15 reasons why wilderness walking is good for you

Hikers at Drakensberg Mountains | Gesine Cheung
Hikers at Drakensberg Mountains | Gesine Cheung

Your legs were made for walking and that’s what they should do! Slipping into a pair of hiking shoes and embarking on a wilderness walk will better connect you with nature and improve your well-being. But if you need a bit more convincing, read on for our 15 reasons why you should hit the outdoors and put one foot in front of the other. 

1. Walking can make you wiser 

Doing a physical activity not only exercises the body but also the mind and with each step you take, your thinking can become clearer, more focused and you can grow more attentive, with your problem-solving skills also improving. The added cognitive benefits of heading outdoors on an active pursuit could see you finally finish that tricky Sudoku puzzle! 

Watch the video below of Jon Lineen, author of Perfect Motion: Why Walking Makes Us Wiser explaining how walking helps the mind. You can read an extract from his bestseller here as well.

2. It makes us healthier, more fit and slows down ageing

We all know the benefits of regular physical exercise but if you need a list to remind you of the proven health benefits, these include: strengthening your heart health, lowering blood pressure, reducing body fat and helping with weight loss, increasing your energy levels, strengthening and toning muscles, helping maintain strong bones, reducing the risk of chronic disease, stimulating blood flow, and even regulating your skin's metabolism and delaying the appearance of skin ageing. Say hello to the fountain of youth! Lacing up your pair of walking shoes sure sounds more alluring now, doesn’t it?

Happy to be on top of the Zalung La pass in Ladakh |  <i>Brad Atwal</i>

3. It’s a mood booster and stress reliever 

Need a chill pill? Going for a walk is a great prescription for boosting your mood and reducing stress and anxiety. Especially in a year where we've mostly been stuck at home, walking and changing environments are essential. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can stimulate anti-anxiety effects and boost your self-esteem! When your body is on the move in the outdoors this will open up a space that improves your well-being and increase those feel-good hormones and neurotransmitters including: 

- Endorphins – your body’s natural pain reliever. They’re kind of like morphine for your body that triggers positive feelings. 
- Dopamine – associated with how you feel pleasure, along with learning, memory, focus and motor system functions. 
- Serotonin – regulates your mood as well as your sleep, appetite, digestion, learning ability and memory. 

Long story short, walking can make you feel happier – yay!

4. Wilderness walking can take you onto paths less travelled 

Get off the tour bus and access places you can’t by any other means. Disconnecting from a busy lifestyle and away from an urban dense environment can be the switch your mind and body needs, and what better way than on a walking holiday? An active wilderness escape takes you away from the hustle and bustle of city living for a more solitary break. It’s the best way to step away from technology and distractions. Venture where the Wi-Fi is weak! 

5. Reconnect with nature on a different level 

When slowing down to enjoy Mother Nature on a walk, you grow to appreciate our natural environments and the wildlife that call it home. You even begin to notice the little things: the colours of the wings on an insect, the smell of flowers you stroll past, the shape of a cloud and the sound of trees whispering among themselves. 

Hiking along the Larapinta Trail, Australia's most iconic desert walking trail |  <i>Shaana McNaught</i>

RELATED: Best walking books for the outdoor traveller >

6. Take in fresh air 

There’s nothing like a dose of fresh air to fill up your lungs and believe it or not, there are people in the world selling canisters of bottled ‘clean and green’ air, mainly to areas that are threatened with air pollution. Yup, captured air from areas like the Blue Mountains and Tasmania, where you can enjoy fresh Aussie air anywhere, anytime or maybe you prefer to inhale some crisp, alpine Banff air bottled from Canada that will set you back $32 for 130g. 

It speaks volumes why taking in a breath of fresh air on a wilderness walk is good for you. From encouraging increased diaphragmatic breathing to improving brain function from the increased oxygen intake, the cleaner the air, the better! 

7. A chance to reset 

As mentioned above, walking can help improve your mood and clear your mind. And by doing it in a space that’s smack bang in the middle of enchanting mountain backdrops with no one else in sight, it offers the chance to hit the reset button. Refresh your bio-rhythms away from noise and light pollution on a wilderness walk where the sound of nature can help you forget about the stresses and the busy lifestyle back home. It offers the chance to feel reinvigorated, more energetic and full of life when you return home. 

