Canadian winters. What to say, what to say.
Well, for starters, they’re cold. Very cold. And coming from Arizona (where it’s very hot), it’s definitely taken some getting used to. Not to say I’m used to it whatsoever, but I’m getting better. Now, instead of wearing 3 pairs of pants, I wear 2. Sometimes I go out with only 1 down jacket on. So yeah, you could say I live on the edge.
But the thing I dislike the most about the cold isn’t the stinging pain you get when you first go outside, or having your mascara freeze only to melt down your face when you get back inside. No. The thing I dislike the most is the fact that I can’t go hiking.
Sure, I guess I could go hiking still, but:
- I would not enjoy it because I would 100 percent be complaining about how cold I was the entire time. And…
- I would most definitely slip on ice/fall in snow/do something clumsy to end up breaking every bone in my body. I have a hard enough time staying on a dry, warm, snow-less mountain. I don’t need to be taking any unnecessary risks here.
So no, I can’t go hiking in the winter here. But whenever I’m somewhere warmer and have the chance, you can bet your booty you’ll find me on a mountain somewhere. There’s just something about being out in nature, getting a good sweat going, working your muscles, and enjoying a nice view. I would describe it as nothing less than pure serenity! The best workout of all time, if you ask me. But I’m pretty biased.
I grew up steps from Camelback Mountain in Arizona. A beautiful, challenging, daunting hike in the middle of a bustling urban metropolis. Although Scottsdale is a desert, there are a surprising amount of amazing hikes within and around the city. My love for hiking was sparked, and it would continue. Here’s a nice picture of me on top of Camelback Mountain on my most recent conquering of the Camel.
Then, I moved to Seattle. Holy hiking in Washington. WOW. I was head over heels in love. The Pacific Northwest has got to be one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. (If you’ve never been, please refer to the picture of insane beautifulness at the top of this post that basically looks like a green screen but is, in fact, real). I was hiking every weekend I could get away from my studies (and that I wasn’t visiting my boyfriend down in Portland). Hiking was my release. I’ve always had bad anxiety and something about being in nature made that anxiety completely subside, no matter what I was worried about, what exam I thought I was going to fail, what roommate drama I was having, if I was hiking, I was happy. Truly a stress-free zone. Bailey’s bliss, if you will. But why is that? I couldn’t be the only one who felt this way.
Turns out I’m not! There have been tons of studies done about the impacts being out in nature and hiking have on not only your physical health, but your mental health as well.
So lets start with the physical benefits you’ll get. Yes, obviously you get physical benefits, you’re literally climbing up a mountain (or hill, or even just leisurely walking on ground that isn’t completely flat). You’re gonna see a boost in your cardiovascular health which is very important. The up and down motion also engages your core muscles because it requires you to maintain your balance! The impact helps strengthen your bones too. AND last, but definitely not least, I’m talkin’ booty benefits babyyyyyy. You want a big, strong, bouncin’ booty? Well get up and go for a hike! Any time you’re going up (stairs, walking uphill, etc.), you’re growing those glutes.
Okay now that we’re all excited about big butts, let’s get to the mental health benefits. I think I speak for the majority of people who live in cities these days when I say we don’t spend enough time in nature. It’s hard. Everyone’s busy living in the city, working their lives away to support themselves and others, there just isn’t enough time to get out of town and spend quality time in nature everyday like humans used to do.
It’s been shown that city dwellers have a higher risk of depression and anxiety when compared to people who live closer to nature, and not to mention the rising levels of stress-related chronic diseases and illnesses in modern society in general. Yikes. Sounds to me like we all need to take a step back and relax a little bit. So what better way to do that than by getting some exercise (which releases endorphins that improve your mood and stress levels) out in nature (which also has been shown to ease stress levels and decrease blood pressure and other stress-related illnesses).
A study was performed at Stanford University which actually showed that people who walked out in nature for 90 minutes demonstrated a decreased activity in the brain region associated with depression when compared with those who walked in a more urban environment for the same amount of time. So not only will spending time in nature neurologically lower your risk of depression, but you can also turn it into a social outing. Go hiking with friends, strengthen your bonds with others and increase your sense of belonging. Most importantly, HAVE FUN!
So basically what I’m trying to get at here is the next time you see a beautiful mountain, a cute little hill, or even a nice walking path, don’t drive past it. Stop and explore! You never know what wonders you’ll find when you take just a little extra time out of a day to enjoy some neat-ure. And maybe there aren’t any good hikes near you, or you don’t want to go outside because its frigid out like me, maybe set aside 15 minutes to simply go for a walk in a park somewhere. Whatever you need to do to get you motivated. So I’m going to end things here (or else I could ramble all day) with a little inspiration of my boyfriend and I hiking in Banff over the summer. Isn’t it beautiful?! Doesn’t it look like the best use of time ever!? Now go!