Most people know that hiking is an excellent form of exercise. It boosts your cardiovascular health, builds muscle, and can increase your stamina. But, did you know hiking is good for your brain, too?
First, it’s important to point out that just about every type of exercise can benefit your brain. Studies
have shown that exercising regularly can help to prevent dementia. Working out also helps to prevent the loss of brain volume as you age.
So, even if hiking
doesn’t end up being your cup of tea, finding some way to be physically is fantastic for your mental well-being. However, if you’re already an avid hiker or you’ve wanted to give it a try, let’s dive a little deeper into why it’s so good for your brain and how you can take advantage of those benefits.
It Improves Your Neuroplasticity
Whether you’re new to hiking or you’ve been doing it for years, one of the best things about it is that there’s always something to learn. Every trail is different. You always have to be able to think “on your feet” to overcome challenges and make the most of your trek.
Because of that, hiking is a great way to improve your brain’s neuroplasticity
: how your nervous system accommodates new information.
Not only are you utilizing an internal GPS when you hike, but it’s constantly pushing you to develop and strengthen your skills. That’s something you just don’t get when you’re walking on a treadmill or riding a stationary bike five days a week. When you tackle activities outside of your comfort zone, it can help to improve your cognitive thinking abilities as well as your memory.
It’s so important for us, as humans, to take on new things and stretch our skills. Unfortunately, far too many of us seek out contentment, rather than challenges. Hiking helps you to hone in on those skills while doing something fun and exciting, so you may not even realize what a great workout your brain is getting until you start to notice the cognitive benefits.
Nature Is a Natural Stress-Reducer
Your mental well-being can play a big role in things like daily focus, memory, and how healthy your brain remains as you age. So many people are overwhelmed with stress and uncertainty nowadays, mental health issues are more prevalent than ever.
Exercise is a great way to combat those issues. It naturally boosts endorphins in your brain, giving you feelings of happiness and relaxation. You’ve probably heard the term “runner’s high” before, but you don’t need to run a marathon to experience those same benefits – hiking is a great alternative.
Plus, because hiking is done outside, you’ll get the added benefit of spending time in nature. Research has shown that being outdoors can reduce stress, improve your mood, give you more energy, and boost your focus. Even people who spend a short time outdoors every day can reap the benefits. When you combine the mental health perks of exercise with being in nature, like forest bathing, you’ll improve your mental well-being while practicing self-care inside and out.
Hiking Is For Anyone
It’s not uncommon for people to start thinking about their brain health as they get older. Thankfully, you can pick up hiking at almost any age. You’re in complete control over the trails you choose, how long you want your hikes to be, and how hard you want to push yourself.
If you’re younger and want to take proactive measures to improve your brain health, get involved in hiking now, and you’ll quickly see how addictive it can be! If you’re in your golden years, there’s no reason you can’t boost your cognitive health by spending time outdoors and hiking some easier trails. No matter your age, your body and brain will benefit.