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Nature’s Healing Hikes: Rabiaa El Garani on Embracing Wellness and Connection through the Art of Hiking

by Anamta bnn
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Rabiaa El Garani acknowledges that the therapeutic effects of nature on our mental and physical health have been recognized for a long time. It cannot be easy to spare time to truly experience nature’s beauty. Fortunately, even an action as simple as a nature walk can benefit our overall health.

Studies have shown that it can be more rewarding than walking in urbanized areas, emphasizing that the location of our walk can significantly influence its impact. Additionally, it’s crucial to mention that researchers often differentiate between the passive walking we do in our daily routines, such as grocery shopping and running errands (known as “secondary purpose walking”), and the deliberate act of going out for a walk. Here’s why nature hikes are essential for our well-being.

Enhance Your Cardiovascular Wellness

Traversing hiking paths often involves challenging ascents, which, surprisingly, are excellent for cardiac health! However, even without significant elevation changes, the heart-boosting advantages of hiking can still be enjoyed. Hiking is a cardiovascular (aerobic) workout that increases your heart and breathing rates as you strive to oxygenate your body.

Cardio workouts like hiking enhance blood circulation to the tiny vessels surrounding your heart, where obstructions can accumulate over time. This improved blood flow reduces the risk of heart disease and better your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Hiking might elevate your heart rate more slowly than running or high-intensity cardio exercises. However, pay attention to a hike’s potential to stimulate your heart. Health experts propose that just 30 minutes of cardio daily can offer these benefits.

Improves Mental Health

The psychological perks of hiking are extensive, ranging from the diminution of stress to an increase in creativity. There’s a unique allure when one dives into the vastness of the natural world. Enclosed by dense greenery, vivid plant life, and the tranquil symphony of wildlife, the mind is presented with a unique chance to break away from the digital sphere and re-establish its connection with itself.

This detachment from the daily turmoil, the persistent influx of data, and sensory overload fosters more profound self-examination and introspection, enhancing mental clearness and emotional stability.

Additionally, Rabiaa El Garani agrees that being in nature decreases cortisol — the body’s chief stress hormone. As you tread through calm landscapes, your mind can slowly release stored tension and worry, promoting inner peace.

Improve Sleep Quality

Embarking on an extensive nature hike could do more than motivate a recuperative nap after the trek. Recent studies also hint at a potential enhancement in overall sleep quality.

In a research study by Kenneth Wright from the University of Colorado Boulder published in Current Biology in 2017, participants’ sleep cycles were assessed before and during a weekend camping trip.

As part of the study, the subjects were exposed solely to natural light throughout the trip, with no electronic devices involved. This resulted in a rise in their melatonin levels and an adjustment of their internal biological clocks to an earlier time. The findings from this study suggest that being immersed in nature can help us realign with a more natural sleep rhythm.

Boosting Endurance

Whenever you venture on trails above 4,000 feet, your body adjusts to function with a reduced supply of oxygen. A study in the “Journal of Applied Physiology” discovered that male endurance runners who trained at high altitudes twice weekly over six weeks experienced a 35 percent increase in their resistance to fatigue compared to those who exercised at sea level within the same duration.

This concept also applies to hikers: acclimating to high-altitude hikes teaches your body to operate efficiently even with less oxygen. As a result, hiking trails situated at lower elevations will feel more manageable.

Weight Loss

Engaging in physical activities such as hiking significantly contributes to calorie burning. For instance, a hiker weighing roughly 100 kg is estimated to expend about 550 calories every hour, equivalent to 2399 kilojoules per hour. However, this measurement fluctuates depending on the individual’s weight, with lighter hikers consuming approximately 440 calories.

Factors like carrying a heavier backpack, undertaking lengthy hikes, traversing steeper slopes, and negotiating uneven terrains can all increase the number of calories burned. Moreover, hiking offers another advantage when it comes to weight loss. During extended hikes, the availability of high-sugar foods is typically limited, thus further promoting weight reduction over time.

Science has confirmed what many nature lovers have always believed – that activities like hiking and strolling in natural surroundings come with various mental benefits. The mix of physical exercise, the sight of natural splendor, and decreased stress levels creates a comprehensive experience that enhances brain health. Whether your aim is improved cognitive performance, stress reduction, mood elevation, or enhanced creativity, the healing impact of nature on the brain is well-documented.