Hiking is one of the easiest and least expensive outdoor activities to take part in and it benefits the whole family.
If you are just starting out, I wouldn’t advise taking on the West Highland Way or the Cape Wrath Trail. Start small. Check out the short hiking trails near you and work your way up to the more demanding trails.
Ensure that you wear the proper hiking shoes depending on the terrain that you will be tackling. Trekking poles are a good idea as they help to reduce stress on your knees and improves stability.
The weather in the UK is temperamental to say the least and it is important to wear the proper apparel also. Wearing breathable and moisture-wicking layers help to reduce sweat and keep you warm. While slapping on the sun cream and donning sunglasses and a hat will keep the sun’s rays at bay – if you are lucky to get good weather on your hike.
Whether you are walking through a park, walking up small hills or trekking up a mountain, exercising outdoors in the fresh air has proven to be beneficial. You burn around 400-700 calories per hour depending on how strenuous the hike is, it keeps you healthy, clears your mind and you get to unplug from your urban life to spend time with nature. Above all it is not as hard on your joints as other forms of exercise, such as running.
Getting out more is beneficial for you
Psychologists Ruth Atchley and David Strayer found in their 2012 study that a four-day-long hike in the countryside, unplugged with no access to technology, increased participants creativity potential by 50%.
Their study found that both technology and the noises of our urban life are greatly disruptive, lowering our ability to focus and impacting on our cognitive ability.
You’ve heard of the expression ‘healthy body, healthy mind’, exercise helps to keep our brain cells nourished and healthy – helping to improve memory and cognitive ability. Hiking can help to reduce stress and anxiety, boost self-esteem and release endorphins.
Studies have also shown that doing something active and getting outdoors can help to reduce the symptoms of ADHD in children.
Professor Liisa Tyrväinen and her research team at the Natural Resources Institute Finland, conducting a study of several thousand Finnish people, and recommend ‘a minimum nature dose of five hours a month’ to help ward off stress and anxiety. While Kaveli Korpela, a Psychology professor at the University of Tampere believes a 40 to 50-minute walk has a positive impact on our mood and psychological state.
Our world is becoming more urbanised and with increased reliance on technology, Stanford University researchers believe that this is linked to depression and other forms of mental illness. Removing ourselves from an urban environment, even for a short period of time, can be advantageous for our mental health – thanks to less stress triggers, less noise and fewer distractions.
Can hiking solve all of life’s problems? Definitely not.
But we are now seeing further evidence through numerous scientific studies that spending time in the outdoors is good for us.
Dunbar-born John Muir referred to as ‘the Father of the National Parks’, once wrote: “Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”
While hiking is good for the mind, body, and soul, it is imperative that you do not underestimate the outdoors, your own ability and the weather. Make sure you prepare and plan properly, but above all stay hydrated and enjoy yourselves!