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How Hiking Benefits Your Mental & Physical Health, and Wellbeing

A hike is usually a long walk on trails, mountains, hills and countryside. Hiking has been steadily increasing in popularity in recent years. In fact, according to Statista, the number of hikers grew by 80.4 percent from 2010 to the present, in North America alone.

Hiking is an enjoyable outdoor activity which can be undertaken by almost anyone, given its accessibility, and has numerous benefits for one’s mental, spiritual and physical health. Spending time in nature can help you combat stress and any tension you might be withholding. It can lighten up your mood and help with any frustration you might be feeling, due to personal or work-related reasons.

Hiking is one of the best ways to release adrenaline and increase endorphins. A study showed that hiking was directly linked to feelings of elation and pleasure, while anxiety and stress were immediately reduced after hiking. Being connected to nature will provide you with the opportunity to be mindful, more focused and present in the moment, giving you a break from the fast-paced modern life.

Keeping in mind the vast benefits of hiking frequently on our physical and mental health, we have created the following list to touch upon its primary advantages (along with scientifically backed data) and why you should start hiking too!


Hiking is an accessible form of exercise as its vigor and time limit can be adjusted according to the individual’s preferences. It is also joint-friendly and beneficial for those who are suffering from joint pains, arthritis, etc.

A lot of us spend our time cooped up inside, scrolling through social media aimlessly. The latest data available shows that the screen time of a person on average is almost 7 hours. A sedentary lifestyle can lead to lifestyle-induced diseases. Hiking is a great way to disconnect from the social world and spend some time in the present, connected to the environment. It provides us with a great time for introspection and spending time with friends and family.


Hiking is known to increase the overall strength and endurance of a person. Here are 3 great benefits hiking has on one’s physical health-


Walking along a trail constantly engages your lower body muscles, which gives you the support to stabilize yourself as you continue to pave your way through uneven paths. You start to become more observant and strategic at assessing hindrances or obstacles that might be in your way, which ultimately contributes to having a better balance and great mind-body control.

This skill is especially helpful in old age as frequent falls can be harmful to an individual’s physical health and may be the reason why they require long-term medical care.


It is advised that physical activity during cancer treatment can speed up the recovery process and help decrease the risk of recurrence of cancer in the future. Exercising can help with cardiovascular health, muscle strength, fatigue, and anxiety of an individual. Hiking or mountaineering improves antioxidant levels in oncological patients.


Better cardiovascular health is perhaps the most obvious benefit of hiking. Hiking pumps up the heart rate and strengthens the heart muscles. Going on hikes can decrease hypertension, bad cholesterol, and blood sugar levels.


Many people just enjoy hiking for what it is, but hiking has several benefits of its own. Here is a list of 3 benefits hiking can have on one’s mental health-


The rate of anxiety and depression among people has increased exponentially recently, with a variety of stress factors contributing to this increase. Especially since the Covid 19 pandemic, anxiety and depression have risen in prevalence by 25 percent, according to WHO. Rapid urbanization has also led to disconnection from nature. According to a study, people living in urban areas are 20 percent more likely to have depression and 40 percent more likely to have mood disorders as compared to the people living in rural areas, close to nature.

Hiking can provide people with exposure to the outside world and lower neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex in the brain during rumination (repetitive negative thoughts.) 

Hiking is also known to decrease cortisol, which is a hormone used as a stress indicator.

You may have heard of “Shinrinyoku”, which is basically a forest bathing trip popular in Japan. There, people opt for a leisurely stroll to the forest which helps with stress management. The study on forest bathing showed a decrease in anxiety, depression, and stress.


Hiking increases the growth of new neurons and also nourishes our brains. As we hike, the blood flow increases to our brain, carrying more oxygen and essential nutrients, which ultimately leads to better cognitive function.

Scientific experiments have proved that getting exercise in nature can enhance our ability to process new information and retain older ones better. A study conducted by the University of Michigan proved that the performance of people on a test improved by almost 20 per cent by roaming among trees and connecting to nature beforehand, compared to those who were made to walk on busy streets.

Hiking also boosts your creativity and problem-solving abilities. A study by Stanford University showed that walking can increase a person’s creative output by 60 percent.


A study has proven that spending more time in nature can make people feel better about themselves and increase their confidence. Achieving your hiking goals can lead to a sense of achievement within yourself, and can make you feel more capable and stronger.


If you have been convinced to start hiking from now on, given its benefits on the mental and physical health, it is important to also take care of your safety and go well prepared. A few important things you should have with yourself are-[2] 

  • A map
  • Compass
  • Extra layers of clothing
  • A first-aid kit
  • Enough food and water
  • Pocket knife
  • Fire starting tools, etc.

These things are especially important if you are going on longer hikes. You need to do some preparations beforehand, such as; finding a hiking partner, choosing a hiking route so you don’t lose your way and getting good hiking gear. Make sure you don’t pollute or harm the surroundings and also be respectful of the wildlife.

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