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Hiking 101: Side effects from being in nature

There are so many benefits that you can experience from being out in nature. You may believe that “side effects” are a bad thing because they’re commonly associated with drugs. But what happens when you can get a natural high and be healthier with minimal effort?

Here are few side effects:

1) STRESS REDUCTION. Being surrounded by nature can reduce your stress level and calm your mind. These days, life is so hectic with work, obligations, family, etc. The COVID-19 pandemic has added to our mental health problems – people losing their jobs, feeling isolated from others while being trapped indoors, etc.

It’s important to get outdoors and relax yourself. Chronic stress and poor lifestyle choices can lead to preventable diseases such as strokes and heart attacks. According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, stress and physical inactivity (among other factors) are risk factors for stroke and heart disease. Based on their findings 9 in 10 Canadians have at least one of these risk factors. In my opinion, these are pretty gloomy stats.

Focusing on nature’s sounds (like birds singing, tree leaves rustling in the wind or the gentle flow of the river), taking in the views provided by Mother Nature and planting your feet on the earth will help ground you and calm your mind.

2) ENDORPHINS are released during exercise. According to Healthline, endorphins have many positive effects including reducing depression, lowering stress and anxiety and increasing your self-esteem.

3) REGULAR EXERCISE DOES THE BODY GOOD. In case you’re wondering – moving your eyes and fingers during screen time doesn’t count as physical exercise. According to the Government of Canada, “Children and youth should get at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity involving a variety of aerobic activities. Adults, including seniors, should accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week.”

In addition to getting fit and maybe even losing weight – walking is a great weight-bearing exercise that can help to fend off osteoporosis by increasing the muscle mass supporting your bones, which in turn keeps bones healthy by applying good pressure to them. According to NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Research Centre, “Weight-bearing and resistance exercises are the best for your bones. Weight-bearing exercises force you to work against gravity. They include walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, playing tennis, and dancing. Resistance exercises – such as lifting weights – can also strengthen bones. Other exercises such as swimming and bicycling can help build and maintain strong muscles and have excellent cardiovascular benefits, but they are not the best way to exercise your bones.”

4) BODY, MIND AND SOUL. These are not separate from each other. When I was hiking “The Crack” trail at Killarney Provincial Park for the first time, I was working my body by ripping through the forest and climbing up massive rocks. Then I was rewarded with an absolutely spectacular view. My whole body was alive and I was bursting with joy and happiness.

Being outdoors can truly stimulate your body, mind and soul. There’s no doubt that surrounding yourself with nature is beneficial to your physical and mental health and overall wellness.

Chop, chop – get out there!

Monica's shadow on cedar
Monica Ng

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