It's officially spring, and you know what that means- it's the perfect time to get back to those outdoor activities. In the modern day, people spend a staggering amount of time indoors. According to a diary study, where individuals self-report their activity in detail, Americans spend only 8% of their lives outdoors.1 Thus, it is more important than ever for our minds and bodies that we get outside. We all love the gym, but sometimes nothing beats a good outdoor activity that'll keep you physically active.
One outdoor activity that's trending right now is hiking. With the #hiking hashtag accumulating over 8.3 billion views on TikTok, the younger generation is joining in on the fun too.
Hiking involves going on long walks, usually following a trail or path, in nature or the countryside. Some hikes are just for a day, while others are spread out over the course of several days and require camping. Many hikes involve going uphill or even going up mountains. People have enjoyed hiking for centuries, but the activity has currently regained popularity since the onset of the pandemic. So what are the benefits of hiking and why do people enjoy it so much? Let's break it down.
One obvious pro of hiking is the ability to be in nature. Hiking provides a perfect opportunity to not only observe nature, but get up close and personal. While walking a trail, you can run into the many beautiful things nature has to offer, including plant life, wildlife, and natural phenomena like hot springs. You may also see rivers or streams, different geological sites like rocks, minerals, and mountains, and breathtaking views. Hiking allows people to appreciate the beauty of nature that they may not see every day. It is a great way to observe what the world has to offer and experience different scenery.
Another benefit of hiking is that it's great exercise. Walking may seem simple, but hikes can get pretty intense, especially when going uphill. Hiking can help you build muscle and endurance and is a great form of cardio. Hiking a trail will help you work muscles like your quads, hamstrings, and calves. The activity also strengthens your core and improves balance. The steeper the elevation, the more intense of a workout you'll get.
A well-known benefit of hiking is that it is cathartic and good for mental health. Hiking combines many factors that benefit mental health including being in nature, exercising, and changing up your scenery. Hiking is a great way to clear your head from the obstacles of daily life and center yourself in the world. The fresh air, light breeze, and scenic routes will be sure to lift your spirits.
Hiking can be a lovely solo activity, but you don't have to go at it alone if you don't want to. It can also be a great bonding experience when done with others. When outdoors and walking amongst nature, it is the perfect time to put your phone away and appreciate the world and the people with you. Unless of course, you're using your phone as a map, in which case continue to do that.
Long walks create an opportunity for good conversation and reflection. And if you are hiking alone, it provides a unique time when you are separate from others and can partake in self-reflection.
If you've done a bunch of hikes and want to kick things up a notch, try trail running. Trail running is essentially the same thing as hiking with one major difference, you run the trail instead of walking it. Trail running is considered an endurance sport, and provides an opportunity for runners to run in nature rather than on paved surfaces like roads or sidewalks. Trail running has many of the same benefits as hiking, and is even more intense and physically demanding. Running on uneven ground can improve flexibility and balance while running uphill provides extra resistance for your workout.
Hiking can essentially be done anywhere in nature where there's some kind of trail, but if you're looking for an extraordinary hiking experience, the US is home to many beautiful national parks that provide the perfect locale for a good hike:
1. Yosemite National Park in California boasts 800 miles of different hiking trails and beautiful scenery including unique plant life like the famous California redwood trees.2
2. Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho offers 1000 miles of hiking trails and beautiful sites such as colorful hot springs and wildlife like bears and moose.2
3. Olympic National Park in the Olympic Peninsula, Washington, provides over 600 miles of hiking trails where hikers will find rainforests, mountains, and rare wildlife like blue whales.2
Take Home Message
Both hiking and trail running are excellent activities you can try to get your body moving, decompress, and enjoy the great outdoors. If you're looking to change up your workout routine, hiking may provide the perfect adventure for a new form of fitness. Your body and mind will be sure to see benefits from the centuries-old activity.
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