Hiking has so much to offer. While you might already be aware of some of the benefits associated with hiking itself, did you know that hiking in the forest specifically has a whole host of benefits? So next time you're low or feeling stuck, lace up your hiking boots and head on out!
Focus and Concentration
Hiking can help improve focus and concentration. In today's world, it's more important than ever to have strong focus and concentration skills. With constant distractions coming at us from all angles, it can be difficult to stay on task and get things done. Spending time in nature can help to improve focus and concentration. While there are many different theories as to why this is the case, one popular theory is that nature provides us with a much-needed reprieve from all of the stimulation we experience on a daily basis. If you find yourself having trouble staying focused at work or home, go for a hike in the forest - it just might help!
There is something wonderful about using movement to increase productivity. A hike through the forest or woods can help settle a scattered mind which primes you for a productive time ahead. I find my morning walk really helps me prepare for the day. I work through yesterday's problems and formulate a strategy for a good day ahead. Using voice-notes helps me keep track of decisions I make during this time, so that when I sit down to work, I have things clearly mapped out.
Hiking is a wonderful way to crank up the creativity. I do a lot of creative brainstorming when I am out hiking. The rhythmic nature hiking gives your mind space to think expansive thoughts. And creative ideas form far more easily without the distractions of our modern lives. What I love particularly about forest hiking, is that it seems to kindle imagination. Perhaps it has something to do with the atmosphere, the closeness of the trees and undergrowth. And there is something about the colour green that makes my heart sing. Some of my best ideas have come from forest hiking. So give yourself permission to do some creative thinking on your next hike through the forest.
Do you find yourself feeling tired all the time? If so, you're not alone - fatigue is an extremely common problem that affects people of all ages. However, one simple solution for fatigue is spending time outdoors! Spending time outside can help boost energy levels by exposing us to natural light and fresh air. Hiking is an aerobic activity which brings more oxygen and fuel to our bodies. The interesting thing about hiking in the forest is that the forest floor will have roots and other obstacles. This makes the walk a bit more of an aerobic challenge, as the stop start nature of walking on an uneven terrain requires more from you than walking on a smooth service. Aerobic exercise increases the mitochondria in your cells which makes them far more efficient at converting fuel into energy (make sure also that you keep hydrated so all this work at a cellular level is supported). So if you're feeling low on energy, going for a hike in the forest could actually give you the boost you need!
Muscle and Bone Strength
Any load bearing exercise helps strengthen your muscular-skeletal system. Walking is good as the weight of your body on your legs helps them strengthen. Hiking through the forest on uneven terrain means your body needs to adapt and flex. This helps to keep you toned and strong. One word of caution for those of us with joint, tendon or ligament damage: consider using hiking poles to both stabilise your gait and reduce the downward pressure on your legs.
Hiking can improve heart health. Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death worldwide - but fortunately, there are plenty of things we can do to reduce our risk of developing heart disease. Studies have shown that regular physical activity like hiking can lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, and reduce stress levels - all of which are major risk factors for heart disease. So if you're looking for a way to keep your heart healthy, hiking is a great option!
There are two schools of thought about exercising and its impact on your sleep. On the one hand, endorphins can make your brain activity increase which makes it difficult for some people to fall asleep if they exercise just before bedtime. On the other hand, this kind of exercise counteracts the stress hormones that are an obstacle to a solid night's sleep. Experts at John Hopkins advise exercising 1-2 hours before bed to give the endorphins time to disperse and your body time to wind down and prepare for a perfect night's sleep.
Anxiety and Depression
Hiking can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. Anxiety and depression are both extremely common mental health disorders that affect millions of people worldwide. And while there are many different treatment options available for anxiety and depression, one treatment option that is often overlooked is spending time in nature. Numerous studies have shown that spending time outside can help to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression by reducing stress levels and increasing feelings of happiness and well-being. So if you're struggling with anxiety or depression, heading out for a hike in the forest might be just what you need!
Forest bathing can help reduce stress levels and improve moods
If you've never heard of forest bathing before, don't worry - you're not alone. Forest bathing, sometimes also called Shinrin-yoku, is a Japanese therapeutic practice that involves spending time in nature, specifically in the forest. And while it might sound like something that's too good to be true, science backs up the claim that spending time in nature can help to reduce stress levels and improve moods. So if you're looking for a way to de-stress, hiking in the forest is a great option!
If this article has inspired you to spring into action and give forest hiking a go, you might find this article helpful when you prepare for your first forest hike.