HIKING FOR STRESS REDUCTION
I am fresh back from hiking 115 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania. To date my husband/hiking partner and I have completed over 600 miles of the AT since we started hiking it 2 years ago. (Translation: EVERY vacation is spent hiking). We love it for all the reasons below. It allows us to reset our internal noise, just like when you clean up all the junk accumulated on your computer or when you do Spring cleaning. We return with clearer thoughts, and calmer spirit. We see all the good bad and the ugly clearer and are ready to push onward and upward when we return. It is also a great way to practice how to rely on each other to survive…..just like life. (I see another post here)
Here is the proof that hiking actually reduces stress…..
1. The American Public Health Association confirms that just being around nature is enough to markedly increase relaxation.
2. Happy Hormones – Those who hike weekly or biweekly have increased levels of endorphins, norepinephrine, and a stronger internal system of stress-management
3. Freedom to think without distraction. Hiking enables you to take full advantage of the relative silence to spend time thinking deeply on issues that matter to you. Best way to work through problems.
4. The Rhythm of hiking serves to calm the nerves, pair it with music and you will accentuate the effectiveness of the body’s aerobic exercise.
Just don’t let your hiking partner put you on a cliff for a photo op…..
(That’s me in the mountains above Ducannon, PA…RELAXING)
But you don’t have to hike 115 miles to get that sense of calm and resetting the spirit. Even one hike a week in a safe and peaceful natural environment does the trick for me. I do think that you need to place yourself somewhere where you can be out hiking for at least an hour or two to get the most benefits. I always find myself wanting more if I don’t get to the 2 hour mark which sometimes happens when we take the 4 year old with us. You can plan to either hike in and hike out the same way or find a loop that takes you around back to the starting position (my personal favorite). There are more places to hike that you can imagine all over the country, you just need to try a little exploring. Within an hour of NYC alone, you could never tackle all the trails available.
I started with the book which gives a good description of the hike and the relative difficulty as well as proximity to public transportation.