Benefits of Hiking? The Proof Is In The Pudding

There’s an old saying which means that to truly understand and appreciate something, you have to try it. The proof is in the pudding is a metaphor for life.

The art of hiking must be experienced to be appreciated, as the deeply personal benefits include aspects of physical, mental, and social health.

yellowstone boundary line
Carmen at the Yellowstone National Park Boundary; Wild West Trail 2018.

If you hike, you will live a longer, healthier, and fuller life. You will gain a sense of what is truly important in a way that would be hard to learn any other way. Hiking, especially long distance or thru-hiking,  gives you added perspective on your particular place in time and space. 

Below is a brief overview of what’s possible if you decide to get off your butt and go for a walk.

Exercise for Healthy Skin 

In a previous article, Hiking Away Your Psoriasis, I talked about how my psoriasis (and accompanying psoriatic arthritis) went into complete remission after less than two weeks on the Wild West Trail.

On a hike you’ll have increased blood flow throughout your body, and this is excellent for the health of your skin (including autoimmune conditions which affect the skin).

Aside from providing oxygen, more blood flow nourishes healthy skin cells and carries away waste products. You will not only look younger if you hike, you will BE younger.

Cardiovascular Endurance

  • You’ll burn calories and fat.
  • Hiking will strengthen your heart, supporting stronger blood flow and circulation.
  • Your lung capacity will increase, which will make hiking – and all sorts of physical activities –  easier over time.
  • Better cardiovascular health helps reduce your risk of heart attack, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and some forms of cancer.

Social Benefits of Exercise 

One of the best parts about hiking is that it can be done with friends! Even though you are on your own physical and mental journey, having someone to share the ‘ups and downs’ with makes a huge positive difference along the way.

Hiking, without many of the distractions of society, provides an excellent opportunity to have honest and nuanced conversations. You will strengthen relationships and create lasting memories.

Also, what the heck is the point of anything if you can’t share it with someone?

Exercise and Mental Health

Hiking is a great way to manage stress and mental health.

Stress plays a part in problems such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, and anxiety – which is pretty all-encompassing.

A long hike is a deeply cathartic experience; as you log more time on the trail you’ll notice your stress levels dissipating at a proportional rate. Your mental health is directly connected to your physical well being. As your mood improves so will your life!

backpacking trails in idaho
Friend of the WWT, Shaun, hiking the Dry Creek/Shingle Creek Loop near Boise Idaho.

Fountain of Youth

Walking, and hiking in particular, is an excellent way to strengthen your body and retain youth.

It’s been said that “if you rest, you rust,” meaning: if you stop moving for long enough, you’ll stop being able to move at all.

Hiking, with the added pack weight and generally uneven/steep terrain, is a total body workout that will challenge you and force you to become stronger than you’ve ever been before.

In this sense, the Fountain of Youth isn’t a physical destination, but rather a way of life that prolongs our time being alive and well.

To See The World In a Grain of Sand

As you begin to explore the outdoors, you’ll begin to appreciate the little things and expand your view of the world.

There is much in the world to discover, and for all its immense beauty it is also a harsh and dangerous place; this duality of beauty and pain lies at the heart of our existence.

The vast majority of “nature” media that you consume has been produced from the side of a road with a fancy zoom lens. Many of these “iconic” places that you’ve seen on Instagram have become over-saturated tourist traps.

If you are willing and able to hike, you’ll be able to see parts of this world that you can only dream of – because they’ve never been captured before. Walking even a mile or two away from the road, you’ll begin to understand that there is much more out there then what you have already seen on popular media.

There’s so much to explore, it’s time to get moving!

Author: @carmenrao | In the comments below, tell us about the personal benefits you have experienced from hiking.

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