So, what are the wellness benefits of hiking? For me, 30 minutes of hiking can wipe away eight hours of work-related stress. An hour in the woods renews and invigorates me. Two hours on my favorite trail, up and down hills, around two lakes, and dodging tree roots leave me physically and mentally in better shape than when I started.

The Health and Wellness Benefits of Hiking

Benefit One: Exercise 

  • Hiking can be great cardio exercise. Sure, you can do the same on the treadmill, but a difficult trail with varied terrain is hard to beat
  • Lowers risk of heart disease
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • It is known to control or even cure type 2 diabetes. I have type two, but through diet and hiking, I’ve kept it under control.
  • Strength conditioning – Not only the lower body but the entire package.
  • Weight control – I shudder at the thought of what my weight might be without the trails

Benefit Two: Stress Relief

I love being on the trails and enjoy the physicality of it, but I could get that at my local high school’s track. What brings me back time and time again is the commune with nature. The combination of low-impact physical activity and the great outdoors is mood-altering.

  • Stress and anxiety relief – Whenever I find myself overwrought, anxious, or worried, the trails are the best prescription I know.
  • Mood lift – Even when I’m in a good place, hiking lifts my spirits higher.
  • Energy boost – If you exercise, you’ve experienced an energy boost at the end of a workout. But the boost at the end of a hike is something more. It’s not only a physical boost but spiritually uplifting.

Where Can You Hike?

Indiana has many parks with trails of varying degrees of difficulty. Eagle Creek Park, a 3,900-acre city park, is ten minutes from my home. I can also walk through my subdivision to a creek and trails only a short distance away. If you look, you’ll find plenty of choices in your neck of the woods, too.

  • Look for close parks – Finding a spot to hike only a few minutes from home or work makes it easy to head to the woods and hard to make excuses.
  • Hills are good – It might seem counterintuitive, but hiking up and down hills adds to my enjoyment. I might get winded, but I feel better for it.
  • Varied terrain  – Not only hills but smooth paths, rough places, near water, or deep woods all add to the pleasure of hiking.

Why Does Hiking Raise Our Spirits?

Beyond the benefits of physical activity and the release of endorphins, I feel at home on the trails. Being in nature feels, well, natural. The sound of the woods, crickets, squirrels, the wind through the trees, the rush of a waterfall, or the swish of a whitetail deer is calming.

I drive hiking companions a little crazy because I often stop and say, smell this, taste this, or ask if they know the story behind a particular plant. It’s fun (at least for me) and feels great.

Take a Hike!

The wellness benefits of hiking are real. The next time you feel stressed, worried, or anxious, take a hike. Commit 30 minutes at a local park, walk along the nearest creek, or head to the woods behind your subdivision. I guarantee you’ll feel better and improve your mood. If you’re close to Speedway, IN, give me a shout. I’ll take you on one of my trails, but know this: I will stop and point out the fauna.

Here’s an excellent post on how to hike from the Mayo Clinic.

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy How Negativity Adversely Affects Your Health (and what you can do). 

Photo by Jake Melara on Unsplash