Fitness & Exercise

4 Possible health benefits from hiking

All trails are worth exploring. Here are some great reasons to find them!
Published June 27, 2017

You don’t need mountains to go hiking. All 50 states have trails worth exploring. Here are some great reasons to find them!

1. It might free your mind.

People who walked in a natural setting for 90 minutes reported less rumination, or repetitive negative thoughts of the self, according to a study in the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences. “In some people, rumination could trigger depression,” says Stanford University’s Gregory Bratman, lead study author. So get out in nature and declutter your mind.

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2. You could challenge your body.

When you hike, you may engage your body in new ways, says Peter Olsen, vice president for programs and government relations with the American Hiking Society. You might have to step up and down on rocks, hop over streams, even maneuver around obstacles. Pro tip: No matter the terrain, always carry a hiking stick to help keep you stable.

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3. It might help boost your body image.

According to a study in Ecopsychology, natural settings may positively impact how women perceive their bodies. “In nature, you engage with the world rather than being observed,” says Kari Hennigan, PhD, study author, and clinical psychologist. “This may lead to a decrease in self-critique of your body image.”

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4. You could strengthen your immunity.

How? By doing what the Japanese call shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing. “When you move through the forest, the phytoncides that trees emit could potentially trigger your body to produce more natural killer cells, which may help boost your immune system,” says Ben Page, founder of Shinrin Yoku L.A.

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