In Japan, there is a tradition known as shinrin-yoku, which is roughly translated to “forest bathing.” It’s the idea that simply taking a stroll through a tranquil forest is enough to improve your health. While some may look at the idea with skepticism, research has shown that there are numerous benefits to the practice.
But just walking through the woods isn’t the only way to improve your health. In fact, the health benefits of a wilderness adventure—whether you’re hiking, biking, or kayaking—are numerous.
The most obvious health benefit of a trip to the wilderness is exercise. Physical activity is almost inevitable when you’re on a wilderness adventure. Here are just a few of the benefits of the different types of wilderness exercises:
- Kayaking: Low-impact workout that strengthens and increases the flexibility of the arms, shoulders, back, and chest.
- Mountain biking: Another low-impact workout that improves cardiovascular health, coordination, and balance.
- Mountain climbing: Builds upper-body and core strength, stamina, and agility.
- Backpacking: Improves blood pressure and sugar, builds lower body strength and bone density, and reduces the risk of osteoarthritis
Whichever type of activity you choose, you can expect it to decrease your risk of numerous conditions, like heart disease, stroke, and cancer, as well as boost your energy.
Sleep is an essential part of our wellness. It’s the time of day the body does most of its repairs, and it increases our immune system function. And being outside may also help improve our sleep, especially if we sleep outside.
Being outside, especially overnight, can help reset our circadian rhythm that may be thrown off by late nights and electronic use. Exposure to the bright light of the sun, especially first thing in the morning, helps encourage the body to fall asleep earlier.
For those who enjoy the great outdoors, being outside will naturally make you happy. But the great outdoors’ influence on our mental health goes a little deeper than this. Being outside helps reduce the production of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress.
Being outside and unplugged from distractions can also help increase mindfulness even better than indoor seated meditation.
Naturally, exercise can improve our heart health, but simply being surrounded by nature can do that as well. As mentioned, being outside reduces our stress levels. Along with improving our emotional wellbeing, this puts less strain on our heart rate and blood pressure.
That means, ultimately, it doesn’t matter what kind of adventure you’re taking into the wilderness. Whether you’re packing up your backpacking gear or packing up the car with your overlanding essentials, you can trust that your health will thank you.