We all know we should get more exercise, but do we ever do anything about it?
Doing nothing was pretty much my story up until the end of 2016 and I had purposed that the new year was going to bring about change. Nine months on and I’m pleased to report that I’ve gone from little or no daily effort to managing a minimum of 10000 steps every single day since the 16th of January. At the start it was a challenge. Any new habit or regime takes time. Is it around 30 consecutive days to form a new habit? Now, I couldn’t imagine missing a day. It’s revolutionised my active life.
Pacing the streets is fine most of the time, but I also wanted to improve my landscape photography, so that meant getting out into the landscape, which also provided me with an opportunity to stretch the legs for even longer. I’ve made a concerted effort to visit the Peak District regularly this year and I’ve managed to walk lots of miles and get some great images.
I’ve alluded a bit to some of the reasons already in this opening and now I’ll get to my five reasons you should go hiking now…and more importantly, take your camera with you! Even if it’s just your phone.
Hiking is a pretty total body workout, from top to bottom, yes literally including your bottom. The glutes, hamstings, calves, core, abs all get a workout. Speaking in an interview for shape.com, Joel Martin, Ph.D., from George Mason University said that “‘trekking up a mountain is a lot like climbing the stairclimber or doing lunges over and over, which strengthens your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves.’” The steeper the incline the more intense the workout is going to be, both up and down hill, not to mention the focus on balance and core workout you get while trekking over uneven ground!
Regular aerobic exercise can have all types of positive affects and health benefits. Different issues such as reducing blood sugar, lessening cramp, and improving heart health are three examples of benefits that can be derived from hiking.
No, not a Zombie <cue The Cranberries> but rather, positive mental benefits from hiking.
A study ‘“found that people who walked for 90 minutes in a natural area, as opposed to participants who walked in a high-traffic urban setting, showed decreased activity in a region of the brain associated with a key factor in depression.”’ This quote from a Stanford News article highlights some of the mental health benefits that can be gained from getting into the great outdoors, particularly into spaces outside of urban areas.
For me, I’m really fortunate to have the Peak District National Park on my doorstep and can be immersed in a ‘natural area’ pretty quickly. Even when the elements are against me, I always come away feeling boosted from having completed a walk. It’s been said that one of the best ways to immediately improve your mental state is to get out and go for a walk. Every little helps. What’s your favourite natural area close to you? When was the last time you visited?
If you want a better night’s sleep, with potentially better quality sleep, then lace up your boots and go. In addition to the physical and mental health benefits of hiking, I know I definitely sleep better after a good hike out in the Peaks. No counting sheep for me at bedtime, I do it out in the hills, as they’re usually the primary occupants of the hills.
There’s something about sharing a journey with others that is special. For one you’re not focused on the walking as you usually get into conversation pretty quickly and that takes the focus off the slog. Also being able to share the amazing views from the top of wherever you’ve managed to climb often gives more satisfaction than just going wow by yourself.
Friends are great to walk with. You already have a relationship and it’s often a chance to deepen it further through a shared experience. And the selfies can be fun too.
Family is also another great group to walk with, although it gets a bit crazy at times encouraging the younger ones along, there is something satisfying and bonding to share a journey together as a family. Some of my most treasured hikes have been with my family.
Rambling or hiking groups are another connection point if you’re unable to meet up with family or friends. They can be a great way to meet new people and explore new areas with experienced walkers.
I don’t know how many gems I’ve discovered over the last year or so spending time in the Peak District. There are many more to be unearthed as I’m discovering being on Instagram. If you’re on Instagram why not follow me?
One of my favourites has to be Chrome and Parkhouse Hills in the Upper Dove Valley on the border with Staffordshire. These amazing craggy ‘reef knolls’ rise from the ground with arched whale like bodies about to dive under water. The views are amazing and there’s some great photos to be had.
Wherever you live, there are locations on your doorstep waiting to be discovered and what better way to do so than by going for a hike. Get out of the urban built up areas if you can and go explore the natural areas close to you, or green spaces in your town if you can’t get out of town. Maybe you can venture further afield if you’re feeling more adventurous?
There are many more reasons you should go hiking now. I won’t make you read any more, but rather encourage you to lace up your boots, grab a pack and head for the nearest natural area. You never know what might be around the next corner…more exercise, improved mental health, better sleep, stronger relationships and a treasure trove waiting to be discovered.
What are you waiting for? Go.