The Mental and Physical Health Benefits of Hiking

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The outdoors are an excellent place to let yourself unwind and relax. You literally become a better person when you spend regular time contemplating and experiencing nature. In other words, The Mental and Physical Health Benefits of Hiking are sure to help you to live a better life. This article covers a wide range of aspects sure to motivate you to get outdoors this weekend. No excuses this time, it is happening.

Let’s get started.

You Are 50% More Creative if You Spend Time Outdoors

This one was a new one for me. It sure makes me glad I go to UC Santa Cruz, a school and national park rolled into one. You can better think your way out of problems if you hike. You can let your mind explore and rest from stress.

If you are having problems at school or work, even a short hike can let your mind wander and then give you that ‘light bulb moment.’ Aha! Everything clicks now. In fact, you can find support for the claim in the title from a study, showing you the full benefits. Check it out if you don’t believe me.

If you go on a hike, you will support your inner Leonardo Da Vinci.

Reduce Mental Fatigue from Technology

When you disconnect and disable your smart phone, you choose to live in the moment, for a little bit of course. It is a much better life you choose to live.

Technology drains your focus, consuming you into an entirely another world. Constant connection often over stimulates your mind and overwhelms you. Like a computer system undergoing a DDoS attack, you explode when you spend too much time on the internet.

It is stressful just writing that to say the least. You need to break off the iPhone, laptop, tablet, headphones, Samsung, politics, news, and email for a moment. Take a breather and reset. Like a phone, you are recharged by nature.

Whether or not you believe in a higher power, hiking helps you to realize you are part of this world. Each is responsible for all. There is no way around it. You have to make do with what you’ve got.

What Are the Actual Physical Benefits?

Okay, okay, I just talked about some mental health benefits, but what about the physical? This section has got you covered and ready to live a longer life.

Hiking Builds Stronger Muscles and Bones

As we age, muscles lose their vigor and bones weaken. You can reverse the trend on a hike. The muscle thickness of your thigh tells you how long someone will live. You need strong legs to hike. When you go on a trail, the ups and downs break your muscles down a bit. When you go home and sleep, your body regrows those muscles, so they are much stronger for the next time around.

If your body is to handle the rigors of repeated hikes, your bones have to adapt. They change with inputs you place on them. Hills and valleys force them to grow and densen in response to the challenges you give them.

If You Want to Do the High Beam, Hiking Helps with Balance

While gymnastics might be too late for you, that does not mean you still cannot get some balance benefits.

It takes physical skill to keep your wits about you on slippery terrain. The rocky ledge can sweep you off your feet if you aren’t careful. Like in the previous section on muscle and bone strengthening, your body has to adapt to the rigors of moving up the hillside. You are better able to stand on your feet.

Heart Health Goes Up

Nature reduces your stress levels, lowering your beats per minute (BPM) and the strain on your heart. The magic happens at lower BPMs. It’s when you get down and furry with your significant other. (I know it’s bad :)).

Your subconscious mind goes, “okay, life isn’t so bad after all.” We can slow down and appreciate life more. It is your spirit, if you will.

Your cholesterol levels fall, helping your heart to pump smoother. It becomes like a steam engine, pumping like a well oiled machine and acting as a driver for everything else in your body. When you have a healthy heart, everything else falls into place like dominoes.

If You Have Respiratory Problems, Don’t Fret too Much

Hiking has been shown to help your lungs. Because you are in nature, there is more vegetation and fauna to release oxygen. People feel better in heavily oxygenated environments. There is literally more air to breathe.

When I was born, I popped out early, so I was premature or a ‘preemie’ as my Dad likes to affectionately joke. They then put me inside an incubator for a week. Can you guess what was in there? Lots and lots of oxygen. It helped to prepare my body for the lower levels of oxygen in the real world.

In nature though, you get a lot of oxygen. You breathe better.

