If there is a place in the world where we can improve our overall well-being, that would be the mountains. Hiking, the recreational activity we do when we walk in nature or explore the mountains, possesses immense beneficial effects on our health.
I had my first mountain adventure in November of 2018 when my workmates invited me to join their trip to Sagada, Philippines. That trip was not only a hike full of a spectacular view of mountain ranges, but it was also a mix of whole new experiences. There I had my first bath in a plunge pool. It was also in Sagada where I was first able to sing and play the guitar in front of people, and the first time I ate all-vegetable mountain food.
My first real hiking experience was at the third highest mountain in our country, Mount Pulag. I had to hike it twice to witness the sea of clouds – a remarkable phenomenon when an overcast layer of clouds stays at a leveled height lower than the mountain peaks.
All my experiences from these trips until my last hike answer the question, “Is hiking good for you?” Yes, it is advantageous for you, for me and everybody! Hiking and being in the mountains are excellent to improve our overall well-being, including our body, mind, and soul. These are the compelling reasons I am lured back to the mountains every single time. They are also the reason why I always recommend my friends to hike.
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Let’s start with the most evident and good effects of hiking.
Benefits of Hiking to Our Body
Hiking helps us avoid cardiovascular diseases.
Hiking is a long, vigorous walk and an activity that involves a lot of movement. It aids our hearts to create improved blood flow that prevents the build of fatty deposits in our arteries. By doing so, we lower our chances of having a heart attack. Also by hiking, we raise our heartbeat rate to a moderate level, improving our aerobic fitness and endurance.
We lower our cholesterol level when we hike. It makes us fit too.
As stated by webmd.com, we stimulate enzymes that clear out the bad cholesterol from our blood and blood-vessel walls when we exercise. Hiking is a form of exercise. Thus, the more often we hike, the more cholesterol we expel from our bodies.
Since we move almost every part of our body when we hike, we sweat and burn excess fats from our bodies. We lose weight and attain the body figure everybody desires.
Hiking brings you to places with fresh air.
Mountains are sources of fresh air – which is indisputably good for our health.
In our hikes, we breathe the freshest air in the world. Fresh air does a lot of work in making our lungs cleaner. It helps our lungs to dilate more and release toxins that have been trapped in them.
That’s why whenever I climb the mountains, I breathe enormously as much as I could. I close my eyes and feel the cleanest air I breathe.
Clean air is something I desire in my day-to-day life. I’m literally sick of polluted air! I have allergic rhinitis, and it is a curse that I have to live with. The fresh air that I inhale during a hike is a blessing I am grateful to have.
Our skin glows after hiking
Based on wellspring.edu, doing exercise is a proven way for us to look younger. Hiking increases our blood circulation, helping to flush out the toxins out of our body while getting more oxygen to every cell. It’s a win-win situation for us because our body can function more efficiently, and our skin would be able to regenerate faster – giving us a healthy and beautiful glow.
Hiking improves our immune system
A study featured by wilderness.org states the relationship of hiking to the improvement of our immune system. It says that “after hiking twice a day for three days, participants’ white blood cells had increased by 40% and white blood cells remained 15% higher a month later”.
That’s why after my hikes, I feel even more revitalized.
Our bones improve when we hike.
When we hike, we carry our heavy bags containing the tools and gears we need in camping. Those are our tents, cooking pots, gadgets, sleeping bags, and so much more. Carrying all of the items’ weight on our back is an exercise we implicitly do when we hike. It is a workout that helps us improve our bones.
According to bones.nih.gov, weight-bearing and resistance exercises are the best for our bones. These exercises make us work against gravity and increase our bone density.
A great way to build our lower body is through hiking
Our lower body muscles receive most of the stress and work in the trek by carrying our weight through that lengthy and rugged terrain. During that activity, we damage the fibers of our muscular tissues, mostly in our lower body. They will hurt, but it is actually a good thing because it indicates that our muscles will grow.
Our body automatically repairs the damaged fibers by fusing them, increasing our muscles’ mass and size. When we hike, we improve our glutes, quadriceps, calves, hamstrings, and thighs.
Building my lower body is one of my priorities today as I write this blogpost. It all started during my teenage years when I had legs that looked like a bamboo tree trunk. I envied my classmates’ chunky lower body because they could wear stylish jeans and I could not. I did not have an opportunity to upgrade my outfit back in the days.
Even though I do not care about my pants’ style anymore, growing my lower body still means a lot. That is because I have bow-legs, and I wish to cure it or at least improve it.
