How much time (on average) do you spend looking at a shiny, intelligent object that can fit in the palm of your hand? Or, alternately, at its larger cousin, the computer screen? And finally, the supreme ruler of this pixelated world, the TV?
Chances are that you are also sitting while you are engaging in said screen time, which means your body is stuck in a loop that it was never built for.
We as humans were designed to move, and millennia of evolution have not changed much about that fact. All we have done is put a lot of effort into finding ways to move less, take our bodies off assembly lines and off the fields, and firmly sat our bottoms down in swivel chairs, using our brains more than our brawn.
And while the shift from factory floors to high-rise offices has certainly improved our wealth, our quality of life, even our entire civilization, it may have also delivered a decisive blow to humanity as a species.
Sitting and staring at a screen for extended, repetitive, and continuous periods of time leads to headaches, text neck, and screen addiction; ultimately, our health, wellbeing, and our very lives are threatened.
Not surprisingly, the antidote to office jobs hides in that exact space we have tried so hard to distance from nature.
Walking is one of the best ways to get yourself away from the modern-day productivity and creativity killers, and its slightly bigger brother hiking can play a crucial part in helping you live your best life.
Of course, the irony is that you are now staring at a screen reading about how hiking can help you do just that. So, all I can hope is that once you’ve read everything we have to say about the subject, you will put the phone down, or at least start googling local hiking routes.
Hiking is good for your body
There are around seven million articles you can read online about the actual physical benefits of hiking.
- It will lower your blood pressure.
- It will improve your cardiovascular health.
- It will improve your pulmonary health.
- It will help you lose weight.
- It will help you become stronger.
- It helps lower cholesterol levels.
- It improves bone density.
- It will reduce the risk of cancer, stroke, heart attack, and other scary diseases we all fear.
That list alone should be motivation enough to get you out and about in no time. But let’s add a bit more weight to it, shall we?
Hiking manages your mind
Now that you have started hiking (lets for a second imagine you have), and you are experiencing all of these benefits, some additional wonderful things are happening to your body.
You have lost some weight, which means you feel less heavy, you are more likely to engage in any kind of activity you previously found tiring, and you are generally more engaged with your life.
You are sleeping better, which instantly means your waking hours have improved.
You are enjoying all the benefits of improved hormonal activity – you are no longer slow, sluggish and somber. You are happier if for no other reason than the good work all that endorphin is doing to your brain.
Science has long since established that any kind of physical activity is great for improving your overall mental health. Whether you suffer from anxiety, depression, or simply find your day to day life just a bit unsettling, being physically active will help you cope better.
As you start to experience all of these charming benefits of hiking, you will become the driving force in your own life, rather than the passive passenger you once used to be.
Hiking sparks your curiosity
As you are walking these hills, you will come across a fork in the road. You will undoubtedly choose only one of them, but you might start to wonder where the one you didn’t choose leads.
And as you keep walking, and your mind is no longer burdened by all the stuff you are stuffing into it at home (when do I need to leave for work, how can I get this stain out of my shirt, how much longer till the kettle boils, am I wearing mismatched socks?) you will begin to wonder about the world around you in a new way.
What’s behind that hill? Let’s go and take a look.
And once you get there, you might want to take a peek behind another hill too.
And, once you are back in civilization, and you find yourself in rush hour, stuck in an endless sea of cars heading downtown, you might find yourself viewing your own life like you did that hill. What if I try this, and do that? How can I change what I’m already doing for the better? Is there a road I have not yet considered?
Curiosity may have once killed the cat, but it is a wonderful skill to have. How will you ever know you are good at something if you have never tried it?
Company is always better
Every hiker will tell you that there is a time for hiking in pairs and groups and a time for silence.
More importantly, the two are not mutually exclusive.
If you are a first-time hiker and don’t know what to expect, you may want to take on the challenge with someone else. There are countless hiking groups and clubs you can join, and you don’t have to be a social butterfly to enjoy these outings.
Striking up a conversation with someone who may have a completely different view on life will not only open your mind, but there is also the added benefit of just talking to someone.
We are social beings, after all, and we often crave company. A group of hikers out there on the trail shares in a camaraderie that can never be found among a group of people walking down 5th Avenue.
You are, after all, each other’s only tie to civilization.
If you are not a sociable person, on the other hand, don’t think you need to spend hours talking. Walking with someone in complete silence, when all you can hear is the crickets and the occasional bird wing, is certainly its own kind of peace.
The sunsets are also always better
We’ve talked a lot here about intangible things – feeling better, living a better life, being a healthier person, being more motivated, and so on.
However, there is a simple underlying truth here that I am semi-reluctant to share.
Yes, hiking is great for your body and mind; science and I will never disagree about that.
What all the science in the world can’t tell you, or explain, or fathom, is the feeling that rushes through you when you are standing there on top of the highest hill you could get your feet on, staring into the sun as it dips behind a lower one.
No new-age “staring at the sun” BS here. All I’m saying is that you have to experience the sweet sense of exhaustion, the intense smell of nature, and the complete sound of silence you can only find at the top of a hill as the sun is setting, to know what I am talking about.
It’s like landing that dream girl. Or that dream job. Or getting to the bakery just as they are taking the freshest and most scrumptious loaf out of the oven.
Or the first peach you try in early summer. Or that perfect lick of chocolate ice cream on the last day of summer.
You know what I mean. Happiness, bliss, peace, whatever word you want to use here.
And if you are still looking for a reason
Let’s just put it bluntly – hiking will improve your life. Period.
There are bunches of reasons you can look for to justify this statement.
And some of them have been clearly stated or subtly referred to in this article.
But no amount of science, motivational, and quasi-motivational speeches will actually lend you a hand, help you get up, tie your laces for you and get you out the door. Only you can do that.
Now that you know that the worst-case scenario is that you will get a bit dirty, a bit dusty, a bit sweaty and nurse a few blisters, why not do it?
I could sit here all day and talk to you about why you should start hiking.
But instead, I’m going to practice what I preach, and put my own shoes on.
I’ll see you out there.