45 Reasons To be a Hiker – Part 2
This is the second in a series of reasons to be a hiker — as if you needed a reason! But if your friends, family, or co-workers are curious as to why you’re so into this outdoor obsession, pass them this list; maybe they’ll catch on.
Psst: Did you catch Part I of this series with reasons 1-11?
12. Hiking gets you a dose of vitamin D.
Are you getting enough of the “Sunshine Vitamin?” Vitamin D is nicknamed thus because the body can use sun absorbed through the skin to create this essential vitamin. Getting enough of it helps keep bones strong by aiding the absorption of calcium; it also promotes mental health. Guess where you can get lots of sun? Outdoors. How? Hike.
13. You can hike alone or with friends — whatever the situation (or your mood) calls for.
Hiking is a flexible fellow. Need to socialize? Gather friends — all abilities and ages can do this together. Did your friends flake or you need some time to be alone with your thoughts? Hiking doesn’t require a team or even a partner; just make sure you leave a note or tell a friend where you’re headed and what time you expect to be back.
14. Hiking helps you slow down.
All day you’re rushing: rushing out the door to try to beat rush hour traffic, rushing to get to the next meeting, rushing through dinner because you’ve got 500 other tasks to take care of before bed time, rushing through bedtime stories with the kids. Repeat daily. Hiking forces you to slow down, at least a little. There’s no cars to compete with. You’re not going to miss out on the scenery if you walk slower. And the only deadline nature has is sunset; and it’s a pretty flexible one — just pack a headlamp or tent.
15. Hiking can evoke feelings of euphoria (legally, in every state).
According to studies that Seattle Backpacker’s Magazine took a look through for their piece on “The Hiking Brain,” the happy feelings we experience while hiking “are a result of a complex interaction of chemicals in the brain.” According to the studies, the endorphins released while hiking mask pain while the brain releases dopamine to motivate us to reach our goal. The combined effect? “…an exhilarated high that lasts for hours after the hike has stopped.” No unwanted side-effects, including run ins with the law or disapproving glances from others.
16. Hiking can uncover the kindness of humanity.
Ever heard of “Trail Angels?” You don’t have to be a thru-hiker to experience the kindness of these people. And trail angels aren’t the only ones who demonstrate acts of kindness for others on the trail. In more places than not around North America, when you pass people on the trail, you’ll get a nod, smile or hello. If need to know how much further to the summit, people are happy to pause and chat. And if you’re in distress — even broken down, frantic and in tears because your trail partner has scurried on without telling you which fork in the trail he took and the sun is setting and he’s the one with the bear spray (I’m not the only one this has happened to, right?), you’ll find folks on the trail who are happy to share their snacks and help you get back to safety.
17. Hiking is educational.
Learning should be hands-on; it’s the way many of us learn best. There’s a whole slew of subjects you can learn about outdoors. Observe ecosystems and geomorphology, find evidence of the life cycle, or learn something about yourself; even if it’s unintentional, you’ll return from your hike with new insight.
18. Hiking gives you a sense of accomplishment.
Whether you reach the destination or not, you got outside. Congratulate yourself on that — that’s a far bigger accomplishment than finishing a season of Downton Abbey or CSI or whatever other series is trending on Netflix.
19. Hiking with your significant other helps you form a deeper bond.
Had a tough morning with the love of your life? Go for a hike. With the two of you working toward a common goal and, in the added stress-relieving setting of nature, getting outdoors together can help soothe any lingering contention. Already smooth sailing? Help keep it that way by going outdoors often; the quality time together can help you build memories and strengthen even the most solid relationships.
20. Hiking is dog-friendly.
The best hiking buddies can be the kind that don’t talk. Most breeds of dogs can handle at least an hour on the trail, depending on the terrain, and many can go for much longer. Either way, the outdoors has many of the same benefits for your furry friend as they do on you, so grab the leash and enjoy the trail together.
21. Hiking helps you live in the moment.
When we’re at work, we’re chasing the future: deadlines, project goals, dreams. But when you hike, you’re brought into the present moment, putting one foot in front of the next and bombarded with scenery, smells, and sounds that keep you grounded. In today’s world, we have little of that, which is a big reason why yoga and meditation has become so mainstream. Sure, you could sit in a room and “omm” your way into the present moment, but wouldn’t you rather take advantage of nature’s mindfulness session? It’s free — no yoga pants required.
22. Hiking relieves stress.
“”There’s a real sense of peace and composure you get from being outside and away from everything,” says Dr. Aaron L. Baggish, associate director of the Cardiovascular Performance Program at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital. According to this Harvard article, “A number of small studies hint that spending time in green space—nature preserves, woodlands, and even urban parks—may ease people’s stress levels.”
23. Hiking gets you into your own “Whole Foods” market.
When you learn how to forage (and hunt/fish, if you’re into that), the outdoors becomes a tasty treat. The very best berries I’ve tasted didn’t come from a store, but in the tiny versions of currants and strawberries I’ve found in the mountains, or in the massive blackberries and salmonberries I’ve found along northern trails. Flowers and evergreen tips have punched my tastebuds with spiciness and fish caught just half an hour ago and cooked at camp was better than any filet mignon at a high-end restaurant. And it’s all way more nutritious than even the organic section at your store. (Please just be mindful to only forage in areas where it is legal!)
Ready for more reasons? Check out Part III!