Bushwalking or hiking is a great form of exercise that can benefit both physical and mental health. Studies have shown that hiking in nature can reduce stress, boost mood, improve cognitive functioning, and promote mindfulness. Walking in nature can also help improve social connections when done in groups. For beginners, it is recommended to start with a distance or time that feels comfortable and gradually increase it as fitness and confidence level increases. Staying safe while hiking involves wearing appropriate clothing, carrying water and food, staying on the trail, and avoiding hiking alone.
Benefits of Bushwalking: How Hiking Can Improve Your Mental Health
Bushwalking, also known as hiking, trekking, or walking in the wilderness, is one of the best ways to get some fresh air, get in touch with nature, and boost your physical health. Besides the physical benefits, bushwalking has been proven to have numerous mental health benefits as well. Below are some reasons why hiking can improve your mental health.
Walking has long been known to be an excellent stress reliever, but walking in nature can have even more significant benefits. Studies have shown that walking in nature can help reduce blood pressure, cortisol levels, and other indicators of stress. The peaceful and calming nature of the wilderness can have a soothing effect on our minds and help us de-stress.
Being surrounded by green-lush trees, chirping birds, and the sounds of nature can help improve one’s mood. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that participants who went on a 90-minute walk in nature reported significantly lower levels of anxiety and depression than those who walked in an urban area. Being outdoors increases the release of endorphins, which are the body’s natural mood-boosting chemicals.
Improves Cognitive Functioning
Walking in nature can help improve cognitive functioning, especially attention and memory. A study by the University of Michigan researchers found that walking in nature can improve attention and memory by 20%. It is said that being in nature can help our minds be more relaxed and in a better state to make decisions, be creative, and solve problems.
Walking in nature can help promote mindfulness, which, in turn, can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Mindfulness involves being fully present in the moment and paying attention to the environment around us. It is an excellent way to calm the mind and reduce stress levels. Hiking forces us to be mindful by keeping us focused on our surroundings and the terrain we are walking on.
Q: Can hiking improve social connections?
A: Hiking can improve social connections if done with others. Hiking in groups can provide an opportunity to engage with others, discuss new topics or interests, and share knowledge and experiences.
Q: How long should hiking trails be for beginners?
A: It is best to start with a distance or time that feels comfortable and gradually increase it as fitness and confidence increase. The ideal duration and distance depend on an individual’s fitness level and goals.
Q: What are the best ways to stay safe while hiking?
A: Staying safe while hiking involves wearing appropriate clothing, carrying water and food, and staying on the trail to avoid becoming lost. Avoid hiking alone, and if necessary, let someone know your intended route and expected return time.
In conclusion, bushwalking offers significant mental health benefits, including stress reduction, mood improvement, cognitive functioning enhancement, and mindfulness promotion. So, take the opportunity to get out in nature and experience the calming and nourishing benefits of hiking.