Hiking Michigan – 12 Reasons It’s Good For Your Health!

michigan hiking lake shore with boat

Early morning Onaway State Park


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.


Hiking Michigan

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? 

hiking Michigan deer and landscapes

The things you will see! Grand Rapids’ Blandford Nature Center


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.


hiking Michigan trail in the woods

Hiking Michigan in Muskegon’s P J Hoffmaster State Park!

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.


hiking Michigan park with stairs

Improved glutes! The stairs at Rosy Mound.


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.


hiking Michigan sand dunes and blue lake

The dunes above Lake Michigan in Saugatuck.


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!


Sanford House Addiction Treatment Centers

after marilyn head shot bio

Marilyn Spiller is a viral writer, recovery coach, and recovery advocate. She is the Marketing Director at Sanford, responsible for written and creative content, website design, new media, promotions, subscriber outreach, and SEO. Excursions Magazine is a particular source of pride; it serves a wide range of readers, and “excursion” has become part of the company vernacular, describing Sanford’s signature experiential outings for those in treatment. She also developed and hosts the podcast Anatomy of Addiction and is Vice President of the Board of JACK Mental Health Advocacy.