Ahh, the love of hiking. Although I was born in California, I spent eight years tucked away in the Rockies – Driggs, Idaho and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in fact. In my time there, I must have hiked hundreds of miles. Not only was I a boy scout (I’m proud!), but I was also a student at NOLS, the National Outdoor Leadership School.
Surrounded by some of the top professionals in one of the most beautiful areas, I was one with nature, and hiking was one of my favorite activities to engage in. Now that I’m older, I can look back and reflect on just how healthy those experiences were. Even better, now I’m able to sit back and research the health benefits.
So, why go hiking?
Number 1. Heart and Lungs
I’m not a huge quoter of movies, but the first rule of Zombie Land is cardio. Okay, so there aren’t zombies, but the rule is still a good one (even if it is a bit…well, cheesy). Hiking, especially in high altitudes, is going to help develop your cardiovascular (and respiratory) system – trust me.
Before I moved to the Rockies, I had bad asthma – in fact, my parents would have to hold me above a boiling pot of water every night to help clear my throat and nasal cavities (revealing, I know). After just a year, though, my asthma started receding and I began to be able to go outside and play with other kids, a luxury I had never quite experienced.
A huge part of this was hiking. We would walk up Snow King, a local ski hill, in the summer and winter. We hiked around and through the Snake River. We’d also hike to Table Top, right at the base of the Grand Tetons. Well, we basically hiked everywhere, and my heart and lungs benefited.
Number 2. Get Fit
While my respiratory and cardiovascular system cleared its way, my muscles also grew. Hiking is, for all intents a purposes, an exercise (obviously). That said, when you get your hike on, you’re making your body fit. You’ll work out your quads, hamstrings, and calfs. You’ll also work out your flexor muscles throughout your legs.
Number 3. Clear Your Head
On top of getting your body in better shape, hiking is a great way to train yourself mentally as well. Life is stressful – no doubt. And, simply (and honestly) put, everyone needs a release. Some people choose drugs, alcohol, or other destructive methods like using or abusing others. Being the good people we are, however, it’s best to avoid those strategies.
Hiking, then, is a great alternative. However, that’s not to limit ourselves to one “out”. I’m a huge fan of mixing and matching positive release strategies. Currently, I exercise regularly, play music, and meditate. I occasionally put my body in turbulence (roughly 2 drinks a week), but besides that, I’m free and clear of other chemicals or mental influences. Clean body clean mind, right? Hiking helps with that!
Number 4. Connect with Loved Ones
Although I felt many benefits to hiking in the Rockies, probably the best part was spending time with family, friends, and new people on every trip. Going from the clutter and bustle of California to the relaxed environment of Idaho and Wyoming was a new flavor that was desperately needed.
So, take it from me – someone who has literally had their life changed by such a simple act – go on a hike. Heck, do some yoga, go on a run, or do ANY psychical activity. Whatever fits your fancy, do it and do it well.
Have any experiences of your own? I’d love to hear them!