The Science of Hiking: Discover the Benefits of Nature

Have you ever gone on a hike in nature after having a long, stressful day? You might notice your mood quickly elevates and overall, you just feel better. The stress of your day is gone and you feel the tension in your chest release; you can even breathe easier. Nature truly does have some incredible health benefits and when you combine that with elevating your heart rate with a good hike, the perks increase tremendously! Here are just some of the many benefits of spending time in nature. Benefits from Hiking Hiking is a form of exercise, which means it has a ton of health benefits. By hiking up some hills, you are getting a good cardiovascular workout, which forces your heart to work harder and ultimately helps keep it strong and healthy. Since trails are often bumpy and uneven, you are also engaging your core muscles to help you stay balanced - you don’t get this type of movement by walking or running, so it incorporates muscles you don’t use as often and gives you more of a full body workout. Fresh Air Breathing in fresh air has been shown to help you digest food more effectively, strengthen your immune system, reduce blood pressure, and ultimately leads to a healthier life. By breathing in fresh air, you are also helping the airways of your lungs to dilate more fully, which improves the cleansing action of your lungs and helps your body get rid of airborne toxins that we breathe in daily. Stress Reducing Not only do we get the health benefits from the fresh air that trees produce, but just looking at trees has proven to lower blood pressure and the stress-related hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Stress actually contributes to high blood pressure and heart disease, so keeping stress levels low is important for your overall health. Next time you’re feeling stressed out, get outside to breathe in the fresh air and look at some trees. You’ll quickly notice your worries aren’t as prominent and the sense of peace that comes over you is well worth the exercise. Immune Boosting Spending time in nature with trees is incredibly beneficial for our health. By breathing in fresh air, we take in phytoncides, which are airborne chemicals that plants give off. These chemicals have antibacterial and antifungal qualities, which help boost our immune systems and protect us from disease. Increased Focus These days so many of us are constantly juggling our list of to dos. Between taking care of ourselves, our family, our job, our bills, we are focusing on so many things at any given moment. When you get outside and hang out in nature, it actually helps quiet those distractions so you can focus on what you need to. Being in nature gives the cognitive portion of our brain a break, which allows us to focus better and renew our ability to be patient. So next time you are suffering from overwhelm, get outside and take a hike to feel better and help improve your ability to focus on what you need to. Increase Bone Density Regular exercise is important for treating and preventing osteoporosis, a disease in which the density and quality of bones is reduced, which makes your bones more susceptible to fractures. In order to maintain strong, healthy bones, you should perform weight-bearing exercises that require you to work against gravity. Hiking is an incredible weight-bearing exercise because you are carrying your own weight up and down hills, which will help keep your bones strong and healthy. Quicker recovery Studies have shown that patients recover from surgery faster and better when they have a room with a view of nature. Being in the hospital can cause added stress and by being able to see trees from their room, patients had shorter postoperative stays, took fewer painkillers, and had slightly fewer complications after surgery when you compare them to patients with no view from their hospital room. We hope this article inspired you to take your exercise outdoors and enjoy your beautiful surroundings. Hiking and spending time in nature has tremendous health benefits and it just makes us feel better, happier, and more energized. Living in San Diego means we have a ton of local trails to hike that vary from beginner to difficult levels, so people of all ages and athletic abilities can find a hike that is perfect for them. To find local trails near you, we recommend checking out AllTrails. Happy hiking, friends!