John Muir was onto something when he said, "In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks." Hikers battle bug bites, blisters and bruises for the sake of overcoming a challenge and enjoying some quality time with nature. But along with the snow-capped mountain tops and ocean views come an abundance of mental and physical perks.
Here's what hikers can teach the rest of us about leading a happier, healthier life.
Hikers are creative.
Forget the caffeine. Those looking for a brainpower boost need not look further than the closest trail. Research shows that spending time outdoors increases attention spans and creative problem-solving skills by as much as 50 percent. The authors of the study also point out that the results may have as much to do with unplugging from technology as they do spending time outside. "This is a way of showing that interacting with nature has real, measurable benefits to creative problem-solving," David Strayer, co-author of the study, tells the Wilderness Society.
Plus, it's not only the lack of technology and surplus of trees, sunshine and fresh air that contribute to this creativity boost in trail blazers. Researchers from Stanford University's Graduate School of Education found that walking gets the creative juices flowing far more than sitting.
Hikers are seriously fit.
Hitting the trail works out your body as much as it does your brain. Just one hour of trekking can burn well over 500 calories, depending on the level of incline and the weight of the pack you're carrying. Hiking is a great way to get a serious workout without putting too much pressure on your joints. "Trails are often softer on joints than asphalt or concrete," Caroline Stedman, a seasonal Park Ranger at northern Wisconsin's Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, tells The Huffington Post. "So I find myself feeling less stiff and creaky after a hike than a jog down a sidewalk."
If you head for the hills, weight loss results are even better. Not only are you burning some serious calories, but altitude itself has also proven a weight loss ally.