There’s nothing more satisfying and refreshing than spending time in the wilderness with nothing but your back pack. From quiet moments of self-reflection, invigorating sights and challenging yourself in nature, hiking provides a number of benefits; both physical and mental.
Here are my top eight benefits of hiking and active holidays.
Overall improved fitness
One of the major benefits of hiking is that it improves your physical health immensely. Spending multiple hours on the trail, climbing around boulders, rock hopping and ascending hills gives your whole body a workout, improving your strength, agility and cardio fitness. It’s also a fantastic way to lose weight, in that if you carry a full pack, you can burn around 600 calories per hour while hiking. It sure beats spending the same amount of time indoors at the gym!
It’s hard to argue with science. A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found that that “exposure to nature can counteract the negative effects of stress and anxiety: Those who completed the nature walk tended toward less rumination—the acute focus on one’s distress—than those who took the urban route”. Spending time outdoors on a hike or active holiday in nature is a perfect way to cleanse your mind from the stress and worries from home. Hiking often requires a person to be focused on their activity, where the only distractions are majestic vistas and dramatic scenery. Ask any hikeker and they’ll attest that spending time in the wilderness was one of the most relaxing times they’ve had.
Improves Cardiovascular strength
Regular hiking can increase cardiovascular strength as the heart has to pump harder to keep up with the oxygen demand while hiking. This increases blood flow to the muscles and the brain, improving the circulatory and respiratory system’s health. In addition, breathing in the fresh air and pure oxygen from the forest and trees keeps the respiratory system clean – a refreshing change from the city air, where 75% of air pollution is from vehicle emissions
Hiking with other people can create lifelong friendships. While hiking, you can spend time bonding with members of the group, motivating and encouraging each other to keep going and persevere when times get tough. Sharing the good memories and experiences that come with hiking can also help overcome differences, encourage an acceptance of different kinds of people and increase your ability to adjust and get along with others. Being out in nature also means that technology and social media is inaccessible, stimulating one-on-one conversations. You may very well find that the people you hike with become life-long friends after spending a week in the wilderness!
Softer skill development
The benefits of hiking don’t just apply to your physical, mental or social health – it can also benefit your management skills, believe it or not! When planning your hike, you may find yourself setting training targets, planning for the hike, organising your schedule, setting goals, learning how to adapt to change and developing your mental strength. These are all skills that are highly valued in the working world and can be a foundation for personal growth that you may surprise you with a new founded self-confidence!
Whether you’re hiking past sacred Aboriginal sites along the Larapinta Trail, past ancient rock paintings that are thousands of years old along the Jatbula Trail or visiting destinations rich with European history there is an opportunity to gain insight into the history, lifestyle and food habits of the different cultures of a land. With this insight comes an understanding of the land that can lead to a much deeper appreciation of the area and the respect that you give it.
Does the idea of walking in remote wilderness as bush pigs cross the trail ahead, where eagles fly above and a mongoose scurries around the campsite as the sun sets in the distance appeal to you? We don’t blame you! This is one of the many wildlife scenarios that hikers encounter, a visit into the wilderness also equates to a visit into the wildlife! Wildlife and bird watching is one of the many highlights while on a hike and can give a unique insight into the ecosystems of a destination.
While hiking, you’re much less likely to drink coffee or alcohol, but you’ll drink plenty of water and eat wholefoods. Consuming nothing but goodness for a week or more has positive outcomes for inner health. You’ll feel fantastic, your skin rejuvenates and there is definitely empowerment when the body goes all naturale.