Let’s face it; stress is an inevitable part of life. Luckily there is a simple solution that can drastically help: hiking. Hiking relieves stress. Yes, that’s right, something as simple as hiking can relieve the stressors that you might be facing in the outside world. Relationships, employment, money woes, children: there are a plethora of aspects in one’s life that can at any time add a little or lot of stress. Luckily hiking can help. Hiking is one of the most effective methods for combating stress due to increased cardiovascular activity, being immersed in a naturally calming environment, and the ability to relax for an extended period of time away from the hustle and bustle of our busy lives.
You may find yourself wondering, how exactly does hiking relieve stress? I’ve found hiking relieves stress in five different ways: relaxing the mind, increasing endorphins, jogging the brain, disconnecting, and boosting energy.
5 Ways Hiking Relieves Stress
- Relaxing Your Mind: If you are anything like me, when you are faced with stress, your mind begins to race and you start to overthink and overanalyze every small detail. One of the strongest ways hiking relieves stress is through relaxation. Although hiking requires effort and endurance, it can help significantly in promoting relaxation through a direct experience of nature. The American Public Health Association has confirmed just being surrounded by nature is enough to markedly increase relaxation, which helps relieve stress (source). Any hike will undoubtedly lead you into nature where you can fully disassociate the stress of everyday life and focus on the beautiful surroundings before you.
- Increasing Endorphins: Hiking relieves stress through its aerobic, cardiovascular exercise component. Exercising of any kind, especially on a consistent and frequent basis, leads to increased levels of endorphins, norepinephrine, and a stronger internal system of stress-management – all of which are believed to reduce stress significantly. Hiking on a weekly or biweekly level will aid in these natural chemical mechanisms which boost happiness and positive feelings.
- Jogging the Brain: Hiking reduces stress by allowing the freedom to think without distraction. Some hikers may opt to spend the majority of their time fully taking in the sounds and scenery of the majestic nature around them, while others prefer to take advantage of that rare moment of silence to think deeply on issues that are affecting their lives. The combination of aerobic exercise and deep thinking aids with strengthening the body’s internal system of stress management, far more powerfully than with just exercise alone. An added bonus is that your endorphins will be higher, allowing positive thoughts to sneak through rather than negative ones.
- Disconnecting: If you had to ask someone what is their favorite part about hiking some may say the feeling of being disconnected. Hiking relieves stress by allowing us to fully disconnect from everything that ties us down in our normal lives: our hectic work schedules, children, family, problems, pets, cell phones, internet, social media sites, and gossip. Fully disconnecting can be rewarding in many aspects, namely stress. Leave behind your worries and troubles at the door when you set out to hike and you will be pleasantly rewarded.
- Boost Your Energy: Do you often feel fatigued and as though you are almost running on an empty tank most of the time? According to a 2008 study, individuals with sedentary lifestyles experienced a significant boost in energy (20 percent) and a 65 percent reduction in fatigue after following exercise programs centered around walking (source). Something as simple as getting up off the couch on a Sunday and taking a simple hike nearby could be the key to relieving stress! Find a good hiking blog, talk with your friends, search a few pictures on Instagram, do whatever it takes to find your next source of hiking inspiration the next time you feel stress taking over your life. The minimal risk will yield a far greater reward.