Hiking is one of the simplest and oldest activities people have enjoyed throughout history. It has inspired artists, given peace of mind and clarity to world leaders, and been a place of refuge and spiritual growth for prophets. Hiking has many benefits for the mind, body, and spirit.
In this article, we will go over 21 Benefits of Hiking for the Body, Mind, and Spirit.
1. You feel alive deep down in your body when your feet hit the ground.
2. You are incorporating your entire body in what you are doing.
3. It requires your body to do mental and physical checks and balances all in an instant.
4. It incorporates the upper body and lower body into lightweight training.
5. All the fresh air and deep breathing help strengthen the lungs and heart.
6. A good way to push boundaries and test the levels of one’s endurance.
7. It can release endorphins which improve mood.
8. Allows the mind to slip into a state of contentment.
9. Hiking requires a level of disconnection from routines.
10. Balance and directional awareness are stimulated while hiking.
11. Hiking is a great way to reset your mind.
12. We are created to be a part of nature.
13. Hiking is an optimal way to grow in your spiritual relationship.
14. Hiking with others is a great way to build community.
15. You can meditate on one thing while hiking.
16. Heightens your senses of smell, touch, and sound.
17. Can result in a deep sleep from the exercise.
18. Sharpen problem-solving.
19. Burn calories and stimulate growth hormones.
20. Increase endurance and stamina.
21. Pray and connect with the creator.
How hiking helps our body
People walk around all the time whether they are in an office going down the hall or going to fetch the paper in the morning but being out on a trail is another sensation altogether. People have enjoyed walking in the wilderness for as long as there has been a wilderness to walk. There is a deep and simple pleasure to be had when you go on a hike. It may be obvious to some that there are benefits to walking outside; hiking is a great workout for the body and something simple enough for novices to begin.
It is not just cardio that you are doing when on a hike either. You can feel it deep down in your body. The way your feet hit the ground, the stretch of your leg climbing an incline, the deep breath you take after heading up a hill. It is pretty different than twenty minutes on the treadmill inside an air-conditioned gym.
When hiking you are outside and in nature. This simple fact changes the whole approach to something as simple as taking a stroll. On a hike, you are incorporating your entire body in what you are doing. Your legs take each step with more purpose and care. Your arms swing and tense a bit more helping you maintain your balance on terrain that isn’t a flat paved road or sidewalk. Muscles in your core tense and relax to keep you upright and maintain your gait. Hiking can be a great way to involve multiple muscle groups at one time in a unique way that doesn’t blatantly feel like a workout and can be something you enjoy.
On a hike, a person is surrounded by the peace of nature and can feel the very earth beneath them. Heading out on a trail in the woods requires your body to do several checks and balances both mentally and physically all in an instantto keep someone from toppling headfirst into a thicket.
People only think of hiking as a cardio workout, but the lower body and leg muscles are shifting positions and responsibilities from step to step. Going up an incline may require the hamstrings and quads to kick it into gear to help keep the body upright while climbing what could be a steep rock ledge or fallen tree.
Heading downhill calf and hip muscles work to absorb the impact of the body moving down at an accelerated or slowed rate. After a good hike, some people can feel muscles being used they forgot they had in their legs.
The bonus benefit of hiking is that it can also incorporate the upper body and some weight training. People naturally use their arms and core for balance when walking. It is very noticeable when out on a trail and the road is littered with tree roots bulging from the ground or a boulder that requires climbing over or trekking around. All these complex muscle movements end up toning the muscles and increasing a person’s endurance and stamina.
If you talk to any experienced hiker or camper, they will tell you it takes a good deal of strength to keep going with a pack full of supplies strapped to them. Even just bringing along a few bottles of water while hiking is enough to make the trek a bit more challenging and that much more of a workout.
On top of working out, other health benefits come with hiking. It can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases and increase respiratory health as well. All the fresh air and deep breathing have great effects on the lungs and heart. Also, since hiking takes place outside, it provides plenty of sunlight for a person to get the recommended amount of Vitamin D. Vitamin D has various uses and aids not only in health but also in weight loss.
Our modern society does so much to keep people inside that many people have a severe lack of this crucial vitamin. Hiking for just twenty minutes a day is enough to encourage positive changes to a person’s body. Hiking also lowers blood pressure and helps in the prevention of several types of cancers.
The distance a person should hike a day varies from person to person. Keep in mind different people have different abilities. Someone who is just starting off should not try to take on the same trail someone who has been an avid hiker for years might do but do not be discouraged. Like any other work out people can build to new goals and go farther and farther as long as they are persistent and consistent. Hiking is a good way to push boundaries and test the levels of one’s endurance but remember to stay safe and take a good appraisal of your own abilities honestly.
On average a person can do a few miles a day at a time if they stay hydrated and keep an even pace. It is important to remember that hiking is something to do to improve your health and pushing yourself too far causing yourself to get hurt defeats the whole purpose.
When it comes to physical health, hiking is a great activity to add to your routine. It is a great way to get the heart racing and escape the rut many people find themselves in. The benefits of hiking go beyond the body though and below we will see the benefits it provides to the mind.
How hiking helps our mind
The next obvious benefit of hiking is the benefit to your mind. It is like other exercises which release endorphins into the brain which improve mood. The mind is a muscle of its own and often it gets lazy when trapped in the comforts of modern society or the opposite can be true, and the stresses of daily life overly strain the brain making it impossible to recover. Both of these problems can be solved with hiking.
