Hiking brings an array of physical and mental health advantages, building your fitness level while improving your mood and helping you have a more positive outlook. For these reasons, you may want to make hiking part of your addiction recovery fitness routine. While any form of exercise is good for you, hiking is especially helpful because spending time outdoors adds a synergistic effect to the activity. Consider these benefits of hiking for addiction recovery.
1. It’s Mentally Challenging
Unlike walking in place on a treadmill, riding a stationary bike or completing the same fitness circuit you do every other day, hiking brings an element of unpredictability. The natural surroundings change from one day to the next. For example, after a thunderstorm, part of the trail might be slippery, muddy or blocked by a fallen tree branch. While hiking, you’ll need to make split-second decisions about how to adjust your route, which keeps you mentally sharp.
2. Nature Is Awe-Inspiring
Humans evolved to love the great outdoors. Spending time in natural surroundings can decrease your stress level and lower your blood pressure. Next time you feel anxious or depressed, going outside for only a few minutes can improve your mood and connect you to something larger than yourself. Some people in 12-step programs even find nature so inspiring that they choose to use it as their higher power.
3. There Are Low Barriers to Entry
Unlike other outdoor activities, such as rock climbing, biking and kayaking, hiking does not require investing in expensive equipment or traveling to a specific location. All you need is a pair of comfortable shoes, workout clothes and a bit of sunscreen, and you can hike almost anywhere – from a city park to a rugged mountain trail. Plus, hiking is an exercise you already know how to do without any extra training.
4. It Can Improve Your Relationships
Part of your recovery process necessitates rebuilding relationships that crumbled while you were in the grips of active addiction. Hiking is an excellent way to achieve this goal because you can turn it into a social activity. Invite members of your sober support network to go on a hike with you. If they aren’t regular outdoor exercisers, you can introduce them to the benefits of hiking and perhaps inspire them to start going on more hikes themselves!
Hiking vs. Walking
While you may get some benefit from taking a gentle walk around your neighborhood, hiking usually involves a trail and several elevation changes, such as summiting a steep hill. Hiking requires more physical effort than walking due to the challenging terrain. Even a paved hiking trail will force you to exert yourself as you navigate it.
Whether your favorite trail winds its way through the woods, a nearby park or a mountainous area, you can make your regular hikes a sensory feast. Instead of listening to music, let the sounds of nature motivate you. You’ll hear the breeze rustling through the trees and the birds singing to each other. Focus on the sensations of the sun warming your skin, your feet striking the path and the breath moving through your lungs. Let your mind wander as you open it up to the wilderness surrounding you. In doing so, you may start to feel a greater connection with other living beings and learn to live more mindfully.
Connect With Nature at Vista Taos
If you’re looking for a beautiful, awe-inspiring place to begin your journey to wellness, consider recovering in Taos, New Mexico. Our community of people seeking improved mental and physical well-being sits surrounded by the Sangre del Cristo mountain range, where breathtaking views are everywhere you look. Taos has been a haven for healing and spirituality for centuries. To learn more about our holistic approach to substance abuse treatment, reach out to us today.