The forest engages all of your senses—your mind stills, and you reconnect to your soul.
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We’re meant to be outside. The terrible thing is, most of us spend over 2,000 hours at our desks yearly. That’s like watching The Titanic 616 times in a row. The stress, the long hours, the sedentary nature of our chair-bound lives—it’s all sucking the life out of us.
This year, take it outside. More specifically, go hiking. Time spent hiking doesn’t just burn calories, it helps cell health, lowers stress levels, balances hormones, improves immunity, and deepens sleep. How? It all boils down to ditching your devices and immersing in nature.
By simply trading your iPhone, iPad, iPod, i-you-name-it for a walk amongst the trees, you’ll immediately notice a sort of cellular exfoliation. You’ll feel alive. Truly alive. This is because, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, in nature, you’re exposed to terpenes, a naturally-occurring hydrocarbon in plants and animals that are neuro-protective, anti-inflammatory, and anti-tumorigenic. Don’t ask us exactly how they work—all we know is they do the body good.
That’s just the beginning. According to the School of Forestry and Resource Conservation, forest bathing, by which they mean spending at least two hours in nature, is a meaningful way to significantly lower pulse rate, and systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Their study also found short bouts in nature to be “an effective psychological relaxation strategy.” Turns out the forest engages all of your senses—your mind stills, and you reconnect to your soul.
Going on a three to four hour hike can burn serious calories—over 1,500 if you really get after it. Beyond the obvious benefit of burning fat and losing weight, this type of medium-intensity, extended-duration exercise does two things. First, it elongates our deep-sleep stage, which is the most restorative stage of sleep that sees the release of growth hormones. Second, it reduces our levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which is directly linked with memory loss, poor immune function, decreased bone density, increased weight gain, cholesterol, blood pressure, heart disease, and the list goes on. It’s a no-brainer that cortisol wreaks havoc.
This is why we say 2019 is about booting up—the benefits are too compelling not to. John Muir, the “Father of the National Parks,” once said, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” No matter what you’re seeking this year, make sure you look outside first.
This article was written for Spirituality & Health by Mountain Trek, an award-winning fitness retreat and health spa nestled deep into the lush forests of British Columbia. If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of hiking, please visit our website and send us an email or give us a call.