Hiking is a great way to stay fit while exploring the beauty of nature. Whether exploring the trails in your own backyard or venturing further into America's magnificent hiking trail system, hikes offer chances to meditate while traveling solo or bond on an adventure with friends. It's also a perfect activity for a family day out, especially since scientific research associates hiking and other outdoor play with numerous mental, physical, and social benefits for children.
There's hardly a better time to hit the trail than National Hiking Day, which takes place on November 17th. The holiday celebrates the many ways hiking can benefit participants mentally and physically, and encourages hikers to protect and preserve trails through responsible use; this means disposing of any refuse, reporting unsafe conditions or trail damage, and allowing plant and animal habitats to remain undisturbed.
3 Ways a Scenic Hike Benefits Kids
Hiking can improve executive function
Whenever we have to make an important choice, form a plan, choose our priorities, and negotiate with others, we're using a set of skills called executive function. These skills begin to develop during childhood, and they're empirically linked to time spent in outdoor spaces engaging with other kids. This is where children engaged in the lived experiences that hone executive functioning, and a supervised hike with a group of friends is an ideal way to chase that skill boost. [Source]
Hikes can positively impact mental health
Stress, anxiety, depression, and negative thoughts aren't exclusive to adults, and kids experiencing these tough feelings for the first time may need some help understanding and coping with them. Regular physical activity and exposure to natural spaces are routinely linked to mental health improvements, and for children, time spent hiking can reduce brain activity linked to depression and anxiety, end negative thought cycles, and may even have a positive affect on mental health lasting into adulthood. [Source], [Source]
Groups on hikes work out and hang out longer
Physical activity and social time are significant positives for both kids and adults, but overscheduled lives often mean we don't get enough of either. In lieu of playing on the playground or taking a walk around the block, a hike can be a good remedy for this. Studies on hiking have demonstrated that it leads participants to spend longer periods of time exercising and socializing than they might if they went to the gym or participated in another fitness activity. [Source]
Parents, don't forget to follow important hiking safety tips whenever you hit the trail, with or without kids. These include:
- Choosing a trail suitable for your limits
- Bringing a pack with an appropriate amount of food, water, spare clothes, and correct supplies
- Wearing safety gear, including boots with tread
- Always make sure your location is known
- Be prepared for weather changes
- Have a method of communication