Image of hikersAmericans all over the country pay big bucks and cash in on vacation days for the opportunity to forego the office in favor of some sunshine. In fact, many people are likely to recall just how often parents of a certain generation would extol the benefits of some fresh air. There are a wide variety of great reasons to make spending more time outdoors a part of your routine, and those are only multiplied exponentially when you choose to be active as well. One of the easiest and most pleasant ways to spend more time outdoors is to take up hiking. When you consider the ways in which studies have found hiking improves quality of life, it would seem that the already awesome combination of exercise with fresh air adds up to even greater than the sum of its already healthy parts!

Combat Depression

The National Center of Biotechnology Information published a study in which they found that hiking boosts mental health, reducing depression and, in extreme scenarios, even lowering the risk of patient suicide. It would seem that individuals who struggle with these issues are at risk of spending too much time indoors, which in turn results in an increasingly inactive lifestyle. As few as two hikes per week does more than just improve physical fitness, but also gives such patients a chance to experience new and positive stimulus.

Improve Sleep

The modern workday is jam-packed with technological distraction, loud noises, and constant stress. As technology has come to pervade more than just our work lives, and come to dominate many parts of our private lives as well, aspects of personal health like good sleeping habits become susceptible to its negative impacts. The National Sleep Foundation discovered that a 2.5 hours of hiking each week can actually help you feel more rested and, as a result, more alert throughout the daytime. Nearly half of all Americans feel groggy during the day. Using your body during the day can do things like release endorphins which will soothe the harmful effect of stress, as well as diminish the chance of leg cramps during sleep.

Commune with Nature

Yet another casualty of our increasingly technology-dependent lifestyle is often our relationship with nature. It is still important to take the time to unplug from the daily grind and simply appreciate our natural surroundings. Being outdoors is a fantastic way to naturally reduce stress, as well as improve alertness and attention span. Something as simple as a walk around the block is a great way to clear your mind and “reboot,” so to speak. Our bodies are designed to move around outdoors, so make it a priority to spend time engaging in positive, calming, activities in the sunshine.