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Wellness Tip: Hiking Provides Unique Health Benefit

Summer is in full swing, and July is the perfect time to fulfill those activity goals you might’ve set for yourself back in the winter months. The sun is shining, the weather is pristine, and Mother Nature is calling. Many Americans have felt the aftershock of the pandemic on their mental, physical, and social health. If you want to improve your overall well-being, now is the time to plan a hike in your nearest national park.

Rumination tendencies have developed among urbanites, which involve second-guessing one’s decisions and past experiences. This headspace is where a hike can be the best method to fight mental health problems. In a Stanford University study conducted in 2015, researchers concluded that people who spent at least 90 minutes walking in nature were less likely to ruminate about themselves more often than those who walk in urban areas. Nature walkers had much less neural activity in their prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain associated with mental health. There’s no better place to help combat rumination than the National Parks. With the vast natural background and trails, people can forget about city life and appreciate their surroundings. 

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Hiking in National Parks is also a fantastic way to boost creativity. In this digital age, people often forget how important it is to get away from the screens ever so often. A study done by British psychiatrists noticed that people who participated in hiking in America had a 50% increase in creativity when away from technology for extended periods. Being around the natural setting can relax the mind and develop new perspectives regarding problem-solving. Being away from the noise and crowd lets people turn “off” from work or chores. The summer weather is the prime time to find some peaceful moments on the trails.

Photo Courtesy NPS

The National Park Service (NPS) has weighed in on the health benefits of hiking and encourages Americans to get active this summer. The NPS recommends around 20 minutes of “green exercise,” basically any physical activity in nature.  

This activity alleviates stress and anger immensely and reinforces the notion of taking technology breaks. Hikers can recharge in the serenity of the parks. Detaching from technology improves interpersonal relationships. 

The physical benefits of hiking are well-known but can’t be stressed enough. It’s a good type of low-impact cardio, and uneven surfaces can improve muscle coordination and activation, with strong metabolic output and lower risk of heart and lung problems. It’s essential to care for your body and mind. National parks are perfect places to start working out if you don’t feel like lifting weights or running long distances. Everyone can partake in hiking, with little experience needed to get started. 

The best part about hikes in national parks is the almost-limitless options. With more than 400 parks to choose from, the U.S. boasts one of the largest networks. You can find them in the continental U.S. and Alaska and Hawaii — if you’re feeling adventurous. Besides hiking, you can camp, backpack, join an Outward Bound trip if you like rock climbing, or even go for a slow walk on a trail. Being in nature has a unique effect on our health, and it’s imperative we take care of it. Get out there and enjoy the sunlight, the crisp breeze, and the gorgeous scenery. Your head, heart, and muscles will thank you for it. 

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