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Take a hike!

“Walking: the most ancient and still the best modern exercise.” – Carrie Latet

Hiking is an amazing past time that so few individuals embrace. It’s almost as if that love we had for traipsing around outside when we were kids is lost in our adult lives. That need to explore nature seems to change in to a need to work, study and just generally adult. Not as much fun, right? Well, as a college student who works, lives on her own and attends full-time courses, my life didn’t involve much nature. But, there was one thing it did involve a lot of: stress. Stress is the biggest struggle in my life, and I think it’s the same for many others. I had tried many ways to handle stress — from yoga and meditation to exercise and diet changes — but the problem was, I could never find the time to do everything in a week. I didn’t have time to take both a yoga and HIIT class and fit in a meditation session as well. I was trying all these different things, and they do work, but they were not becoming a consistent part of my life like I wanted. The solution came to me from my roommate, who is a personal trainer. She recommended that I try hiking! She explained to me that the outdoor exercise from hiking up and down hills is often a better exercise than gym cardio training. This got me doing a bit more research on the concept and I realized just how many benefits to hiking there are! I decided to give it a try and over the last month, I have made it my goal to go for a hike at lease once a week. Here is what I learned:

You will feel happier
Hiking is a great way to deal with stress and to forget about your worries as you focus on what’s around you and the end goal of completing the trail. I found that hiking once a week helped me with my stress and depression as it took me away from daily distractions and technology and allowed me to connect with myself and nature. It’s a combination of meditation and exercise that leaves me happy and at peace.

You will enjoy nature
Being in nature gives us the opportunity to explore, be adventurous and feel free. In our everyday lives, there is so much that is controlled and scheduled. I found that taking the time to appreciate nature and explore it can have amazing benefits on your outlook on life.

You will get exercise
Hiking is an excellent form of exercise as you tromp along the trails, up and down hills and over uneven ground. You burn a high number of calories and build muscle as you go along. After an hour hike I feel limber and refreshed. Another great benefit is the decrease of blood pressure and cholesterol.

You will boost your creativity
Hiking is a great way to boost your creativity. Often halfway through a work day I would get a French vanilla to try and keep myself alert and focused. Instead of doing that I tried going for a quick hike over my lunch hour. The affects were amazing, I could take a break, organize my thoughts, wake myself up and increase my attention span. When I got back from my hike, I found myself more focused and productive than I usually am in the afternoons.

You will find your sense of adventure
One benefit of hiking that I found rather unexpected was a new sense of adventure. I would set a start and end destination for my hike, but I often found myself going further or changing course because I wanted to check something out that looked interesting. Hiking is a great time to just take things as they come and not worry about following an exact plan. Now as I am saying this, I am not telling you to go off into a dense part of the wood or up a forgotten trail without any precautions. I go into a bit more detail below, but make sure you are well prepared and that you use common sense. Hiking, while very beneficial does come with its risks. I almost always go hiking with a buddy and I have my phone with me in case of emergencies.

You will foster relationships
Finally, another great benefit is that you get to meet new people who are out enjoying the same things you are. You already have one common interest, so it’s easy to strike up a conversation. You can meet some great people while hiking and if that’s one of your goals, I would recommend getting involved with a hiking group. I found some great ones online and they were very welcoming and helpful as I started my hiking journey.

It’s a combination of so many different benefits that make hiking so good for your body, mind and soul.

Are you interested in hiking?
Here are a few recommendations I have as a novice hiker:
Start small. Hiking can be intimidating, so start with a short trail in an area that you are familiar with.
Prepare for the worst. Depending on how long your hike is and where you are make sure you carry your phone, water, snacks, sunscreen and bug spray. Also, make sure, you are in a good pair of closed toe hiking shoes or boots.
Pack lightly. You don’t want a huge backpack weighing you down but make sure you have important things: like water, a compass, and anything you made need for your personal comfort or safety. Remote or longer hike will require a different kind of pack than short or close to home hikes.
Overestimate your trail time. I make sure I have my phone with me (although usually on airplane mode) so that I can keep track of the time.
Don’t ignore your own backyard. You can find some great trails in the middle of the city, or just on the outskirts. Try walking around your neighborhood, you might be surprised.
Use the buddy system. I would recommend hiking with a partner, it keeps you safe and is a fun time to socialize.

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