The Mindful Powers of Hiking

It is clear that hiking is now an extremely favoured fitness trend; even expected to surpass the popularity of yoga in 2019. With health, fitness, mindfulness and general wellbeing firmly taking centre stage in all aspects of our life, we want to understand why and how this activity can have a positive impact on us both physically and psychologically.

What do you do to relax? What activity makes you happy? How do you practice mindfulness?

(Image – Vancouver, Canada)

As technology begins to slowly dominate our lives we seek to counteract this with slow paced, grounded activities that connect us to nature such as trekking, hiking or simple weekend walks in the park. We want to rebel against digital screens and resist looking through the constant, ever-updating stream of information from our online world. We turn to the great outdoors seeking high-adventure amusement and search to fully immerse ourselves in our natural environment. So what are the benefits of hiking over other forms of exercise?

HEALTH & FITNESS – Firstly, hiking can improve our physical health. Regular exercise of course has medical benefits for example reduces the risk of heart disease, improves blood pressure, increases muscle strength, stimulates the senses, and improves overall fitness levels… just to name a few.

MINDFULNESS – Not only does hiking improve our physical health but it can also benefit us on an emotional level. Research has proven that regular exposure to nature increases our mindfulness. Much like yoga, hiking enables us to find time for ourselves to unplug, relax and focus. It clears our mind and rejuvenates our soul; ultimately it is a form of meditation as well as escapism from the fast pace of every day life. Where we once turned to the local yoga studio for a sense of calm we now take to the outdoors; breathing in the fresh air, seeing the incredible views of the landscape and feeling the warmth of the sun (or the wetness of rain).

Above all it gives you time and space to truly understand and know yourself; how to genuinely be happy.

(Image – Joshua Tree National Park, California, USA)

WELLBEING – Research from King’s College London conducted by landscape architects J & L Gibbons and art foundation Nomad Projects found that being outdoors, seeing trees, hearing birdsong, seeing the sky, and feeling in contact with nature were associated with higher levels of mental wellbeing; it reduced depression and helps alleviate stress and anxiety. They used smartphone-based technology to assess the relationship between nature in cities and momentary mental wellbeing in real time.

MOTIVATION – As humans we need to work towards performing better and pursue a motivation to allow us to improve our fitness, our mind and our over all self. Hiking helps to boost confidence; it is challenge to reach the peak or make it to the end of the trail. You become completely immersed in the task so in that moment you forget about any stress, pressures and worries in your life. There is a sense of achievement and satisfaction upon completion.

SOCIAL ACTIVITY – Hiking can be a regular meet up with friends allowing you to implement it into your daily or weekly fitness routine. It is suitable for all ages with different levels of expertise, it is a great activity to do with the family, encourage children to explore and discover plants, animals and insects; learning how to connect more to our natural world. You can also foster new friendships with people you meet on trails, why not join in conversations at dedicated local walking/hiking clubs and social events with like minded people sharing similar experiences.

At a recent exhibition we promoted and awarded products that encourage us to venture outside and explore. For example field guides and journals that foster big discoveries in nature and make is easier for people who rarely find time for major excursions.

50 places to Hike before you die, Find your Adventure, Small Adventures Journal

Other benefits include the cost; hiking is a lot cheaper than attending any exercise class. Furthermore most people don’t have to travel too far before they can be immersed in a natural environment whether a city park or deep forest! City dwellers can also participate in ‘urban hiking’; exploring the city one adventure at a time. You will discover things you’ve never noticed before, why not walk a different way home, go places you’d otherwise not see and visit different neighbourhoods. Be brave enough to be adventurous in your everyday life… (read how to satisfy a yearning for adventure and create a sense of discovery here).

The focus on hiking also has a direct impact in other areas; including what we see on the catwalk; big fashion houses such as Prada and Gucci include elements of rugged hiking attire in this year’s collections. Hiking boots are now a staple wardrobe item, this adventurer style not only emulates the great outdoors aesthetically but many designers are also using their collections as a centre stage to encourage us to protect our environment and own our own impact.

and of course it has an affect on where we choose to travel…

We are constantly bombarded with inspirational instagrams that make us curious to explore, therefore active travel and fitness trips are not going away any time soon. We see an increase in intensified adventure tours that include hiking and other activities such as cycling, marathon running, kayaking and sailing. Thomas Cook recently released their 2018 annual holiday report revealing that the cultural shift towards fitness and wellbeing for millennials in particular has dramatically effected the desire for cheap and cheerful package holidays; the 18-30’s club era is over as millennials now value meaningful, cultural trips over cheaper party destinations.

(Images – Angels Landing Hike; Zion National Park; Utah; USARainbow Mountain & Machu Picchu; Peru)

With a desire to travel and be outdoors Instagram is a dangerous place for someone like me… I am constantly inspired by travel bloggers and instagram accounts who encourage adventure through capturing the beauty in natural wonders of the world. These enticing destinations around the globe continue to influence where I plan my next vacation; seeking the best places to find some of the most beautiful hikes with incredible scenic views. From the tourist hot spots like Machi Picchu to the routes less trodden… although we are fortunate enough to live in the beautiful county of Yorkshire where you don’t have to travel far to find impressive waterfalls, challenging peaks and rolling hills (just remember to bring your coat).

Recent campaign by The North Face #SheMovesMountains launched a global initiative focused on a new generation of female explorers. They celebrate women adventurers pushing boundaries through short inspirational video clips featuring, for example, athletes and rock climbers pushing themselves to the limit.

There are also so many amazing adventure-travel inspirational instagram accounts to follow that I simply don’t have the time to name them all but here are 3 of my Top Hiking Instagrams to take a look at…

Holly Johnson @missholdoll

Jess dales @jess.wandering

Hayley Gendron @hayoui

So I urge you to take a trek in the countryside, go for a walk in the park or simply take a stroll around the neighbourhood. Be mindful where you travel, carry out a sustainable approach to the places you visit making sure you leave no trace. Be sure to choose the right hike to suit your personal fitness level, wear the correct clothing, comfortable shoes and take plenty of water. Reflect on your journey with a travel journal, take notes, take pictures and remember being present in the moment.

What steps can you take towards living a more positive, healthy and ultimately happier life?

Consumer lifestyle trends like this one can inspire beautiful and highly desirable design, products and experiences; we can help translate future trends into the specific products or service for your company and customers; just get in touch.

Phil: email, +44 7896 088 996, or Scarlet Opus, Colonial House, Swinemoor Lane, Beverley, East Riding of Yorkshire, United Kingdom. HU17 0LS

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