The Secret Benefits Of Hiking
Over 44 million people are hiking every year in the United States. That's a lot of feet against the ground! And, even more fascinating, that number has been steadily growing, too. Have more people suddenly decided to take up outdoor recreational activities? Or are more people experiencing and learning about the benefits of hiking? After all, with a number like that, there's got to be a reason.
Okay, so the exact answer to that statement is a little difficult to answer because we don't have data on the reasoning for their hikes.
However, it still doesn't negate the fact that there several benefits of hiking. We know the big, primary benefits of hiking, like improved fitness, but there are some little-known benefits of hiking, too.
It's a bit mind-boggling that these obscure hiking benefits aren't discussed more often. I say that because they're probably some of my favorite side effects of taking a trip to the trails.
Let's take a look at 5 little-known benefits of hiking.
05. Improves Focus
This hiking benefit is often never talked about, and it's a shame because the improved focus is a powerful tool for productivity.
Unplugging yourself from electronics and muting the head-clogging noise of a bustling city is great for clearing your head and isolating your thoughts. It makes perfect sense, especially given the fact that being in a noisy environment can harm your brain.
Even bathing in the ambient noise of a busy city at night puts your brain in bad shape.
What's a better prescription for a noisy mind than a quiet environment? Taking a trek through the gentle breeze of nature, where horns don't honk and tires don't screech, can have insanely positive health benefits.
It's just you and the rustling of leaves and trees—or even a nearby creek bed. The less noise in your environment, the less "input" your brain is receiving. Thus, you have far more resources to process information and increase your brain's focus.
According to the Journal of Environmental Psychology, exposure to the silence of nature helps restore valuable, finite cognitive resources. Your brain can process information far better, which leaves a lot more processing power available for your thoughts.
From my personal experience, being exposed to only the natural sounds of isolation has helped me improve my thought process and also helped me focus on my thoughts in a more productive manner.
04. Helps You Appreciate The Small Things
When you're bogged down in details it's easy to overcomplicate things. Remember K-I-S-S, or, keep it simple, stupid. It's an overused saying, and for a good reason: most things we believe complex have a pretty simple solution.
We're constantly flooded with noise, distractions, and thousands of variations for every type of product or service. It's nuts!
Hiking takes you away from all of that. It's just you and the outdoors. Nothing else.
What's more, consistently hiking and disconnecting myself from the noise has massively improved my appreciation for the simple and small things in life. When you're on the trail, you grow an appreciation for the environment you're in. It gives you peace, and you give it appreciation.
The next time you're hiking, think about all the things around you. They've been there for thousands of years, far longer (or so I hope) than you have been. If the wilderness could verbalize the things it's seen over the years, it would be a best seller.
Appreciate that you can enjoy what you have and never take the planet for granted.
03. Supercharges Creativity & Problem-Solving
Have you ever heard of shower thoughts?
A "shower thought" is a thought we have during a shower or a bath. They can be either arbitrary, random thoughts or creative ideas and inspiration, and there are studies to back it up, too.
Hiking has a similar effect. Taking a hike helps you disconnect from the constant distractions of everyday life and pinpoint your thoughts. This, in my opinion, is one of the best benefits of hiking.
There are a lot of things going on in our brains when we go for a walk. And there are a bunch of neurons firing off in our melon when we're walking in nature. For the creative type, this helps spark new ideas and fully focus on them.
The next time you're hiking, pay attention to the thoughts you're having. Do you suddenly have a "great idea"? Are you fired up and motivated to accomplish something within an instant? This is the effect I'm talking about.
Going hiking has greatly benefited my creativity, and it's helped me figure out solutions to problems in a creative manner, too. Funny enough, the concept of Hike Authority didn't come just for my love of hiking—it came to me as I was hiking.
02. Reduces Stress & Anxiety
It's no longer a mystery that hiking helps improve the mood of those suffering from symptoms of depression. What's not talked about very much is the benefits hiking has on relieving stress and anxiety.
Several small studies show spending time out in nature, on the trail, plays a part in reducing stress levels. It's pretty easy to see why: getting away from all the nonsense we have to sit through every day helps you reconnect with yourself and gather your thoughts more efficiently.
Physical activity alone is a great stress reliever. It releases endorphins, regulates your breathing, and helps you build lean muscle.
The next time you're swamped with thoughts and feel the unwelcomed tingle of anxiety creeping in, disconnect yourself from the world and hit the trail. At the very worst you'll get some good physical exercise.
01. Builds Confidence
This one might be subjective. Luckily, I have some compelling reasons for this claim, and examples to show why this is another of the greatest, little-known benefits of hiking.
A lot of confidence and self-esteem issues come from a lack of accomplishment or fear of failure. It's understandable. When we fail at something or don't reach milestones, we feel crushed. Useless, even.
This isn't the reality, though. They're subjective thoughts that are relative to your perception.
When you complete a hike, you've accomplished what you set out to do. You went to the state park or the mountain range with one thing in mind: conquering your goal.
Hiking carries a huge sense of accomplishment, especially if it's particularly difficult. That power to push through the physical effort with a clear head on your shoulders provides a huge boost in confidence.
When I first started hiking regularly, 3-4 times a week, I didn't initially set out to get in shape or do it for bragging rights. I simply had to get out of the house and away from the noise, had to figure things out. I needed to clear my head. Because of that, I went hiking for reasons that most people don't.
And it worked.
I was able to complete several difficult hikes, set new goals, and accomplish them. This helped me build the confidence I needed for everyday life. And the fitness benefits I saw helped me increase my confidence in exploring more intense forms of exercise, like boxing and sprinting.
Accomplishing tasks you once thought were hard is a huge confidence booster. You set your mind to it and you did it. What else can you do? Think of all the other things you could accomplish if you just told yourself, "I'm going to do it".
If you're looking for a way to reinvent yourself and reclaim your confidence, take a hike! Your only regret will be that you didn't start doing it sooner.