I love hiking in the countryside. I prefer it to be devoid of people, I love my alone time. Though I usually hike with others.
My love of hiking started when I was young. My grandfather was a lover of nature and he used to drag me on long walks while explaining the world around us. Like many, I rebelled as a teenager and stopped hiking. I was late in my twenties before I start again.
I find that getting a decently long walk on one of the days during the weekend improves my mental capacity for the rest of the week. We have even managed to get up to 10km with my 5 old – which I find great and he appears to love, (though he does want to make sure he has walked more steps than his parents by the end…)
In this article, I’ll be taking a look at 12 very legitimate reasons why you should strive to spend your free time in forests, up mountain or hills, or just on tracks that are natural in the countryside.
Connecting With Nature
Whether you’re journeying through mud and snow to reach the top of a mountain, traversing a long hiking trail over hills and meadows, or just taking a quiet walk in the forest, nature has a lot to offer. It’s calming, beautiful, and authentic – just what you need to become a new person.
Getting away from the mundane activities to connect with nature is one of the best things anyone can do. The dramatic views, magnificent sceneries, vast wilderness, and fresh air are so different from what most of us see and experience every day. (See the Pennine Way)
You can hike thousands of miles away from your hometown, but also in its vicinity. In fact, a lot of people end up surprised once they find out that they don’t need to go far to enjoy beautiful natural sceneries. You don’t have to live near a gorgeous national park to connect with nature – any place can be special.
Disconnecting With Screens & Embracing Freedom
Civilization undoubtedly has a lot of good points, but also some bad ones. While they’re a huge technological achievement, devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, and TVs are as useful as they’re disadvantageous.
First of all, these devices can easily make you feel overwhelmed – they constantly demand one’s attention with a never-ending stream of notifications and updates. Secondly, they can be extremely addictive. It can be really hard to get away from all those gadgets and enjoy the truly important things.
One of the best ways to disconnect from technology is by engaging in a hiking excursion in the great outdoors. Taking a break from modern communications and all those screens for just a couple of days can do you so much good. You will feel a sense of freedom, regain lost balance, and find peace. In fact, you may even fall in love with the simplicity of exploring the wilderness without any gadgets, apps, and notifications.
Reaping Mental Benefits
As we already mentioned in the intro, hiking can be extremely beneficial for one’s mental health. It’s a well-known fact that urbanization brings issues such as depression and stress. One of the easiest ways to counter these is to spend time outdoors, in the wild.
The mental benefits of hiking are numerous. It will boost your self-esteem, energy, mood, and make you feel really good through the release of “feel-good” hormones (endorphins). In addition, hiking is an activity that improves mental health by fighting depression, relieving stress, and improving both your cognitive ability and memory.
With so many advantages brought by trekking, it’s no wonder that a lot of medical practitioners prescribe “ecotherapy”. As the name suggests, this would be something as simple as spending as much time as you can in the great outdoors, and it works great for patients battling depression, stress, anxiety, and insomnia.
Reaping Physical Benefits
Hiking is a great choice for those who want to improve their overall fitness – there’s no doubt about that. Not only will you be able to take in the beautiful scenery, but you’ll also be giving your muscles a workout. It’s an especially beneficial activity for people looking to lose a few pounds, as it also burns excessive calories. (Did I lose weight on the Camino?)
For example, a person weighing 200lbs burns around 550 calories, while an individual weighing 150lbs burns approximately 450 calories per hour of backpacking. Obviously, these numbers go higher during the more demanding hiking adventures.
Furthermore, hiking can improve your balance skills, develop stronger bones (and, in that way, fight arthritis and osteoporosis), lower your blood sugar (reducing the risk of diabetes), and lower the risk of heart disease by decreasing your blood pressure and improving your overall cardiovascular fitness. Not to say that it helps you exercise your legs, quadriceps, and glutes.
Relaxing & Finding the Purpose
For humans, it is completely unnatural to spend so much time sitting in offices on a daily basis. Unfortunately, that is precisely how millions of people around the world make a living – like office workers. The desire to walk through forests, meadows, hills, and mountains isn’t only completely natural, but also necessary.
And there’s a good reason for this – exploring the outdoors helps us relax our minds and bodies by bringing a real sense of composure and inner peace. Furthermore, you can get a real sense of purpose, which is something millions of people around the globe are searching for.
Spending a week in the woods or in any other natural environment away from the city can and will recharge anyone’s batteries. So, it really is no wonder that outdoor recreation is now more popular than ever – it gives you a chance to truly relax, far away from the city noise.
Meeting Like Minded People
Embarking on a hiking adventure provides individuals with a fantastic opportunity to improve both the health and strength of their relationships with other people. It’s a well-known fact that this activity is a wondrous relationship builder and something that will allow you to truly bond with your friends and loved ones.
However, hiking truly shines when it comes to meeting new people – (people talk of a Camino Family). When you’re backpacking on your own for hours on end, there’s always a good chance you’ll run into fellow hikers. These people have similar interests as you and are always ready to make trekking buddies.