Walking through diverse landscapes on the Bhutan Snowman Trek |  <i>Soren Kruse Ledet</i>

8. Enjoy a better night’s sleep 

We all like to make sure we get a good night’s rest and studies have shown that aerobic exercises can help you fall asleep quicker as well as improve the quality of your sleep. Beauty sleep here we come!

9. Get your creative juices flowing 

When you get the chance to clear your mind, it allows room for things to grow and some of your best ideas can come about when on a walk. Doing an activity that sees you moving about can see your sensory systems working at their peak. So as you wander on your walk, the chance for your mind to wander as well can allow it the chance to works through whatever you’ve been grappling with or even help you feel more focused at the end of it so you can tackle the next thing life throws at you. 

10. Get your steps in 

Obsessed with increasing your average daily steps every month? Us too! We know counting steps gets a bit addictive, so if you're motivated by your Fitbit, a wilderness holiday will definitely clock in plenty of steps and tick off your fitness goals. Climbing Mt Sonder on the Larapinta Trail can see you logging around 31,000 steps! 

11. Create lasting memories 

You forget many things in life, but you never forget a walking holiday. Especially when set in some of the most incredible and untouched landscapes. Travelling on a wilderness hike will bring about an album full of memories that will last a lifetime. 

12. It can bring about conversations and strengthen relationships 

If you enjoy the company when in the outdoors, joining a group of like-minded adventurers on a wilderness walk helps bring about some of the best times to chat, bond and reconnect. Whilst cycling can’t offer that when on the trail due to its speed of travel, getting a group walking together is a fun option to create new connections or strengthen existing friendships and family ties. 

Why not on the Goodwin Austin Glacier

13. Enjoy uninterrupted listening time 

If you prefer a more solo gambit in the wild, popping on some earphones and switching on your favourite songs or podcast allows for a bit of “me” time. And for those that prefer the music of nature, exploring the outdoors on your own terms on a self-guided hike can be the ultimate playlist.

14. Support local communities when on a wilderness walking holiday 

One of the great things about venturing off the beaten track on a wilderness holiday is the opportunity to spread tourism income to the many remote communities and villages you visit along the trail. Trekking in wild and remote parts of the world – from the Andes to the roof of Africa – and opting for a walking holiday that engages with local operators and communities, not only forges a relationship between walkers and the local community but supports its resident people enlisted as guides, cooks, drivers, porters or helpers. 

For expeditions like Nepal’s Great Himalaya Trail, this means the employment of many local porters and support staff from various remote mountain regions, purchasing food goods from these isolated villages and, of course, allowing travellers the opportunity to purchase traditional handicrafts from various local communities. 

Warming smiles of local villagers |  <i>Kelvin Law</i>

With the ongoing pandemic ensuing, you can help support the wonderful individuals who have given us so much joy in our travels through our Grants for Ground Staff Appeal; many of whom are dependent on income from travel and tourism, living in countries that will not see the vaccine for some time. Find out more about the World Expeditions Foundation’s appeal and donate today > 

Using travel for a positive impact and giving back to the communities you visit can make your adventure all the more enjoyable. 

15. Take pleasure in your sense of achievement 

There's an old Japanese proverb, 'Life without endeavour is like entering a jewel mine and coming out with empty hands.'  When embarking on a wilderness walk – big, small or in between, the sense of accomplishment that comes with it is just another one of the incredible takeaways.

Excited to be on the Vigne Glacier |  <i>Soren Kruse Ledet</i>

Whether it’s donning a full pack on the John Muir Trail over 23 days, persevering in unpredictable highland weather on a trek in Tasmania or testing your limits at altitude by going on your first ever multi-day hike in the Peruvian Andes. No matter the distance, choosing a new or more challenging pursuit that pushes you reaps rewards; and the chance to grow from such an experience is what money can’t buy. 

You may even prove to yourself that with persistence and drive, you can do almost anything. Not a bad pay-off from a wilderness trek, right? 

Have a reason that didn’t make the list? Share why walking has been good for you in the comments below.

Walking, Trekking, Hiking, Exercise, Benefits

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