Hiking improves our balance.
When we explore the mountains, we walk through countless slippery wooden steps, rocks, and boulders in our trails. Whenever we step upon them, the first thing that comes to our minds is not to slip or fall to avoid injury. That’s when we train our minds to focus on our body movements and improve our balance.
Speaking of balance, I had a problem with that! It’s because I am a bow-legged man, and it is really a challenge for me to use my legs in a hike.
When we explored the Philippine rice terraces, we trekked along their edges, and I was very nervous about it. Stabilizing my whole body was very hard because the center of my weight does not align properly with my legs.
Through that experience, I learned how to align my body’s weight points properly to not fall to the muddy ground full of rice crops. Thank God I was able to finish the hike with no accidents other than missing a step and soaking my shoes in foot-deep mud.
Mental Health Benefits of Hiking
Hiking boosts your mood, relieves stress and anxiety.
Hiking is a form of exercise, and according to webmd.com, when we do exercise, our body releases chemicals called endorphins. They trigger a positive feeling in the body, and they help reduce anxiety and depressive mood.
At the same time, physical activities like hiking prevent our body from producing stress hormones. Thus, hiking should make us feel calmer in most circumstances.
It explains why I feel great and accomplished after finishing the trail even though I’m tired. In fact, there are times when I was so ecstatic that I want to trek more, typically if the track has scenic views and stunning landscapes.
We find peace of mind in the mountains
We can’t deny the stress of working in the city. Some even say that cities are the cradle of depressed people. I can remember the day when I was working in Manila, and even though millions of people surround me, I still felt alone.
It is also the place I felt pressure coming everywhere. It is an overwhelming place full of rat race stories like promotion, getting rich schemes, and many more.
That is why when I had that first trip to the mountains, I instantly fell in love with them. There is nothing much to think about, just the beauty of nature and how wonderful life on Earth could be.
Just imagine waking up in the morning with the sound of the chirping birds and cascading river – it is so soothing that I guarantee it will give you the peace of mind you desire.
The peace I earned from being in the mountains helped me discover a better understanding of life. There, I realized so many good things that would never even come into my mind if I never visited the mountains.
Our creativity is increased through hiking
In an article from zapier.com, the relationship between exercise and creativity was thoroughly explained. It turned out that even a simple activity like walking could increase creativity even if it does not make you happier.
What’s great about hiking is it is an activity that involves both walking and nature indulgence. The endorphins that our body releases when we hike and the peace of mind we earn from being with nature put us in a good mood to think clearly of new ideas, thus making us more creative.
Hiking helps us end our frustrations.
When we are in an urban area, we mostly feel that we are in limited freedom because we always consider other people’s rights and interests – for me, that is a must.
In my case, I always want to sing loudly because that’s how I express my emotions. However, since I live in a compressed compound with my relatives, I’d rather stay shut, so I might not disturb them with my voice. Even though keeping myself zipped-up frustrates me, I think it is better to maintain a healthy relationship with my other family members.
My job was also one of my frustrations too. In the Philippines, most engineering jobs bury the employees with a lot of work with pay that’s only one-eighth of the salary received abroad. Life is so unfair, and it frustrates me.
Even though hiking does not solve our problems, it can serve as our means to end our frustrations.
When we hike, we see incredible sights of nature. They divert our minds from thinking about the problems and situations which we can’t control. Most importantly, it let us admire the beauty that exists in the world. Hiking teaches us to appreciate our blessings and all the lovely things that we already have.
Through these, we gain the ability to let go of the desires we can’t fulfill and discover new things that have more significant effects on our well-being.
Is Hiking Good For Your Soul?
Hiking gives us awe
The different shades of blue of the mountain range, the spectacular ice caps, impressive canyons, and their deep valleys are just some of the undeniably incredible views that fill us with awe when we hike.
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An article from nbcnews.com defines awe as our response to something new or novel that doesn’t fit our understanding of the world.
They also said awe is beneficial to our well-being. It is because when we feel awe, we see ourselves as a small part of something larger. It humbles us.
This process that happens inside the people experiencing awe moves them to engage with their fellows, making them feel more connected to others.
Gordon, the author of the study, said, “The idea is that awe makes us more likely to go along with what we need to do to maintain social harmony.”
Their study about awe accurately described the exact feeling that happened to my fellow hikers and me when we had our first glimpse of the sea of clouds in Mount Pulag. We had endless conversations after seeing it as we rest at the peak and while we head on our way home.