You Are Bound to Improve Your Sensory Reception

This was a new one for me, but it makes sense in retrospect. Think smelling, seeing, and hearing. You have to watch where you are going if you are to avoid tripping on the rock. If you are to make it through the hike, then you have to know where you are going. There is no way around it, so, not surprisingly, the body adapts. It has to if you want to make it through.

Human nature kicks into gear. Senses we thought were gone to the ages come alive again. The eyes are keener. We realize we have to be quieter so we don’t scare off the birds.

Hiking Fights Depression, Anxiety, and Nervousness

You increase your personal well-being. Life does not seem so bad after all. Hiking shows you the bigger picture.

No matter how small you are, you are a part of this world. You are a steward. There is a place for you. You may not have found it yet, but that does not mean you should give up and stop searching. Take a break for a moment. Collect yourself. And then get back to the journey ahead. No one said life has to be a race.

Hiking Literally Clears Your Mind

If you have cortisol build up in your mind, hiking fills your head with dopamine, reducing the stimulation in your mind.

Think of it this way. In the natural world, there is a lack of stimulation. In the social world, stimulation pervades everything, constantly jostling and competing for your attention. If you move to the former, even for a little bit, you reset your neuron receptors, so you can slow down. It’s like a junkie who got off drugs for a bit and then went back. The hit of the social world is now much higher.

Hiking helps you to achieve inner peace.

Nature is Ingrained in Our DNA

You need to get outside. Humans evolved in nature, so we need it. Or if you like, humans grew up in the Garden of Eden, an idyllic environment where we lived in harmony with nature. We did not need anything because everything we needed was provided for from nature. Life was swell.

Whatever you believe or think, you need nature. There is no way around it. You cannot spend your whole life cooped up inside at the library or in a dark, dank office. It will not end well. Vegetation literally has a calming effect on your mind.

Are You Looking for Some Boots?

With all this information in mind, there is no reason why you shouldn’t go hiking this weekend. You need a break from work, school, family, or whatever ills you. It is essential. Load up the car, pack your bag, and hit the trails this weekend. You need the reprieve.

If you want to hit the trail this weekend, then you are going to need boots. There is no way around it. Bare feet are nice, but they can only do so much. You should check out a previous article, The Best Men’s Lightweight Waterproof Hiking Boots of 2019 (do not fret if it is 2025 and this article still reads 2019; I update the ‘best of’ articles on an annual basis :)). You deserve better protection for your feet.

==> Click Here to Find the Perfect Hiking Boots for You <==

If you have any thoughts, questions, or think I missed anything, do not hesitate to comment below and please share the article. Thank you so much and I hope you make it a great day!

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4 Comments on “The Mental and Physical Health Benefits of Hiking”

  1. Hi Alex, this was a nice reminder of how much and why I love hiking. If only my weather would cooperate a little more. I avoid muddy or slippery trails.

    Your bit about muscles breaking down and regrowing is new to me. I just don’t think about muscles much, I guess. I love your pictures!

    Thanks, Theresa

    1. I am glad to hear you enjoyed the article Theresa. It is difficult to hike when the weather works against you. I am glad to know you learned something new.

      Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  2. Hi Alex, now you make me want to load up my backpack and head to the hills! I used to do quite a bit of hiking a few years back but I haven’t been for a while now. I guess maybe it’s time to look at getting some new gear and heading back out. Not only does it beat going to the gym, it definitely is soothing to the soul and mind as well!

    I appreciate the info on the different types of hiking boots. I really like the Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX ones. I think I need to give these a try and get back on the trails soon! Thanks for the motivation!

    1. I am glad to hear this article has motivated you. It is okay if you haven’t gone hiking in a while. Life happens. You are right that hiking sure beats going to the gym :).

      It is good to know you found my previous article, The Best Men’s Lightweight Waterproof Hiking Boots of 2019. If you are looking for excellent boots, then you are sure to find what you are looking for. The Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX is an excellent option to consider.

      Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

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