Benefits of hiking for seniors (and the rest of us)
Text and CreativeCommons drawing by Frits Ahlefeldt
Old hikers often have a remarkable life-quality, good health and a positive perspective on life. This support both new research and the old wisdom that walking can help you stay healthy and happy throughout life and carry on longer and better
But what is so special about hiking, compared to other activities for seniors? Here is a few of the things that make hiking and walking so special for elderly people:
Hiking combines wellness with exercise
Walking is simple and relaxing, it doesn’t take a course in complex game rules and you don’t have to calculate your handicap or keep ahead of the next people on the trail. You don’t have to compete, win or keep score. Walking is so simple that it in strange ways liberate your head to relax, think about things or just enjoy the moment in a Zen like way. If you want to take a break, there are often plenty of great opportunities for it. Hiking is in many ways walking, just often with a better view, but still with all the health and exercise benefits included and in the pace that can be suited to your physical shape.
Hiking keeps your mind clear
Listening or talking for extended periods can be exhausting, especially for seniors. Fresh air and the natural breaks and silence that comes when hiking is a very different way to keep a conversation going, compared to sitting in a chair, talking for hours.
Walking give you time to think things over, reflect on your understanding and respond easier because your mind will work much better when walking – as many philosophers knew and practiced, from Confucius and Socrates to Heidegger, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche.
Hiking is social
Walking together is a great way to keep fit and socialize at the same time, many senior groups use walking to get together, get exercise, fresh air, smile and drive any trace of loneliness and melancholy out of sight, in efficient ways that are both fun and create new bonds between people, places and experiences.
hiking can also be a great way to strengthen family bonds between generations, as old memories and stories, long forgotten, often come back. Stories that can be both great, but also stories that can heal traumatic experiences or even help overcome conflicts, unresolved expectations and misunderstandings in unique ways, when approached on foot in the right way.
Hiking gives you appetite
A good metabolism and plenty of healthy food is important for staying in good shape, both mental and physical. Walking boost the natural mechanisms in your body to fight off infections, stress and help your body and mind stay in balance and keep your streams of energy in flow, so you will feel hungry and energized.
Hiking can be like meditation, without closing your eyes
Hiking is so close to meditation that traditions combining them as “walking meditation” are well-known from many parts of the world. The same benefits can be experienced, and many of the same breathing and mindfulness techniques used, just instead of sitting, you will be walking, and instead of closing your eyes to the world, you will keep them open.