Hiking is a unique way to workout, but it is still a workout and like other workouts, it plays a huge role in mental health. When a person works out their brain releases endorphins which is the chemical that makes a person feel good.
The chemical causes a person to be in a good mood, feel a sense of achievement, and helps in maintaining good habits. When hiking a person experiences these endorphins and not just cause of the accomplishment of hiking but also because of the sights and sounds around them.
Being surrounded by nature does wonderful things for the mind and allows it to slip into a state of contentment and disconnects in a good way.
Hiking requires a level of disconnection that is good for the mind. Being out and surrounded by nature gives the mind space to relax and energize. Sure, there are parts of hiking that require the mind to work but these are the parts of the mind you don’t use regularly and can use a bit of stretching.
For instance, the parts that work on balance and directional awareness are stimulated while hiking. There aren't too many times the average person worries about balancing themselves when perched in front of a computer at work or television at home. Thanks to advancements in navigation technology someone can get lost anywhere and with a few taps on their phone can locate themselves and the optimal route to anywhere they want to be.
When out in the woods the only way to really navigate is using your mind, paying attention to your surroundings, and backtracking. In reality, a cell phone will most likely still be able to help guide a person back home in most circumstances, but it doesn’t hurt to exercise the brain a little and learn to rely on one’s wits.
Hiking trails and learning them after multiple visits can be something that will definitely get the endorphins running. A true accomplishment and worthy of praise and a skill that can come in handy if camping or say the cell phone dies.
There is so much stimulation in the world around us. People are constantly bombarded with notifications, advertisements, entertainment, and a million other things technology flashes in front of our eyes to catch our attention that many people now struggle to focus on one thing for longer than a few minutes.
When a person is out hiking there is none of that. No jingles blaring from speakers on the radio or emails from the boss causing stress to build up. On a hike, in nature, there are just the sounds of nature. It can be silence or a bird’s song or the wind through the branches. A person can choose to listen to it all or block it out because nature is not trying to grab anyone’s attention or push an agenda. Nature simply exists.
This is a far-out concept for most people, especially those who have never made it out of their modern lifestyle. Just think about it for a moment about why so many individuals spend money to copy the aesthetic and sounds of nature to have in their house. The wilderness has a relaxing effect on the mind. It is instinctive.
Being out in nature hiking is a great way to reset your mind. It allows for a mental break and physical release. Two things many people fail to do today. Another great benefit of hiking is something a lot of people do not expect but is the most important benefit of all. Hiking helps with spiritual health as well.
How hiking helps your spirit
Anyone who has read the Bible will notice a pattern among those who have heard from God. Many of them were out in the wilderness. God has created us to be a part of nature. Over time the gap between nature and humanity has grown wider and that gap has led t many of the problems we face today.
It is kind of funny that the solution to many of our physical and mental problems can be cured or helped by spending time in nature. God knew what he was doing when He made the world and He made it for our benefit. Spending time hiking in nature does us good on many levels and the most important level is spiritual.
Once we unplug from everything around us and enter into nature, we lose the distractions that also separate us from God. The creator of all things did not create us to be stuck inside buildings all day staring at screens and away from life.
He came to us to give us life everlasting and that goes for even our time here on this planet. While hiking is present and aware of the life all around. The trees, the animals, the wind, and God. Out there in nature, it is possible to hear Him in the stillness if you meditate and open yourself up to Him again.
Creation is the most evident and observable way to view God’s love for us. The attention He put in to create the landscapes and the smells of nature. It is like He is always setting a place for us, humans, to come and meet with Him. Be sure to take time away from the busy lives you lead to go out there and experience Him.
While hiking pray, read a devotional, be present, sit in silence. Just be there like the prophets of old did. Sit and listen for His whisper. Hiking is an optimal way to grow in your spiritual relationship. If you are in a season where you don’t know what to do, take a hike, literally. Break up the mundane and break into a new habit that may end up changing you from the inside out.
How hiking helps build relationships
Hiking is not only a good time to disconnect but to reconnect with those who are important to you. Strengthening the emotional and spiritual connections between you and those you hold dearest in your life is a great way to benefit your mind and spirit. Taking those people hiking with you, sharing something you love with someone you love will only enrich the experience and improve the effects it provides.
It has been proven couples who share hobbies and who exercise together are closer and remain more consistent in these positive habits. While out on the trail, once you are fit enough to hike and talk, you are given a great chance to communicate and build up the areas of your relationships that may have taken a beating through the natural wear and tear of life.
This can also be something you make a tradition to do with other family members, friends or even people whom you serve with or serve under you in ministry or work. Being in nature calms people and can make them more receptive as well as honest.
Hiking alone is a good way to work on yourself. Hiking with others is a great way to work in your community.
Things to be mindful of when Hiking
Hiking is a great form of exercise and can be beneficial in so many ways. Please keep in mind a few things about it though. Like any form of exercise, there is some wear and tear to the body over an extended period of time, especially if you are not careful about it.
Be sure to stretch before and after your hike. It helps the muscles get back to normal. Make sure to wear the proper footwear as this will help reduce the stress on the body and protect you from unforeseen dangers such as slipping is things that would penetrate normal shoes.
Be sure to wear any proper supports such as a knee brace. There is a chance of putting too much strain on the joints in the lower body due to the impact on uneven terrain and the force of gravity from going down slopes.
Also, bring someone with you on occasion. Especially if you will be trying a new trail. Having someone there can be enriching in many ways and can also be a good safety measure.
So, enjoy your next hiking trip as you think about these 21 benefits.
All the best,