By: Wade Ellett
This past Sunday I awoke to blue skies and mild temperatures. I’ve been suffering from a bit of cabin fever, so my wife and I decided it was the perfect time to hit the trail at the nearby Black Hawk State Historic Site. Chances are you have a State or National Park, Historic Site, National Forest, or even a city park near where you live that would be just right for going hiking.
Need a little extra push? Okay, here are five great reasons to go for a hike.
1. Hiking is great exercise.
Like many other people, I tend to gain a little over the winter months. Between the holidays and less active outdoor activity in general, it’s easy to put on a few extra pounds. Though proper diet is the most important aspect of maintaining healthy weight, good exercise is a beneficial supplement, and hiking is a great way to get yourself up and moving. Though you’ll burn more calories by lifting weights or by running at a quick pace, you’re more likely to hike for two or three hours than you are to lift or run. According to my fitness tracker, I burned over 1000 calories while hiking on Sunday. While I don’t trust that to be exact, it’s a decent indicator of energy expended over the three hours we spent on the trail. Sure, I could have burned more calories per hour in the gym, but I’m much more likely to spend three hours on the trail than in the gym.
2. Hiking will improve your health.
Research has shown that exposure to nature enhances the immune system. You become healthier just by spending time outside. The results are improved defense against a number of types of diseases. When paired with the previously discussed exercise, hiking improves respiratory, cardiovascular, and musculoskeletal health.
3. Hiking will improve your mood.
Just like nature will improve your physical health, it will improve your mental health as well. Hiking can reduce stress, ward off negative feelings, combat depression, and boost one’s sense of well-being. If you find yourself getting caught up in negative thoughts, and you can’t stop focusing on bad feelings, that’s called rumination. As it turns out, taking a hike can shut it down and lead to more positive feelings. So if you find yourself feeling blue or stuck in a negative train of thought, a hike may be just the thing to boost your morale.
4. Hiking will boost your creativity.
If you’re trying to brainstorm, solve a problem, or just come up with a new idea, research shows that taking a hike could help. One study concluded that participants were much more creative while walking, while another study indicated that time spent outdoors (and away from technology) could boost creative thinking. So if you need to come up with some new ideas or solutions, taking a hike may be the way to do it.
5. Hiking is fun.
At the end of the day, the first four items on this list are bonuses. This is the only reason you need; hiking is fun. It doesn’t matter if you’re a veteran hiker or it’s your first time on the trail, if you’re trekking through Yosemite or a nearby State Park, if you’re backpacking for weeks or just day-hiking a couple of miles. Hiking is a great way to get outside, see some of this beautiful world we share, and have a great time.
I hope these reasons have you convinced that it’s time to start planning your hike. Find out where the nearest trail is and get on it as soon as you can. You won’t regret it.