“Whatever you can do or dream you can do, Do it now.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it NOW” Goethe
Here on the west coast of Canada, we have been fortunate to enjoy spring-like conditions for the past few weeks while the rest of the country slowly emerges from a long cold winter. Regardless where you are in the northern hemisphere, we collectively share in the joy of the arrival of spring.
With warmer temperatures and longer days, it is a great time to get active. Whether you are a city dweller, suburbanite or live in the countryside, there are plenty of options from city parks to large national parks where you can get exercise while enjoying nature. In fact, by doing so you are doing your physical and mental health a big favour. Study after study has shown the benefits of exercise on both the human body and psyche; – exercise is good for you. One such community that exemplifies the power of exercise is the residents of the Hunza Valley.
Nestled in the mountainous region in the north of Pakistan, lies the Hunza Valley. It is perhaps one of the most beautiful and idyllic places on earth. It is it widely recognized as the country’s “Shangri-La.” Not only is the region blessed with natural beauty with its lush green valleys and stunning mountain views, it is home to a community that is relatively free of the perils that impact the region such as terrorism, poverty and malnutrition, also known for gender equality and high levels of literacy. The people of the Hunza Valley are also known as one of the world’s healthiest communities with longer-than-average lifespans.
With their lush and mountainous typography as their own natural playground, Hunza Valley residents have long made exercise part of their daily lives (think hiking and biking in one of the world’s most beautiful and pristine settings). Interesting fact; one of the region’s most famous compatriots is Samina Baig, a 21 year old woman, who is internationally renowned for mountaineering, including climbing the tallest peak of all, Mount Everest. Additionally, before the advent of highways, the mountain scape acted like a natural barrier, as a result, the people of Hunza Valley relied on native and local foods to keep them nourished – mainly locally grown fruit and vegetables (and meat on rare occasions). This combination of regular activity, and a diet rich of locally-sourced fruits and vegetables have contributed to the healthy lifestyles and longer than average lifespans, of the valley’s residents.
As many of Hunza Valley residents can attest to, hiking can do wonders for your health and I cannot agree more. Anyone who knows me that I not only have an affinity for hiking, it is one of my biggest passions, aside from Green & Green. For me, I find hiking in nature to be not only an excellent workout but one that has some great food for the soul as well. It is perhaps one of my own personal prescriptions for good health – mind, body and soul. I am not alone in this sentiment. As I mentioned earlier, it cannot be denied that exercise has positive impacts on one’s health – and exercise combined with nature (i.e. hiking) adds an additional boost according to further research. So join in me in my favourite activity and reap the rewards from hiking:
It is meditative:
In a recent study, it was discovered that hiking has a similar impact as meditation as it helps decrease negative thoughts and clear the mind. Researchers found those who hiked for a period of 90 minutes in a natural setting reported lower levels of negative thinking, whereas those who walked through an urban environment did not reap these benefits.
It improves creative problem solving:
One study showed creative problem solving can be improved by the simple act of disconnecting from technology and reconnecting with nature. In this particular study, participants hiked while backpacking in nature for approximately four days and they were not allowed to use any form of technology and were asked to perform tasks requiring creativity and complex problem solving. The researchers found that those immersed in the hiking excursions had increased performance on problem-solving tasks by an astonishing 50 percent.
I know it can be very tempting to take a selfie and post your activity right away on Instagram and/or Facebook etc, but the very act of immersing yourself in the present moment and connecting with nature will have a more long-lasting impact than how many likes you received on your latest social media post.
It is simply great exercise:
Hiking outdoors is a really good workout. I have the best sleep after a hike. Depending on the difficulty and length of your route, hiking can burn anywhere from 400-700 calories an hour. Hiking is easier on your joints compared to other forms of exercise such as running. It is also a relatively low-cost or free activity which is healthier for your bank account.
It is recommended by Doctors
I often tell people that hiking is my ultimate prescription for good health. As I am not a medical professional, I am glad to know many medical doctors also share the same prescription for good health. Doctors are encouraging people to spend time in nature – prescribing “ecotherapy” to help reduce anxiety, improve stress levels and to curb depression.
Enjoy, Get Outside and hike smart.