5 ways you can benefit from hiking

Posted May 14, 2016

Do you know about the benefits of exercise beyond physical health? This post explains 5 reasons taking a hike can help your mental state as well. (Deseret Photo)

When many people think about the benefits of going on a hike, they focus on burning calories and improving physical health. However, there are a lot of benefits for your mental well-being as well.

Here are five reasons you should get outdoors and go on a hike, based on the benefits of exercise.

Improve mood

If you’re in need of a little emotional lift, taking a hike can be a helpful solution. Even a quick gym workout or 30-minute walk can help stimulate chemicals in the brain that help you feel happier and more relaxed.

Long-term exercise can also boost your muscle strength and endurance, making physical activities easier and improving your body’s oxygen and nutrient delivery. The healthier you feel, the more energy you have to do daily tasks and the better your mood will be.

Reduce depression

Because exercise is a mood-altering behavior, many doctors recommend it for people who suffer from depression. Endorphins released during exercise bring on feelings of happiness and even euphoria, which can help individuals with all levels of depression.

In some cases, exercise has been shown to be just as effective at treating depression as antidepressant pills, even if you’re not the fitness type.

Soothe anxiety

The same chemicals released during exercise that help improve mood and treat depression can also do wonders for people with anxiety issues. Research has shown that regular exercise can decrease tension, improve sleep, and improve mood.

Moderate-to-high intensity aerobic exercise can reduce a person’s sensitivity to anxiety, while exercise of any kind can help people with anxiety disorders find calm.

Psychological studies of the benefits of exercise have shown that exercise can relieve feelings of anxiety for several hours, and that a 10-minute walk or a 45- minute workout would have similar effects.

Increase self-esteem

Using hiking to improve your mood can also leave you feeling better about yourself and your appearance. Many people suffer from self-esteem issues related to their body, which can often be alleviated through participating in healthy activities like exercise.

The more you exercise, the more your self confidence can grow, and in turn, improve your overall self esteem. While we are focusing on hiking (exercising outdoors,) a wide variety of sports can help improve self esteem, such as yoga and team sports.

The Oregon Research Institute measured the psychological effects of Tai Chi, and found that participants had a more positive mental outlook, as well as increased confidence, self-esteem and life satisfaction.

Improve treatment outcomes

For someone suffering from drug addiction or substance abuse issues, activities such as taking a hike can help improve overall treatment outcomes. The brain releases a reward chemical called dopamine in response to any kind of pleasure, including drugs, alcohol, sex, food and exercise. One of the ways that people develop addiction is that they become dependent on the dopamine release.

Exercise can help people who are addicted to more harmful substances or behaviors by distracting them from the drugs or alcohol and helping them prioritize exercise over their addictions. Since alcohol abuse can disrupt bodily processes such as circadian rhythms, exercise has the added benefit of helping addicts fall asleep and stay asleep easier.

Kitt Wakeley is a partner at Vizown, a women's treatment center in Oklahoma. He is extremely passionate and determined to help women overcome their addictions and live a clean, wholesome, happy life.


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