Advantages of Exercise: The Body and Mind Benefits of Walking



When I moved to Denver last summer, I couldn’t wait for the weekends to get out and explore the trails. The moment the clock struck 5 p.m. at work, I grabbed my backpack and headed for the hills. I had grown tired of aimlessly wandering around the neighborhood back in Florida. The bliss of a post-work hike in the Flatirons made my old evening strolls seem dull in comparison. And it seems I’m not the only one. Katie Gassman, with more than 32,000 followers on her @hotgirlhikes TikTok account, organizes group hikes for women in search of adventure buddies.

Experts in the field confirm that there’s a scientific basis for our craving to spend time on the trails. Hiking offers a variety of physical and mental benefits that exceed those of regular walking. For example, trekking over uneven terrain provides interval training that challenges the heart and leg muscles, improves balance due to rougher terrain, and can increase happiness and decrease stress by being in nature.

Moreover, hiking can also deepen relationships through shared experiences in nature, something that people often recruit friends to join them. Even if longer hikes offer deeper rewards, any trail that feels accessible can still invoke these advantages. A pair of 2015 studies showed that people who took strolls in nature showed improvements to their mental health compared to their city-walking counterparts.

In summary, hiking offers numerous benefits, both physical and mental, and doesn’t have to be extreme to have a positive impact. So, next time you’re looking to unwind, consider a hike in nature—it might just be the perfect remedy.

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