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Friday, August 17, 2018

Lead the Pack: 10 Benefits of Hiking as a Family

Photo by cherublisa (Flickr)

After much discussion, we decided to spend our last vacation of the summer on a family hike. My girls and I appreciate the opportunity to get up close and personal with nature as we relax. We also like hiking because it provides 10 benefits for the whole family, a great reason to lead the pack and enjoy a family hike today.

Hiking Promotes Learning

When my girls were younger, I pointed out colorful plants, unique smells, and wildlife noises during our hikes. Now, they research the trails we plan to hike, pack their own magnifying glasses and nature journals, and teach me about the natural wonders we encounter on our hiking adventures.

Hiking Provides Physical Activity

My girls and I enjoy an active lifestyle, and we definitely appreciate the health benefits we gain during hikes. Hiking gives us a cardiovascular workout, improves agility, and builds muscle strength. Plus, it's a fun way to burn calories, tone our bodies, and reach our daily fitness goals.

Hiking Reduces Reliance on Digital Distractions

If your kids are like mine, they love their digital devices, and I admit that I spend a lot of time on my phone, too. There's something about hiking, though, that helps us reset our brains and want to spend less time online. We pack one cellphone for emergency purposes and then spend our device-free hike talking and enjoying the peace, quiet, and tranquil energy of the great outdoors.

Hiking Sharpens Concentration and Focus

Spending time in nature helps our kids reboot their concentration and focus. The physical activity of hiking also gives kids an outlet for their energy, which helps them sit still and think more clearly when they return to the classroom or another task.

Hiking Builds Self-Confidence

With every hike we take, I give my girls more responsibilities. They now feel confident enough to choose our trails, persevere on long hikes and on trails with many obstacles, and pack their own hiking and survival gear. While their self-confidence ensures that my girls can hike successfully, it also equips them to succeed in tough academic classes, push through sports practices, and say no to peer pressure.

Hiking Develops Problem-Solving Skills

Last year, we took a wrong turn and got lost while hiking on an unfamiliar trail. Instead of panicking, my girls figured out how to find our way back to the car. They even discovered how to walk around huge boulders on the trail and cross a stream without getting wet. These and other challenges helped my girls develop problem-solving skills they can use in everyday life.

Hiking Boosts Communication Skills

To pass the time while hiking, my girls and I practice conversational skills, such as asking questions, active listening, and taking turns. We also take advantage of the undistracted time to talk about life goals, work through personal problems they may be experiencing at home or school, and practice respectful debate and negotiation, all important communication tools.

Hiking Improves Mental Health

Hiking is good for our mental health. Studies show that a walk in natural environments releases serotonin and adrenaline in our bodies, allowing us to feel good. We also ruminate less, relieve tension and stress, and fight depression as we hike outdoors.

Hiking Prompts Environmental Protection

My girls are more receptive to learning about ecology and ways they can protect the environment as we walk in nature. They also know that we'll talk often about conservation, practice the "leave no trace" principle, and volunteer regularly to remove litter from our local trails so that we can continue one of our favorite family activities.

Hiking Enhances Family Bonding

One of my favorite hiking benefits is the opportunity to escape real life and truly connect and bond with my girls. Not only do we talk about all sorts of topics as we walk, but we can reminisce for years about the shared memories we make during our hikes.

When we lead the pack and take our family hiking, the entire family can enjoy better health, communication, happiness, and well-being. In addition to these 10 hiking benefits, what does your family gain from hiking?

Find more about the author: Kim Hart

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