What do you think you’ll feel like after a hike or other time spent in nature? As time passes, do you see yourself growing less worried, more focused, and more at ease in your surroundings? If that’s the case, it’s not a coincidental occurrence. Consider the possibility that you have never attempted hiking before and are intrigued by the possibilities.
Hiking has a variety of physical and psychological benefits. Some benefits, such as decreased blood pressure and stress levels, increased focus, and improved immune function, may be noticeable right away, while others, such as weight loss and depression reduction, may take time to become apparent.
Positive Effects on Your Physical Health
Hiking is a cardiovascular activity, which means that it can benefit your heart while also lowering your blood pressure and blood sugar.
Hiking helps to enhance leg strength, core stability, and overall balance and coordination. When climbing steeper terrain, more muscles are required to overcome the challenge. As the terrain gets more complex, as is the case with an increase in climbing intensity, higher balance and core strength are required to succeed. On the ascent, the primary leg muscles (quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, and calves) are working hard to keep you from falling forward; on the descent, the glutes and quadriceps are working hard to keep you from falling forward. In order to maintain general stability and balance on uneven terrain, it is necessary to recruit a large number of smaller stabilizer muscles.
Since a hiker’s ability and age may be accommodated, hiking is accessible to people of all abilities and ages. The intensity of a walk can be tailored to match the needs of the hiker, from a simple neighborhood stroll to a strenuous climb up a mountain. On a steep course, the more harder it is for your heart to work, the greater the cardiovascular advantage you will receive.
Advantages of Psychiatric Treatment
Hiking in mountainous areas with elevation variations has been demonstrated to increase feelings of valence (pleasure), exhilaration (or happiness), and tranquillity, while simultaneously reducing feelings of anxiety and exhaustion and fatigue. One study, for example, discovered that hiking in the fresh air reduced stress-related reactions such as lower cortisol (a stress hormone) levels in the bloodstream.
According to Stanford University researchers, persons who spend time in nature have less ruminating, which is defined as recurring cognitive patterns about negative feelings. It was discovered the same study that spending time in nature might improve mental health and offer city inhabitants with the necessary respite to interrupt negative thought patterns. In fact, individuals in the study had lower subgenual prefrontal cortex (sgPFC) brain activity, which has been linked to rumination in both healthy and depressed people, than controls.
Furthermore, being in nature can help to lower anxiety while also providing other benefits such as increased cognition and affect (feelings and emotions). Being outside in nature may also help you to be more conscious and present in the moment, which has been shown to lower stress levels and blood pressure in certain studies, as well.
What You Should Do First
What actions can you take to get things started? Without a doubt, spending time in nature has the potential to make us feel better on a physical and psychological level. Start with shorter hikes on neighboring trails that you are more familiar with; this will help you get used to the outdoors.
When walking on uneven and possibly slippery ground, shoes with a thicker sole can provide greater support for your feet by providing a more stable grip (hiking-specific footwear is ideal). In the beginning of your hiking journey, a good pair of hiking shoes will help you avoid ankle injuries and falls (and when your leg strength and general stability are compromised). These shoes should be properly broken in before wearing them to reduce the risk of blisters.
Even if you don’t anticipate being outside for an extended period of time, bring plenty of water and a few snacks, as well as clothing appropriate for the weather. Dress in layers to stay warm and comfortable in cooler areas, and always wear sunscreen, even if it’s gloomy outside. You can get a fair sense of the route you’ll be going by consulting a map or an app on your smartphone.
It is more enjoyable to hike with a partner, and it helps to deepen your sense of belonging (which is also important for positive mental health). In the event of an emergency, it is also a good idea to inform someone of your hiking plans in advance. In addition to stating the name and location of the trail, you should also provide an estimate of when you expect to be back.
Give it a Shot
Make an attempt to go hiking and see how it affects you physically, psychologically, or emotionallly. If nothing else, it will allow you to disconnect from the screens and technology that pervade daily life and direct more of you energy toward nature and your surroundings, adding an element of mindful awareness into the course of your day.
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