Because of the pandemic, many people who find comfort in going outdoors undeniably missed it. Luckily, scientists believe that open spaces like national parks and hiking trails can reduce the chances of transmitting the virus.
Plus, such places make it easy for people to practice physical distancing as per the COVID-19 health crisis restrictions.
Hence, hiking still allows you to have physical activity during this pandemic. Besides that, here are seven other reasons hiking is an excellent escape from this pandemic:
1. Reduces anxiety
Hiking is one of the best ways you can prevent depression and take control of your anxious thoughts. That’s because exercise releases endorphins, also known as “happy hormones,” which help improve mood.
Exposing yourself to nature also gives you the added benefit of taking fresh air, taking in a relaxing view, and soaking yourself in nature. This can help ease your anxiety, especially if you have spent a lot of time indoors.
Furthermore, the gentle breeze and animals can also be relaxing aspects of your walk in nature, lifting your mood. Having these brief experiences allows you to be amazed by nature’s beauty.
Take the Japanese practice, forest bathing, for instance. This usually involves a walk or a hike in the woods, which lets you reconnect with nature and unplug from the digital world. So, take the best trekking poles you can bring and relieve your stress and anxiety while communing with nature.
2. Improves sleep quality
Stress-related insomnia brought about by COVID-19 is very real. Many people struggle for various reasons brought about by the pandemic. As a result, stress levels tend to skyrocket, and many people are losing sleep.
Loss of sleep, especially in the long run, can hurt your health.
Fortunately, many studies support the idea that hiking can improve sleep quality. In fact, walking or climbing on uneven terrains tend to use up 28% more energy than walking on flat ground.
By hiking, you’re also getting rid of new-age stimuli that we often expose ourselves to just right before going to sleep. This includes TVs, smartphones, computers, etc. As a result, you’ll get more quality sleep.
In fact, in a study published in Current Biology, the subjects’ sleep cycles were measured before and during a camping trip. Throughout the journey, subjects were only exposed to natural light (no electronics).
Surprisingly, levels of melatonin increased since their internal clocks shifted a lot earlier. The study also suggests that being in nature helps one shift to their natural sleeping cycles.
3. Provides mental clarity
Being with nature also lets you clear the mind, getting rid of any unwanted stress. So, take a deep breath and look around.
Notice all the little things that nature has to offer, such as the stunning views once you reach a peak or the cool morning breeze rustling in.
By taking it all in, you can help the body relax, which lets go of all the stress and frustration that can build throughout the day.
This allows you to think more clearly, and gives you the mental clarity that you may need to face any challenge that might come your way.
4. Helps with weight loss
If you want to lose weight, then hiking is a great way to do it. The number of calories you’ll burn during a hike will depend on several factors such as gender, weight, and exercise intensity.
If you’re starting out, even light hiking eventually leads to gradual weight loss. Ideally, the recommended physical activity for adults is 150 minutes or an equivalent of 2.5 hours a week.
So, if one of your goals is to lose weight, you might want to start doing 50-minute hikes every week on a local trail. You can increase the intensity and time later on.
5. Makes you happier
As we mentioned earlier, physical exercise releases endorphins. This is a chemical in the brain which triggers positive feelings.
Hiking, however, can boost your mood more than just going for a walk in your neighborhood.
In fact, in a study by Stanford University, 60 people were asked to do 50-minute walks either on paved roads or in the woods. The results revealed that nature walkers experience less anxiety and rumination. They also tend to have a more positive outlook.
If you want, you can even hike with a friend. Social interaction, especially in this time of the pandemic, is essential. This is especially true if you share it with people you are close with.
A healthy relationship is one of the most important recipes for overall happiness and well-being.
One of the biggest lessons in this pandemic is that it has encouraged many of us to go back to nature. Luckily, hiking provides many benefits to your body and brain. Just do not forget to follow the health protocols to ensure you stay safe and healthy!