EIGHT (8) REASONS TO START HIKING!

Hiking is one of the fastest growing outdoor activities in the world. People everywhere are getting out on the trail near where they live and traveling to embark on world class hiking vacations in national parks and wilderness areas around the globe.

The Covid-19 lockdown early this year was a major factor that has boosted the participation of people around Nigeria in hiking and outdoor activities.

Hiking clothing, footwear, backpacks, trekking poles, and snacks are some of the best selling items at outdoor retail stores. So what's the big deal about hiking and why should you get into it? Here are 8 reasons why you should start hiking!

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1. CONNECTING WITH OUR ROOTS

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Walking was humanity's first and most basic form of self transport. What we now call "hiking" has been a basic function of human existence since the beginning, but in our modern world it means something far different than it did to our ancestors.

Today, most of us live in towns and cities, separated from nature by walls, buildings, roads, and massive amounts of private land. In our modern context, hiking offers reconnection with nature and with our past, even if just for a couple of hours.

The chance to move through forests, deserts, coastlines, meadows, and river valleys offers us a taste of what daily life was like for our ancestors. This connection is a vital one, which offers many seen and unseen benefits to our bodies, minds, and souls.

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2. HOLISTIC PHYSICAL EXERCISE

The body fuels the mind. Many of us exercise our minds all day but do little for our bodies. Or maybe we hit the gym for a couple of hours each week. The gym, as great as it is offers tremendous value, but nearly insignificant when compared to the invigorating energy a few hours out on the trail can generate. Fundamentally, we weren't meant to get our exercise on treadmills. Humans evolved getting our exercise in nature, surrounded by the dynamic life systems that comprise the miracle of life.

You can use the gym to stay in shape during the week, it's great for that! But when you have time, or when you can make time, get out on the trail for 4-12 hours and cover some serious ground.

Halfway through your hike stop, sit on a rock, and soak up the beauty that's all around you. Breathe in the fresh oxygen being produced by the trees. Listen to the birds. Watch the water flow by in a creek. Just exist as part of the web of life for a brief time, then continue your hike and notice how you feel if you do this 2-3 times per month.

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3. ALMOST ANYONE CAN DO IT

Let's face it, many outdoor adventure activities are limited to certain demographics. Kayaking, mountain biking, rock climbing, mountaineering, skiing are all amazing sports. But they aren't very forgiving. Young people in their 20's and even 30's can get away with some tumbles, but for people who are older or have physical limitations, a bad crash or accident can mean months or years of recovery. And they have a high cost of entry.

Hiking on the other hand is something people of almost any age with any budget can do, and it's conducive to many physical limitations. Walking and hiking are easy on your joints (most of the time, some downhill hikes can be jarring), good for your back, healthy for your bones, and great for your heart and lungs (especially if there's some uphill.) These characteristics make hiking an outstanding activity for a majority of people who want to get out more often and be more active.

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4. MEANINGFUL ADVENTURE

Hiking offers the opportunity for true adventure, especially if you're willing to travel. Many people don't have high adventure destinations near them, but with a little bit of travel, they can make it to some unforgettable places. There are so many hiking locations currently in Nigeria and new locations and trails are still been discovered in the FCT almost every quarter by scouts of hiking communities.

Another interesting thing about hiking is that each hike location comes with a totally different experience

Adventure is something that's missing from many people's daily lives. It brings a feeling of aliveness and awareness that sharpens our senses and helps put life in perspective. Also, it doesn't mean you have to go out and start skydiving or mountain climbing, hiking can bring plenty of adventure with minimal risk.

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5. BOOSTED EMOTIONAL AND MENTAL WELL BEING

More and more research is being done on the effects nature has on people's mental and emotional well being, and the results are extremely positive. There is also mounting evidence showing that exposing kids to nature on a regular basis positively affects brain development. Time in nature can boost your immune system and lower blood pressure, and just looking at a tree alters brain chemistry.

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6. CONNECT WITH OTHERS

Hiking is a fantastic activity to do with friends, family, kids, partners, or even people you don't know. Because it's something so many people can do, a friendly invite to go on a hike is often well received by most people. Even people on first dates are enjoying hiking these days! Out on the trail, conversation seems to flow effortlessly and bounce around from topic to topic. And it's a shared experience that people can build on to bond and create meaningful relationships.

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7. FREEDOM

When we're hiking, we can observe and appreciate the elements of nature that are not dependent on people (they are however dependent on people not destroying them.) And with this comes a feeling of humility and freedom. A neutral ground, a space to be ourselves, to breathe, to feel free.

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8. BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM

According to some medical researchers, spending time in nature provides protections against a startling range of diseases, including depression, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and many more.

How this exposure to green space leads to better health has remained a mystery. After reviewing hundreds of studies examining nature's effects on health, an environment and behavior researcher believes the answer lies in nature's ability to enhance the functioning of the body's immune system.

This is just one example. There are many more studies (albeit much more research needs to be done) that show a strong connection between nature and immune strength.

However, let's not wait for more studies to come out! Get on out there and see for yourself how you feel about nature and hiking. As the saying goes experience is the best teacher but i can guarantee you won't be disappointed.

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