. While it’s always important not to push yourself past your limits, you can also find it thrilling to embark on bigger and bigger hikes for the benefit of your heart and blood health.
Harvard Health Publishing released a study showing that walking just 5.5 miles per week can decrease the risk of heart disease and heart conditions by over 31%. This is a huge number when compared to the effects of jogging or even working out at the gym. For these reasons, it’s important to give your heart the best chances possible by going on a nature-filled hike. Bring the whole family, because quality of life will increase for you all!
2. Hiking Is Great for Your Core
Speaking of workouts, your heart won’t be the only part of you that’s getting one with a hike. Your core will also feel great, especially if you hike in places with uneven paths or steep upward climbs. The cardiovascular workout works on more than just your heart. In fact, you can strengthen your torso as well. Your core is the central part of your body that holds all of the essential components of your strength and survivability. This includes
- Upper body strength
- Heart health
- Lifting and kneeling
- Lateral muscle strength
Many workouts can offer strength to your core. So, why choose hiking?
The reason many families choose to hike together, rather than just going on brisk walks through the neighborhood or runs on a treadmill, is because of the natural variety of terrain that the planet provides. The best way to get the most out of building up core and heart strength is to endure difficult climbs, trek over uneven paths, and really push your body towards its balancing limits.
3. Going on a Hike Can Reduce Your Stress
Feeling stressed from work? Are the pressures of life getting you down? There’s no need to worry – you can go on a hike to melt your troubles away! Aside from the fantastic physical health benefits that hiking already offers, you can also get your mental health in check as well. Hiking can really reduce stress and clear your mind, giving you a strengthened perspective on life and all its troubles.
No matter how busy your daily schedule is, no matter how many meetings and dates you have packed into your calendar, it’s essential that you find time to go on a hike. By doing so, you can relax with your family and let nature reduce your stress the right way.
But how exactly does nature do that?
When you’re walking and climbing, your body will lower your blood pressure levels, as well as your cortisol. This means that you will naturally feel calmer, forcing your stress to melt away. This directly signifies an increase in mental health, giving you the time, you need to take a deep breath and realize that everything will all work out.
4. You and Your Family Will Sleep Better After Going on a Hike
It’s not uncommon to have trouble sleeping. We often find ourselves tossing and turning at night due to excessive worry about the days ahead. Stress can fill our minds and even take a physical toll on our bodies, making us unable to rest fully. Going on a hike will surely tire out your system and give you the well rest you deserve.
A recent TIME article studied the extreme benefits of hiking and saw that you use at least 28% more energy during a hike than you would while just walking or jogging on a flat surface. Because so much more energy is expended, you will feel pretty tuckered out once you’ve come back down the mountain.
It might also be a good idea to make hiking one of the last things you do before going to bed. If your family comes together in the evening, perhaps use this opportunity to go hiking in some nearby hills. Get away from technology and glowing screens for a while – I know that’s a hard habit to break – and get back to nature. It’s scientifically guaranteed that you will be ready to fall asleep in no time!
5. Hiking Is Surprisingly Social
Many people enjoy hiking alone because they can enjoy the serenity of nature while clearing their minds from the stress of their daily lives in civilization. But hiking is actually one of the best social events you can have as well. This is especially so when involving the whole family.
It’s a great bonding activity, as you will need to rely on each other while navigating difficult terrain and going through hard-to-see spots. It’s important to have a buddy system anyway, as hiking through nature alone can sometimes be dangerous without anyone to spot you. This will create social skills between you and your family members that will encourage team-building and community.
Speaking of community, there’s a much larger hiking community out there for you to get connected with as well. You can go online and connect with others who are passionate about this activity, and maybe even find locals to join you and your family on the next trek.
6. Get More Creative When You Hike
When hiking, you should carry as much water and snacks as you can. It is important to remain hydrated throughout your hike. Children may not have the same resilience and endurance as you. Poor hydration can cause headaches, exhaustion and many other challenges.
Also, children with special needs may need a constant supply of snacks to keep their energy levels up. You can fill your backpacks with water and snacks because your baggage will get lighter as you consume the contents. On the way back, when you are exhausted, you will appreciate the reduced weight of your backpack.
7. Hiking Reduces Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression
If hiking is a great way to reduce stress, then naturally it also works wonders when you’re dealing with anxiety and depression. Mental health symptoms should be taken seriously, and if you have felt an overall lack of motivation, or a fear that keeps you frozen from taking any action, you would heavily benefit from taking a step into nature for a little while. Keep in mind that it’s also important to seek a professional if you fear that your symptoms are getting too serious.
Many scientific studies, including those from the American Hiking Society and the Canadian Journal of Behavioral Science, have shown significant increases in mental health after hiking several times per week. This reflects a drastic reduction in anxiety and depression symptoms. This is because of several reasons:
- Hiking actively encourages blood flow and increased cardiovascular health, which lowers blood pressure
- You create more insulin which regulates the body and sends more energy to the brain for cell production
- Relaxing in nature without the distraction of technology immediately reduces cortisol levels, which makes you feel calm and clear-minded
- Strenuous moving can make your body physically tired more often and in a more natural way, helping you feel restful without worrying at night
When hiking with your family, focus on breathing and meditation. Just have a nice and relaxing time with everyone so that you can feel accomplished at the end of the day. This sense of communal accomplishment will strengthen bonds and make you feel a lot more motivated and less worried about the days to come. Hiking is a project, an adventure that allows you to reach a goal while having fun in the process.
Hike with Your Family Regularly!
Nothing brings people together quite like team-oriented goals and outdoor exercise. You can double the fun by choosing a location you’ve never visited before. You and your family can navigate unfamiliar terrain and find the best places to work on strength and balance, all while increasing your heart rate and decreasing your risks for disease and diabetes.
It works wonders for the mind as well. Again, hiking is a mind, body, and soul experience. You don’t need to worry about the stress of everyday city life when you are outside, enjoying nature with all of its uneven paths and steep hills. Give yourself a task to rise up to and complete it! This feeling of success will instantly wash away your stresses and fears, keeping you focused on what matters most in life: Your health and your family. Keep working at it, build your strength little by little, and invest in hiking at least once or twice a week to keep that blood flowing the right way. Good luck!