What differentiates a hike from a walk?  Can you hike through the mall?  Can you walk up a mountain trail?  When out of milk do you hike to the local market?  Is there a reason that we have “sidewalks” and not “hike walks?”  I’ve heard it said that a hike is a “walk with purpose.”   I would certainly agree with that but I also feel a hike is so much more.  In my opinion that which separates a hike from a walk reflects the richness that a hike can provide that leads to optimal mental health and physical fitness benefit and well being in an environment not normally visited.

Ellie Lane Trailhead Iron Mountain, Poway, CA

As far as the mental health benefit, being out in nature and witnessing the varied terrain and scenic views offers a stunning picture that we do not routinely see.  We are seeing mountains, rivers, wildlife, terrain and colors not often experienced.  Not only are we seeing these surroundings, but other senses are affected as well.  Sounds we don’t normally experience are heard, the crunching of leaves, the rustling of branches, the rushing of streams and rivers and the songs and chirps and calls of wildlife that surround the hiker.  We also feel the warmth of the sun, the breeze of the wind and the various textures of the rocks, stone and earth we are walking upon which appeals to our sense of touch.

As these senses get stimulated a natural calming affect starts to take place, or as I like to call it, “Nature’s tranquilizer” kicks in, which in my opinion is reason enough to go hiking.  We also gain a sense of accomplishment and reward from completing a hike yet another mental health benefit to the sport of hiking.

Hiking also provides a very significant physical fitness benefit due to the unpredictable nature of the hike and the physical challenges that are presented.  Not only does the distance of the hike offer a physical challenge to the body aerobically, but the climbs, dips and the various compositions of the hiking trail workout different muscle groups, not only in our legs, but the back and bottom as well!  If you want to get your legs and butt in shape, go hiking!

Hopefully, I have offered some insights in answering the question “what’s a hike” as well as opening you up to the mental health and physical fitness benefits to the sport of hiking.

 I leave you with the following thought:

 If you want to get from point A to point B go on a walk.  If you want to go on an enlightening journey go on a hike!

More to come……….