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Hiking isn't Walking

Hiking is often wrongly understood as walking. Although both activities are very similar they differ radically on several points.

Professor Daniel Ferris at the University of Florida describes an ordinary walk around the block as a pendulum; once it is in motion it keeps on moving because gravity is a big energy source needed for this motion. In other words: you almost fall from one step in the next. Obviously hiking is completely different. Just think about nature trails (uneven terrain) or deep-sand beaches. No pendulum whatsoever, because you have to "work". Both your heart rate and metabolic rate go up, and you burn a lot of calories. Way more than when you just walk. (400-700 kcal/hour).

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A study conducted by the same Professor Ferris shows that the human body needs 28% more energy during hiking on uneven terrain compared to walking on flat ground. But there is more in hiking than burning more calories.

"While making unusual movements on uneven terrain you're turning on and strengthening a lot of muscles in your hips and knees and ankles that you normally don’t use" Ferris says.

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Let's look at some more benefits:

Hiking in Nature Reduces Stress.

People often wonder how hiking in nature reduces stress? In order to answer that question, we first need to know what causes stress and how we deal with it. Well, stress can have different causes: a mobbing boss at work, an exam, a death of a loved one or a fear of a disaster that might, maybe won't happen. Especially the way we deal with problems determines whether we suffer from them or not. When we can't stop thinking about our problems and these negative thoughts drag us into anxiety, depression or binge eating perhaps, then we can say we experience stress. A recent study shows that hiking in nature decreases these obsessive, negative thoughts.  Another study from Stanford University shows us that time spent in nature calmed activity in that part of the brain is linked to mental illness.

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Hiking boosts Creative Problem Solving while disconnecting from Technology

In a study by Ruth Ann Atchley and David L. Strayer a group of hikers was followed for 4 days. The hikers were divided into two groups: group 1 with technical support such as GPS, solar power, walkie-talkie or smartphones, group 2 without all those technical gadgets. The research showed that the group without the technological tools performed 50% better in terms of problem solving.

hiking tent night

Hiking in Nature Boosts Brainpower

It is well known that oxygen is essential for the brain. Without oxygen, the brain can die within 5 minutes. The oxygen saturation in the brain must therefore be optimal. Every % less than 100% makes the brain function less well. A study by researchers from the University of British Columbia showed that aerobic exercise improves memory and cognitive ability. In older women even a growth in the hyppocampal part of the brain was observed.
(The hippocampus is a part of brain associated with memory.)

Hiking is Cheap

You might wonder how much hiking costs? The answer is : "not much". Let's make a list of things you really need.

  1. good clothing,
  2. a rucksack / backpack
  3. some sandwiches, fruit and drinks
  4. pair of hiking shoes (very important)
  5. gps / map
  6. smartphone + power bank (+ solar charger)

Of course, you can make it as fancy as you want. The specialist hiking shop can tell you all about it. But the list of basics above is essential.

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5 Questions before you go

(answers required)

1. How long do you want to hike?

If you're not an experienced hiker it's better to start the easy way.  Meaning, short, 1-day trails Then you don't need a tent or an extra change of clothes. Pick a one day trail based on the amount of time you have. There are trails for which you need a whole day or just an afternoon.

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2. Will you be hiking alone or with friends?

Hiking alone is a dream. You are all by yourself in the middle of nature. It can be like meditation. The sounds around you are just natural sounds coming from the wind, a stream, birds or other animals. However, hiking alone is more risky. When something happens to you, you are completely on your own and it is questionable whether the help you need will come in time. For that reason, it's better to go out at least with one more person. Someone who is experienced and who knows the trail you chose.

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3. How is your physical state?

Let's be fair: not everybody can be a Michael Jordan. For many of you hiking might be quite a challenge.  So, when you doubt about your physical condition just start slowly by choosing trails around your town. And go for trails where you can rest if necessary or where you can get back to your car without much effort. Keep in mind: coming back, feeling great is way better than returning home when you feel completely exhausted.

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4. How to pick a trail?

You might find it hard to pick a trail? Especially if you're in an unfamiliar environment? Then the app of AllTrails.com is a real godsend. Just download the app, put in the zip code of the area you abide, pick your trail and get started. In case you belong to this rare species that doesn't have a smartphone 😉, know that people still talk to each other. So, just ask a friend a colleague or a neighbor. They will be pleased to tell you what a good trail is for you.

all trails app

Alltrails App

5. How do people find me?

Don't turn family members or friends into trackers. So, if you are out hiking alone or with others, tell them that you will be hiking for a while. This is the information they need:

1. the time you expect to be back
2.the trail you chose
3.what you wear.

You will help the rescue services a lot with these details.

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