“Wilderness is not a
luxury buta necessity of the human spirit" -Edward Abbey
Before we moved to Asheville we were often told about the many great hikes around Western North Carolina.
After arriving we realized that this was an understatement. The amount of beautiful trails in the area is overwhelming.
In attempt to take advantage of our environment, we've been trying to go on a different hike every weekend.
At first we enjoyed it because of the novelty, the exploring, and the stunning views. Then after a couple weekends we started to notice something about ourselves. We started to crave hiking. We felt a need to go out on hikes.
Looking back, it is a classic case of classical conditioning. Positive reinforcement. It felt good to be out on the hikes. Both physically and mentally. Worries, stress, and runimations fade away after about 15 minutes into the hike. Physically, it wakes up all the joints and muscles and puts to sleep any soreness or pains.
If you don't believe me, give it a try yourself. If you don't believe yourself, then read this research.
The Benefits of Hiking
- Prevents/Reverses Heart Disease, Hypertension, & Diabetes
- Decreases Anxiety & Depression
- Improves Focus/Decreases ADHD
- Decreases Stress (lowers cortisol, increases vagal activity)
- Increases Parasympathetic Activity
- Lowers Risk of Cancer, Respiratory Disease, Kidney Disease, and Death
- Reduces Rumination & Quiets the Mind
- Reduces Pain
- Reduces Symptoms of Arthritis and Stiffness
- Increases Weight Loss
- Improves Sleep
- Improves Self-Esteem
- Improves Mood
- Improves Cognition
- Improves Creativity & Problem Solving
- Improves Awareness
- Improves Well-Being
Overall there is an overwhelming amount of evidence to support the many health benefits from "Green Walking", "Ecotherapy", and Hiking. Not only will it improve every aspect of your life, but it does so with no side effects. Proving once again, exercise is the best medicine (especially when coupled with nature).
- Schedule "walking meeting" at the local greenway or even down a street with trees (it's good for business - see improved cognition, problem solving and creativity above)
- Start with a duration you'll enjoy. Even if it's just 10 minutes you'll see benefits.
- Take a green walk during your lunch break (TAKE A LUNCH BREAK). It'll clear your mind and give you more energy to finish the workday.
- Go for an after dinner walk with the family. Specifically, walking after a meal will decrease your insulin levels (obesity and diabetes prevention).
- Don't make escuses. It's worth the drive.
- Get a dog, they'll improve your life and make you more motivated to walk
- Use nature as a crutch. Next time you're feeling stressed or overwhelmed find some nature and go for a walk. The worries will likely still be there when you get back, but you might have a better perspective and more resiliance after some ecotherapy.
- Use walking sticks (future post on this)
- Try to be present during the walk. Pay attention to your body and your surroundings. Find the stillness in the woods. Don't listen to music, text, use social media, or talk on the phone.
- Make it a part of your weekend routine.