Hiking is not just a recreational activity.
It’s more than that. For some it’s a unique chance to get in touch with the nature, to make a habit of further improving your physical, even more your mental state.
For some it’s the fun and the social aspect of it that make it so appealing. For some it’s even an idea. For me it’s one of the best ways to lead a healthy lifestyle.
Origins of hiking
It started as a way to explore and enjoy the nature, the surroundings. And lacking the resources and ways to do that, people turned to something that made the most sense – walking.
The actual origins are something that we will not write about here today. Rather than that we will tell you about an interesting story that shows one of the early examples of hiking.
It was in the early 20’s of the last century when a Russian immigrant went to live in New York. Feeling homesick and having no money to return home, she chose to walk her way back. Armed with strong will the journey started.
She was last seen preparing to cross by boat at the Bering Strait to Siberia, after having crossed Canada and Alaska.
Such examples followed in an increasing fashion. But later on this form of hiking was recognized under the name Thru-hiking.
And while this form required longer periods to complete the hike, there was another form of hiking that was rapidly developing, and was more of a shorter, faster kind of escaping the everyday routine and enjoying and connecting with the nature.
It started to appeal more and more to people who were looking for ways to have a healthy lifestyle.
As the benefits started to reveal more and more in medical studies, and the phase of life became faster, more and more people started to adopt this activity and enjoyed it on more frequent basis.
It quickly formed into an idea, and there were whole communities that started to develop. Nowadays hiking is considered to be a valuable contribution to one’s lifestyle and the benefits are numerous.
The health benefits of hiking
Starting with the good physical exercise accompanied by great low cardio workout you can say hiking is really a good way to get in shape while enjoying the nature, or maybe even talking with a friend.
Also it promotes muscle definition and even muscle growth in the legs area, and knowing that this is the largest muscle group in the body, you can say that this is a great way to look fit. If talking about calories burned hiking and losing some weight while hiking, then you will for sure be able to get into those old jeans of yours.
The physical activity and the views that will surround you while hiking will for sure have a great impact on your stress levels and will help you cheer up when having a bad day. It’s shown that hikers are bothered by stress far less when compared to people who never tried this.
No matter whether you chose to hike with a friend, a group of people, or by yourself, hiking can greatly reduce your work related stress and help you recover after a difficult hardworking week. You will also feel enlightened in a way. I guess that’s how powerful the mix of bonding with the nature and physical activity is.
When talking about preventing diseases hiking ranks as one of the best activities. It’s the gradual progress, and consistency probably that make it a slow, but an efficient way of coping with modern problems and health conditions. Other than lowering high blood pressure and cholesterol it also prevents osteoporosis and hearth diseases.
As I mentioned it also promotes weight loss, and muscle growth, and help you fight lower back pain and arthritis. So after all you can say hiking is a great way to enjoy having a healthy lifestyle.
This physical activity is a compound one, which implies that this is an all-body exercise, therefore increasing your strength in general, as also increasing production of testosterone (hormone linked not only with sexual function, but also with numerous other areas like cognitive focus, increased mood, increased strength and endurance). It can be a substitute for a home workout program, like the p90 workout.
As hiking became a world-wide phenomenon it became clear that there must be some rules set. Ok, maybe not rules, but rather principles that will guide the new and inexperienced hikers. Principles that were connected more to environmental awareness issues than anything else.
The reason for paying attention to this was made clear once hiking popularity expanded. Seeking for beautiful natural environments hikers often find many fragile ones, very likely to be impacted by people. Hikers unintentionally destroy these places (this usually goes for inexperienced ones).
While the action of a single individual will not make that much of an impact, the effect made by a mass of people is visible for sure.
This resulted with some new practices and philosophies among hikers like the one of leave no trail. It is a way of hiking that suggests hikers not to leave any trail by which other hikers may notice the presence of previous ones.
Even though many are not familiar with this practice, a couple of basic principles remain as a cornerstones and hiking manifestos.
- Never leave any waste behind, or if you have to, pay attention not to contaminate the water, or spread some bacterial contamination. This can be avoided by digging “cat-holes” (10-30 cm deep) that are not close to water or any trail, and burying whatever waste you have to leave behind.
- Watch for endangered species. Some of them are very sensitive to the presence of humans, so educating yourself about the surrounding may help a lot.
- Be careful with any material or tool that may cause a fire. And if you need to start a fire make sure you will be able to control it, and extinguish it eventually.
- Leave as much as you can unaltered, as the nature intended it to be.
Here are some tips that are most helpful for beginners:
- Start your hike early on in the day. At dawn even. That way you will have more time not to worry about the way back, meaning you will most likely avoid hiking while it’s getting dark, and the huge change of bad weather conditions that tend to occur in the afternoon.
This also means cooler start, which will in turn result with less effort, less sweating, therefore less consumption of water and lighter load on your back.
- Go with lighter load. This doesn’t mean that you should forget about the first aid kit, or basic survivor tools, food and water, but remember that more you have on your back, harder and more unpleasant your hike will be. So just leave those unnecessary items behind, try and think what you will need and organize your backpack.
- Learn about the place. The weather, how quickly it changes, what are the most likely weather hazards that may occur; learn the flora, the fauna.
Their characteristics, the possible help that may come in a given situation. Learn about the distances to populated area, to water sources, to places where you can ask for help. The trail – study it back and forth.
I’m not that much of a hiker although i love to do it occasionally , but being into cross-country mountain-biking I found that these practices showed very helpful when exploring new places.
- Clothing makes a huge difference. If you don’t know what to wear then you may make your hike very unpleasant. Forget about cotton and wool, but go with materials that are more high tech fibers. Such are: coolmax, utralight mircrofeece, microfiber, tactel, spandex, supplex, gortex, and lycra.
Many of those allow sweat to evaporate more quickly and you end up with having lighter clothing on you that is dry most of the time.
- And at the end: always remember to inform someone reliable about where and when you are going for a hike. No matter whether you are alone or with someone else. Compasses and GPS may always come handy, but having someone know where you are is probably the best option.
I practice this always, and if nothing else I always feel secure and relaxed when I go. That way I worry less, and enjoy more.
In order not to make this longer, I will wrap it up here. If you haven’t tried hiking so far, just go for it. Enjoy alone, or in the company of your friends or significant other.
It will soon become a habit, an addiction, even. It will become the one thing you missed when trying to improve your healthy lifestyle.
Since this is meant to help people who are interested to start hiking, or at least are considering the option, come’ on hikers- share some of your experience in the comment section bellow, give some tips and share something with our readers.
And for those who are interested- ask as much as you like about hiking, and we will try to provide you with answers.