Hiking: Benefits For The Mind, Body & Soul

The physical benefits of hiking are a given, but did you know this outdoor activity could do so much for your mind and soul?

June 18, 2019

As obvious as it is, hiking outdoors has many perks including breath-taking views, fresh air, and of course the surrounding natural environment. Other than enjoying the distant birds chirping and feeling the chilly winds blowing, hiking is an outdoor activity that has many benefits to offer your mind, body and soul.

Let’s get physical!

Hiking is a potent cardio workout that:

  • Lowers your risk of heart disease
  • Improves your blood pressure and sugar levels
  • Boosts bone density
  • Builds strength in your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and the muscles in your hips and calves
  • Strengthens your core
  • Improves overall balance
  • Helps control/lose weight
Photo by lucas Favre on Unsplash
Photo by lucas Favre on Unsplash

How To Milk Your Hiking Workout:

Get the most of your hike by applying a couple of these fitness-boosting strategies the next time you’re on a trek:

A Slow Start

If you’re not an avid hiker just yet, but are thinking about having a go at this outdoor activity, then start off with a short hike. Southeast Asian mountains are aplenty and the best thing about this region is there’s a lot to offer in terms of variety. From challenging hikes like Puncak Jaya in Indonesia to treks you could almost do with your eyes closed like Singapore’s Bukit Timah Hill, Southeast Asian mountains have a lot to offer mountaineers with any level of experience. After you’ve got more experience with more peaks, you can gradually work your way up to trails with different kinds of terrain.

Hiking Poles

Not only do hiking poles help with balance and a steady grip when hiking, but when you dig the poles deep into the ground and propel yourself forward, this automatically works out your upper body muscles. The end result is an even stronger cardio workout.

The Hills Are Alive

Starting your journey outdoors en route to summit a peak can sound daunting at first, specially if you have little or no experience. However, note that even a small hill will increase your heart rate and intensify the calorie burn. Research shows that a 5-10% incline can equal a 30-40% increase in the number of calories you’ll be burning. Bukit Tabur in Malaysia and Doi Inthanon in Thailand are climbs fit for beginners that won’t scare you but will also pick up the pace of your heart rate!

Bumpy Climbs

A smooth asphalt road like the trail up Mount Lambak in Malaysia sounds great if it’s your first time, but it’s rather pointless if you’re just going to get comfortable summiting peaks. Try out a few uneven terrains that aren’t too steep in elevation so you can slowly work on your muscles while improving your balance and stability. Equip yourself appropriately for the right terrain with a little help on what footwear you’ll be needing.

Pack Heavy

Even if you’re not embarking on an overnight trek, pack your backpack with extra water. The added weight will help boost your calorie burn. According to research, a 10-15lb backpack can boost your calorie burn by 10-15%, while strengthening your lower back muscles.

Stick To It

More often than not, hiking may only be a once in 2-3months occurrence at most for you. This shouldn’t mean you’ll be starting from square one every time you decide to take a hike. During the months you can’t hit the trails, try power walking, preferably on hilly terrains, whilst carrying various degrees of weight in your backpack. This ought to help keep your hiking skills and fitness levels on track.

Photo by Tobias Mrzyk on Unsplash
Photo by Tobias Mrzyk on Unsplash

Stress-Busters & Mood-Fixers!

The physical benefits of hiking may be somewhat obvious. However, what most people tend to forget is that being a mountaineer has many advantages to your psyche.

By boosting your mood, research goes to show that, hiking has a positive impact when battling the symptoms of stress and anxiety. Being in nature is genetically ingrained in our DNA, but being so busy leading 9-5 lives in the concrete jungle, we tend to forget this important fact. Mother Nature has a way of decreasing the chances of unnecessary pondering on negative thoughts that can lead to anxiety and depression.  

The different sights, sounds and smells of nature can work magic on your jaded mind and soul. A study done by Stanford University in 2015 proved that spending time with nature away from the city soothed a part of the human brain that is directly linked to mental illness.

Photo by Peter Conlan on Unsplash
Photo by Peter Conlan on Unsplash

Quick Tips For A Safe Hike

Bring A Buddy

Man or woman, amateur or advanced, it’s always best to hike with at least one partner, if not more. This specially applies on remote or tough trails like Mount Semeru, where you’ll also be staying overnight. A partner or group can help with navigation and also assist you if you get hurt.

Do Your Research

Before setting your mind on a trail, first do your research and familiarize yourself with the trail, its different terrains, the climate in this particular area and of course how steep of a climb you’re looking at.

If you’re a newbie hoping to take advantage of these many benefits of hiking, the Southeast Asian region is a great place to start. Let us know how your hiking adventures pan out!

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