Transformative Exercise: Why You Should Take a Hike

Everyone seems to put “hiking” as a hobby on their dating and personal profiles, but why is it so common? Maybe it seems like a symptom of the “hippie” attitudes pervading food and exercise culture the past few decades, but there are a huge list of reasons that myself and so many others are taking to the trails, beaches, forests, mountains, and national parks to experience hiking firsthand. Find one or several reasons for hiking that I’ve listed below and use the motivation to help transform your own life in a positive way.

Combating Everyday Stress

With the weight of work, family, relationship, and friend obligations and responsibilities weighing heavy on your back every day, it’s important to find a way to relax. In addition to meditation and ASMR, I find hiking to be one of my favorite ways to let go of my stress. I’ll pull up a fantastic, introspective playlist on Spotify, pop on some headphones and walk for at least an hour in my park of choice. I’ll try to spot birds, chipmunks, sometimes even wild turkeys and watch them make their way through the wilderness. In the moment, I feel no stress at all.

Make Yourself Happier

As a lifelong sufferer of depression, I’ve always had to get creative to keep my mind off of negative thought loops. Hiking gives me a sense of peace and accomplishment that only exercise in the outdoors can give you. Like a runner after their daily jog, there’s a certain natural high associated with hiking and exercise in general that makes you feel good. You’ve completed a physical task for the day. You’ve seen beautiful trees, quiet streams, and the serene simplicity of nature. It helps to get away from your desk and out from under the precipice of your indoors existence and find something that makes you smile.

Improve Your Physical Health and Fitness

As someone who lived morbidly obese for most of their teenage and college life, I fully understand the need for physical health and fitness. Both sides of my family run rampant with diabetes and it’s a constant struggle to stay within the confines of the weight I’ve lost. Hiking was a big part of my 150 pound weight loss journey. It was the first exercise I started doing and I did it every day. An hour of hiking a day can burn 300-1,000 calories depending on your speed and intensity and it makes you feel great. That endorphin high that comes with physical exertion in this manner is great for your overall health. You’re getting a great, practical cardio workout and you’re enjoying yourself instead of walking on a treadmill in a smelly gym. It’s my preferred method of cardiovascular exercise.

Appreciate the Details in Life

People spend so much time eating quickly without enjoying it fully, rushing to work, rushing home, sitting in front of the television and whiling away their free hours with mindlessness. Hiking lends itself incredibly well to the opposite: mindfulness. Take the time to appreciate the details. Stop the swirling thoughts in your head from bleeding minutes into hours. You’re missing so much of the good stuff. The beauty is in the details. Take the time to watch an animal in the wild or examine a bird or flowers or trees. Notice the fish and tadpoles gliding through the creek alongside you. Pick up a rock that looks cool. There’s so much intricacy and unfathomably beautiful form in the world that you’ll miss if you’re not looking hard enough.

Feed Your Need to Explore

When you’re a child, you’re always exploring. Every aspect of the world that you come in contact with is a new experience. You’re tasting, hearing, seeing, feeling, and smelling things that are new and foreign to you and you soak up all this sensory information like a sponge. As you get older, you fall into routine. You stop doing things that are outside the norm. You fall victim to mundaneness and mediocrity. Don’t fall into this trap. Go outside and hike a trail that you’ve never walked before. Take a path that you never considered. That sense of exploration and finding new things is invaluable to the intellectual curiosity of every human being.

Take in Some Breathtaking Views

Just like the aforementioned intricate details, it’s important to take a look at the big picture as well. Hike to the top of a large hill, cliff face or mountain and take a look at the incredible views. It makes you feel small and insignificant to see the majestic expanse of space sprawling out before you. Just like outer space and the deep ocean, it’s important to understand our place in the world. It puts our small daily woes into perspective to see how large existence really can be.

Meet New People

When you’re out on the trail, it isn’t just about solitude either. If your chosen hike is at a popular spot, chances are you’ll pass by several other hikers or groups of hikers. Whether it’s a casual “Hello” or a full-blown conversation, it’s a chance to meet other people, if you’re in the mood for socializing. Happiness is best when shared, so take the opportunity to spread a some good vibes to your fellow humans. You may even make friends.

Get Some Sun

Vitamin D is integral to the regulation of calcium and phosphorus absorption and research shows it plays a role in the prevention of diseases like cancer, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis. Beyond its clinical applications, sun just feels good. The warmth of its rays raining down on you from above, cluttered slightly by trees and shrubbery feels natural and right. Just don’t forget to wear your sunscreen.

Challenge Yourself

It’s important to set achievable goals for yourself and accomplish them. It leads to a sense of fulfillment and purpose and gives your life a semblance of meaning. Hiking is a great way to challenge yourself and create goals. Maybe increase your distance hiked in the same amount of time by half a mile. Maybe conquer a hill that was too steep for you in the past. Try to go further than you’ve ever gone without taking a break. Set goals, achieve goals, and feel better about yourself.

Feel Alive

The most important part of hiking, though, is simply feeling alive. Early man was always outside and, due to technology and our reliance on creature comforts, we’ve lost that innate part of the human experience. Nothing makes me feel more at one with the world than hiking through a new territory and seeing what the earth really looks like beyond the confines of my front door. We’re not just vessels for work, school, and consumption. We’re inquisitive animals and we need to be out in the fresh air to feel alive.

I hope this list has given you some insight into why hiking is an important part of my life. Hopefully, I’ll see you on the trails!