Everyone knows walking is good for you. But did you know how good? And walking and hiking provide additional benefits to those recovering from substance use disorders (SUD). Especially those who are attempting to rebuild a healthy lifestyle and reverse the ill effects of long-term drug or alcohol use. The best news about taking a hike? It’s free, easy to do, and a foolproof way to get yourself back into shape.
The Pure Michigan woods are full of gorgeous remote trails. And now that the world is opening up again, we can broaden our reach. On a recent trek along Lake Michigan, I started thinking – what is it about hiking in the great outdoors that makes one feel so good?
Exercise is great for blood pressure and heart health, weight maintenance, muscle mass, cheery disposition and rosy cheeks. What’s more, hiking in nature is actually good for the brain. And for those in recovery, repairing the brain and building healthy neural pathways is key to long-term success.
Growth of the Hippocampus
In fact, studies show that walking will grow your hippocampus, a part of the brain that produces new neurons and supports important aspects of memory. And walking in nature has added benefit, because it requires constant attention. Stepping over roots, or ducking under a low hanging limb is the kind of activity that keeps the brain young.
Walking is a superfood. It’s the defining movement of a human.
Kathy Bowman, Move Your DNA
12 Good Reasons to Take a Michigan Hike:
1. Hikers are Happy
Hiking decreases depression and feelings of hopelessness. It also allows us to connect with nature and ourselves, bringing a sense of well-being.
2. Walking Improves Sleep Quality
Sleep patterns are disrupted in early addiction recovery. A bracing walk in the fresh air makes you tired, and enhances REM sleep.
3. Your Heart, Lungs and Blood Vessels Thank You
Hiking improves cardio-respiratory fitness. And the farther you get from the madding crowd, the cleaner the oxygen.
4. Walking Improves Muscular Fitness
Without putting too much stress on your joints, the muscles in your legs, glutes and core will develop and strengthen on the winding, tilting path.
5. When you Hike You Burn Calories Naturally
An hour of hiking burns between 300 and 600 calories. Hiking may take longer than running, but the weight control benefits are the same.
6. Hiking Improves Creativity
Spend time in Michigan outdoors and your attention span and brain power increases – creative juices flow more freely when you are active than when you are sitting.
7. Walking Increases Bone Density
Especially if you walk with a pack, as you are getting plenty of “load bearing” exercise.
8. Hiking Improves Your Connections
To the people you are hiking with and to your inner-self. Because, without the distractions of day-to-day stressors, the serene silence recharges you to the core.
9. The Challenge of Hiking Increases Self-Esteem
Winding your way on a difficult track and taking responsibility for your actions improves emotional stability as well as physical stability.
10. Hiking Provides Beautiful Views
The sounds, smells and sights in the majesty of nature have a calming effect on the mind.
11. Hiking Improves Balance
The uneven terrain will improve your balancing skills, automatically adjusting to the changes on ground level.
12. Walking Keeps You Young and Lowers the Risk of Early Death
Research presented at the European Society of Cardiology, showed that, “Those who engaged in daily moderate exercise such as a brisk walk or jog…have experienced anti-aging benefits that could add an additional three to seven years to their lives.” Just seven active hours a week increases life expectancy!
Take a hike!
We are in good company as nature lovers and hikers. Charles Darwin, Steve Jobs, Claude Monet, and of course Henry David Thoreau all knew the restorative benefits of immersing themselves in the wild. And after this time of uncertainty, it’s nice to know that birds still chirp. Baby robins still cry for food. And all of God’s bounty still emerges in myriad shades of summer green.
Whether you decide on a Sunday stroll, an afternoon hike or a weekend in the wild, get out and chart your own course, take control of your workout and improve your overall well-being. Especially if you are in recovery from addiction. Take a hike – wherever you are!