Keep in mind that you can always join your local hiking club, Facebook hiking groups, and various environmental organizations. By interacting with the larger hiking community, you’ll have a chance to meet experienced trekkers who share your enthusiasm for exploring the wild. The beauty of the great outdoors makes it easier to develop new friendships and connect with other people.
For as long as they’ve been wandering the wilds, people have been fascinated with wildlife. One of the most obvious benefits of hiking is that this activity provides great opportunities to watch all kinds of animals in their natural habitats.
Keep in mind that seasonality and timing are crucially important when it comes to observing wildlife. For example, hiking during winter means hiking on quieter trails – the less crowded a particular trail is, the more likely you are to bump into animals while walking it. In addition, the chances of successful wildlife observation are quite a lot higher during early mornings and weekday evenings.
Another important thing to mention here is that dangerous wildlife encounters are always possible. Fortunately, these can be avoided by following a couple of simple rules, such as avoiding night hiking in snake and bear-populated territories and staying out of the “personal space” of larger animals, such as moose.
Hiking is one of the cheapest forms of entertainment – it’s as simple as that. Compared to other sports, this activity is easy on the wallet – all you need is a good backpacking backpack and a pair of quality hiking shoes. Of course, you can always get yourself a couple of more advanced hiking gadgets, but these are unnecessary for short beginner hikes.
And when it comes to entertainment, backpacking can be fun – particularly when done in groups. Hiking with kids takes the whole thing to another level since it’s so beneficial for their well-being. It will provide you with an opportunity to make life-long family memories, but also teach your little ones to appreciate nature from an early age.
Besides the fact that it’s one of the most inexpensive hobbies you can have, hiking is also incredibly accessible. Unlike rock climbing, mountain biking, skiing, and similar activities, hiking is not limited to a certain demographic. Older people, who often have to recover for months after a bad accident, don’t have to worry too much about their physical limitations.
Embracing the Uncertainty of the Unknown
The uncertainty of going into the unknown may seem like a recipe for disaster, but it’s actually one of the best things about hiking. In fact, a lot of hiking enthusiasts love this activity precisely because of that – every new trail is a new adventure.
What’s more, backpacking combines exercise with fun, and, as such, is much more engaging than going to the gym. Another thing worth mentioning here is that planning for your next trekking trip can be particularly interesting. Obviously, planning longer hikes takes some time and energy, but it’s definitely a worthwhile investment.
For people who are adequately prepared for difficulties and challenges ahead of them, this uncertainty of the unknown is all but frightening – they even welcome it. For them, fear is simply not an option. And you’re bound to become one of these individuals if you give hiking a try – there’s a pretty good chance you’ll fall in love with it.
Enjoying a Non-Competitive Activity
A lot of outdoor activities, such as, for example, kayaking, are competitive. However, some people just want to spend time in the great outdoors – they want to take in the sights and sounds and aren’t interested in competing with anyone. For such individuals, there’s no better option than hiking.
When you’re traversing miles of hiking trails in the wilderness, you’re doing it at your own pace. There’s no rush. If you’re hiking with a group, other members will do all they can to make you feel comfortable. Nobody is ever left behind – that’s not in the spirit of hiking.
And, as we already mentioned, hiking often means meeting new people on the trail. You’ll be chatting and exchanging experiences with them on the way, not racing them to the finish line.
Participating in Geocaching
Have you ever heard of geocaching? This outdoor recreational activity has come a long way in the last couple of decades. Basically, it’s a treasure-hunting game where the participants have to use their GPS receivers or smartphones to find geocaches – hide-and-seek containers.
It’s pretty easy to see how well hiking and geocaching go together. If none of the benefits listed above can convince you to give hiking a try, this one may do it. A lot of people need just a little bit of motivation to get into their boots, and an exciting treasure-hunting game in the wilds is often the one that does it.
In most cases, a cache will be a simple, waterproof container with a logbook where you can record your exploits. In addition, they often contain “treasures” such as books, CDs, toys, or coins. Geocachers are free to take any of these items, but they’re expected to leave something of their own, too.
It’s a Challenge!
Let’s face it – trekking for miles on end can be a serious challenge. This is particularly true if you’re a bit more enthusiastic about this activity. Wading through cold streams, traversing rugged terrain, and climbing up steep hills is guaranteed to make you sweat.
As we said above, you never know what’s going to happen on your hiking trip. And while this can make some people feel uncomfortable, always keep in mind that this uncertainty is one of hiking’s coolest features. The best place to build your character is the one where anything can happen and which demands your full attention at all times.
Think of yourself as an enthusiastic explorer and take on the challenge. It’s not going to be easy. However, the post-hike energy rush is guaranteed to make you feel grateful to yourself for making that decision. Not to mention the lure of a deep, refreshing sleep waiting for you at the end of the day.
As you can see from above, hiking is undoubtedly a fun and rewarding pastime. The joys, inspirations, and lessons you’ll experience while participating in this activity cannot be matched by anything else – give it a try and you’ll end up hooked in no time! Get more inspiration and motivation by reading 65 walking quotes.
I love hiking, backpacking, and camping. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.