Reflecting on the Benefits of Hiking for ALL Ages
As the hot summer sun is replaced by fall's creeping cool, seasoned trailblazers know all too well that both the views and the temperature are perfect for a scenic hike. In fact, National Hiking Day -- also called Take a Hike Day -- takes place this November 17th. The awareness day celebrates both the many benefits hiking has on offer and the remarkable beauty and diversity of America's hiking trail system, which spans over 60,000 miles.
Just about every hiker knows they're getting their "steps" in on the trail, as hiking offers a full-body workout that can burn around 550 calories an hour under ideal conditions. It's a great way to honor your health and stay fit, but that's not all there is to be gained from a trek. Hiking has a number of cognitive, psychological, and social benefits, and they're especially pertinent to children.
Family time on the trail has something to offer everyone, but kids in particular can find opportunities for learning and personal growth when they're out on a hike. Hikes often draw kids out of well-established comfort zones, offering opportunities to spot new plants and wildlife. This appreciation of the beautiful and diverse world they live in can contribute to a lifelong appreciation of and sense of protectiveness toward the environment. 1
A benefit of the trail which the whole family can share is a reduction in negative thoughts and ruminations. While we all get bogged down from time to time in life's stresses, reducing our tension and breaking cycles of distracting or destructive thoughts is an important aspect of self care that shouldn't be missed. Time spent in green spaces has been linked by scientific study to reduced tension. 2
Both parents and children can also benefit from the improvement in focus that's been linked to time spent hiking. We live in a world where easy to be distracted, as apps, games, and shows often encourage us to focus for brief periods before redirecting our attention. Nature resists directing our attention and removes distractions, helping to sharpen focus. 3
When these benefits combine with a healthy workout and the enjoyment of our nation's gorgeous trail system, it's clear that a family hike is worth the trek. Even more benefits are detailed in this visualization from Muddy Smiles, so read on.