3 Incredible ways hiking will change your life
Anyone who’s spent some time on a trail can attest to the sense of well-being you get when you’ve been outdoors for a while. Here at Maine Huts & Trails, hiking is a way of life as well as a mode of transportation, and making your way from hut to hut has a way of lifting your spirits like nothing else. Besides enjoying the scenery and getting some exercise, hiking can actually improve your life in ways you may not have considered before, and science is now starting to find some interesting correlations between hiking and your health. Here are just a few ways that getting outside for a hike will change your life:
Better Brain Performance:
Give yourself about twenty minutes of hiking, and notice how much more clearly you’re already thinking- that’s the effect of increased oxygen to your brain. Add dense forest to the mix, and now it’s even better; the trees act as a natural air filter, so what you breathe in is more clean and pure. Over time, the effects become longer lasting, and your brain will maintain that clarity for longer. There’s even some evidence that exercising outside can stave off Alzheimer’s disease and other brain degenerating conditions.
Lower Stress Levels:
There are two ways we stress ourselves out that are usually unnecessary: worrying about the past, and worrying about the future. It’s that sweet spot of living in the moment where we find peace. There’s a Japanese term — shirin-yoku — that translates as “bathing in the forest air”. It is widely accepted that this is a necessary part of maintaining a balanced, peaceful life. While at first it may seem as though your mind runs wild without any modern distractions, after a few miles you’ll settle into an easy rhythm of thought. Your mind will relax, and your focus will shift to the natural world around you. Step by step, your worries will dissolve, and you might just discover there’s really not that much to worry about anyway.
The design of the human body is roughly 250,000 years old. It evolved to be the perfect vessel for moving through nature, but we’ve actually spent the last few hundred years doing a great job of staying protected from the elements altogether. While this is a great plan for staying warm and dry, it’s making it really easy for disease and degeneration to get the best of us. A study was recently done that showed evidence of telomeres lengthening up to 10% in people who spent time exercising outside. Telomeres are the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes that affect how quickly cells age, so the longer they are, the longer we live. Hiking is just one way to lengthen telomeres- but research is showing that this is key to living a long, healthy life. Check out the study here: http://www.ucsf.edu/news/2013/09/108886/lifestyle-changes-may-lengthen-telomeres-measure-cell-aging
Now more than ever, we need to seek out and preserve natural spaces. It’s well worth your time to take a few days, or even just a few hours, to get out there and breathe the clean forest air- it’s what you were designed to do. Getting out on the trail is good for the body, mind and soul… and it just might save your life!