We meet amazing people on our hikes
The best thing about hikers is the common goal that they share. That is to reach the peak and enjoy the view of nature around them. If you join a group of hikers, no one will ever leave you behind. There will always be someone who will accompany you when you need to rest or recover.
Hikers are indeed fantastic people. They are authentic, positive, and strong. Some people climb for their pastime, but most hikers hike because they desire to conquer the challenges from the mountain and the mountains within them.
Like any travelers, hikers are jampacked with life-changing stories or jokes that will surely crack the camp’s night. Sometimes they offer the best pieces of advice that you will ever have in your life.
We learn patience and persistence during our hike
Climbing the mountains is far from easy. The trail could be lengthy and full of challenges. There are uneven pathways, slippery boulders, and sometimes sick weather.
Some mountains even have stiffy steps and endless assault trails. Undeniably, those will exhaust you. Hiking will challenge you physically and mentally.
Above all, it will be your burning desire that will keep you going. When you remember why you tried in the first place, you will never give up, no matter how long it is left there before you reach the peak. You will thrive through patience and persistence because you know your destination is worth it.
Hiking will impart life lessons and continuously teach gratitude.
During the hike, we make mistakes.
In my case, there was one hiking trip when I consumed all my water too early. Then there comes our hike in Batad when I wore the wrong footwear. I also forgot to eat breakfast during our trek to Sagada Marlboro hills.
The mistakes that we make instill lessons that we can use for our next hike and apply in our daily lives.
We can compare our bottled water to our daily allowance; if we expend them all too soon, we won’t have the resources to spend later. The analogy goes the same with skipping our breakfast before hitting the trail and not studying for an exam.
Despite the mistakes that we have made, we tend to be generally grateful in the end. Mainly because the upper hand allowed us to survive and still witness the beauty we yearn to see. We will also feel thankful because our fellow hikers did not leave us alone. Last but not least, it’s because we learned new things that help us become a better version of ourselves.
We redefine our meaning of pain when we hike
Many people do not like hiking because they want to avoid pain or discomfort, and they believe there is no joy when there’s pain. But according to psychologytoday.com, “happiness isn’t the absence of pain. Instead, the secret to living a happier life involves believing you have enough mental strength to embrace your pain and learn from it.”
One of my problems when hiking as a bow-legged person is the pain from my Fibula head. The Fibula is the smaller bone between our knee and ankle. I feel them ache after standing or walking for hours without enough rest. The pain is inevitable, though I manage to reduce it by wearing a knee support.
Enduring the pain while in the mountains was hard, but after I convinced my mind to ignore it, that pain never bothered me again.
Additionally, that pain has made me appreciate the pleasure of arriving at the summit even more. I felt proud of the toughness that I wielded against my condition and how I managed to accomplish the trek to the top.
Hiking brings us to a place where we find ourselves.
The mountains are the ideal spot for reconnecting with ourselves. In nature, we find peace to self-talk intimately with no disturbance. At the same time, we are given a plethora of time to introspect at the long trail to reflect on all our strengths, weaknesses, and choices.
It is vital to introspect because it helps us find our fundamental value as human beings. During introspection, we operate in areas of our strength as we acknowledge our weaknesses. The process paves our way in determining our future, the kind of success that we want, and most importantly, the happiness we are looking for.
In my case, mountains have transformed me to the extent that I could not imagine how my life would be if I did not change.
We can realize the deeper meaning of life and success in our hike
When we hike, it makes sense why it is hard to reach the summit or why climbing a mountain requires a lot of effort, patience, and persistence. That’s because what we see and feel when we get to the summit is worth it.
It teaches us the meaning of life that we can’t just get something that is very valuable instantly. We have to go through different roadblocks, challenges, or processes that sometimes hurt us. But the pain we receive is not useless; we feel it because it transforms us to be a better version of ourselves. And when we become better and better, we get closer and closer to success.
Being a millennial, I grew up in a world of instant gratification. It’s funny how I get inner tantrums when I get little rejections. My immersion in the mountains infused my brain with deep understanding enough to perceive the reason behind every roadblock I face. Now, I can say that I’m the same person I was before, and I’m ready to face bigger challenges to achieve my dreams.
All these benefits of hiking – they make us understand why we must go when mountains call us. The health benefits of hiking involve body, mind, and soul – they are the compelling reasons we should now head onto the mountains and start the expedition.
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