Why You Should Take a Hike

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Your health, mood and overall well-being will improve if you get outside and do just that: take a hike. Although walking anywhere is good for you, there is evidence that walking in nature takes it a step further (pardon the pun). Coined a “Wilderness Prophet” and “The Father of Our National Parks,” renowned naturalist John Muir is quoted to have said: “In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

Let’s explore five reasons why hiking in nature is just what the doctor ordered.

  • Your heart health may improve.
    • Research has found that immersing yourself in nature reduces blood pressure, even for some time after the hike is over.
  • You will be in a better mood and have more confidence.
    • Perspectives in Public Health conducted a study in 2012 involving participants who were experiencing mental health issues. When these individuals engaged in hiking and other activities in nature, they showed significant improvement in their self-esteem and were happier.
  • You will be less stressed.
    • Our lives are full of fast-paced, must-get-it-done-right-now and hurry-up-type days. We all can struggle with feelings of being overwhelmed with too much on our plates. Who hasn’t said: “There just isn’t enough time in a day!” Getting out into a green space, being surrounded by and fully feeling the trees and grasses, hearing the birds and squirrels and just walking among the space releases endorphins that are stress-relieving.
  • Your brain may work better.
    • When walking in a natural setting, you are asking your brain to make adjustments for roots and branches and being mindful of the path you are taking; keeping cognitive reaction fast and constant. Studies show that this sort of “nature thinking” aids in keeping brain activity at its best, even defending against dementia-related illnesses that can come from aging. In Germany, “forest kindergartens” are really taking off. These children play in natural environments and are testing better cognitively and even have ramped up manual dexterity and skills in risk assessment.
  • You may be able to prevent yourself from developing cancer.
    • Our immune systems are comprised of NK cells, which are cancer fighters. Studies led by Dr. Li of the Nippon Medical School in Tokyo show increased levels of these NK cells after individuals spent two to three days in nature. Even just one day spent in nature is showing some increase.

So, why don’t you go take a hike? There just aren’t enough reasons not to.

Amy Swigart
Nature Interpreter, Woodland Mound