If you want to boost your health and wellness, exercise is essential. But those repetitive workouts at the gym can start to get…boring. And walking on a treadmill is never as fun as a forest or park trail!
If you’re ready to add some fun and interest to your fitness routine, take a hike! Whether you’re walking a paved nature trail at a local park or meandering through the woods on a nature trail, hiking boosts your physical, mental and social wellbeing.
1. Physical Health Benefits
Hiking in nature is a great way to get a full-body workout! Hiking promotes heart health, strengthens muscles and joints, and improves your balance and coordination. Hitting the trail also builds up your endurance level.
And if you suffer from arthritis or joint injuries, hiking is a lower impact workout compared to many other types of cardio and strengthening exercises.
Start with shorter, flatter hikes to get into the groove, such as a paved trail at the park. Take a walk in nature 2-3 times a week, even if it’s just for 20 minutes.
When you’re ready to boost your routine, try a wooded trail at a state park. Choose a longer hike for endurance building or a shorter trail with higher elevation gain to work on strength building.
2. Mental Benefits
According to a study by researchers at Stanford University, hiking helps with mental health and mood. The 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.
Spending time in the Great Outdoors helps reduce stress and anxiety, fight depression, and promote feelings of peace and wellbeing. In a fast-paced and digital society, reconnecting to our natural world can be as therapeutic as it is fun.
Being in nature also improves sensory perception, as you open up your senses to new sights, sounds, scents and touch.
3. Social Benefits
Unlike trying to conquer the treadmill at the gym alone, hiking is better with friends! Hiking with a partner, friend or small group helps form and deepen social bonds. It’s also safer to hike with someone else, and having a hiking partner is great for accountability.
Plus, it’s helpful to have others cheering you on! Motivating one another to climb that incline pays off in a shared victory at the top!
Find A Trail Near You
Situated right in the heart of Memphis, Shelby Farms is one of the 20 largest urban parks in the country, offering 4,500 acres of beautiful green space. More than 10 miles of paved pathways make up the Shelby Farms Greenline, which runs from Midtown to Cordova.
Prefer a more wooded hike? The park’s 40 miles of scenic, multi-use park trails offer a range of hiking routes for all experience levels. Find the best trail for you here.
And Shelby Farms offers more than just hiking! Bike rentals are open daily, and free outdoor fitness classes are offered throughout the week.
If you’d like to venture a little deeper into nature, try a trail at Meeman-Shelby Forest State Park. Located 13 miles north of Memphis stretched along the Mississippi River, over 12,000 acres of Tupelo swamp and forest await you. The park is home to a host of activities, from paddling, birding, and biking to boating, fishing, and camping. There are 20 miles of hiking trails, ranging from moderate 3-mile trails to longer and more strenuous hikes.
To find more hiking opportunities, try an app or website like alltrails.com to find trail information near you. You’ll find helpful details such as trail length, difficulty level and elevation gain as well as key features and directions. Hiking trails are usually rated Easy, Moderate or Difficult, making it easy to choose the level that best suits your ability level and goals. Happy hiking!