Hiking and PTSD

What can hiking do for PTSD and why does it matter? Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an illness that affects approximately 3.5% of adults in the U.S. every year and one in eleven adults will suffer from PTSD in their lifetime. Billions of dollars is spent every year on treatment of PTSD, while some treatments including medication and talk therapy are necessary what else will help? Hiking and being in nature can help; all the way back to Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson there has been knowledge of the need for nature in our lives.

Combat veterans are who most of us think of when we think of PTSD survivors and for good reason they experience horrible things and we hear about many of those experiences in the media. In reality, they are only a portion of those that suffer from PTSD. Unfortunately the largest amount of sufferers are from domestic issues such as physical and psychological abuse in the family sadly with many being children. Many other events could cause PTSD including a car accident, witnessing a violent crime or watching a loved one die. We all have the potential to be exposed to events that could lead to PTSD. Researchers and groups are starting to study and provide hiking as a treatment to combat this illness.

REI pledged $1 million to research at the University of Washington with veterans to determine the connection to nature and rehabilitation. Why would a company like REI do this? A few come to mind like equipment sales, philanthropy, community involvement and promotion of the outdoors. The important concept I see in this contribution is their love for nature and wanting to study the impacts of helping those suffering from PTSD.

There are many groups and programs helping veterans get better through hiking. Just like there are many other people impacted by this illness, there will be ever-increasing programs to help combat the effects of PTSD of all people. There are already programs developing for adolescents and young adults because of the success of the programs for veterans. Hiking will continue to grow as a treatment for PTSD. Why? Because it matters.

Please take care of yourself and those around you. If hiking helps you like it helps me and many others get out and experience the benefits of nature.

photo taken by Shaun Cruze on a hike near Phoenix AZ

Hiking for mental health

Your mental health is equally important as your physical health. Hiking is a great way to improve your mental health. I discussed the physical health benefits of hiking earlier in… Now let us discuss the positive impacts to mental health and hiking. There are many studies conducted on the impact of the outdoors and mental health. These studies including one from NIH, and my own experience is that hiking connects the person to nature including fresh air, beautiful scenery and contact with other creatures.

One of the interesting connections between mental health and physical health of hiking is that when you are outside you do not realize how long you are exercising. Most of the time there is another goal involved in the hike other than exercise. There is typically some beautiful scenery along the hike or a beautiful view at the end of the hike worth hiking to. Sometimes during the hike, you can get lost in thought and not realize the benefit of time spent exercising. Outdoor hiking provides all of these mental benefits because the distractions from time that do not happen when in a gym setting with timers on treadmills and clocks on the walls.

Exposure to nature does wonders for stress and depression reduction as well. After a stressful day at work, a very good remedy is to get outside and enjoy fresh air to rejuvenate your body. Depression is a scary topic that has to be addressed by professionals; however, I believe that hiking is a good prescription to help. Seeing, smelling, hearing and feeling the great outdoors is a wonderful way to lower stress and depression.

Mindfulness is very impactful to mental well-being and hiking is a great way to be connected through mindfulness. Being in nature is one of the easiest places to be mindful, you can experience everything around you and just let it be what it is. Whether it is feeling the ground with every step, or feeling the air on your face or experiencing all the sounds around you experiencing nature is very mindful. Anywhere along the hike a pause can be taken to be still and further experience mindfulness as well. Mindful hiking is a great way to experience the benefit of mindfulness.

Work on your mental health, get outdoors and enjoy a hike.

Picture taken by Shaun Cruze during a hike north of Pyramid Lake Nevada looking at the Granite mountain range

Hiking benefits for middle-age adults

Getting old is not for wimps, that is what my dad always says and now I agree with him. As we age, our bodies tend to deteriorate including our heart, lungs, muscles and bones. The good news is that with regular exercise, all of the declines in these body parts slow or cease and improvements frequently occur. Hiking is a great way to get regular exercise and take advantage of these improvements.

The heart is a muscle and like any other muscle, it needs exercise to stay healthy. Hiking is a great way to challenge the heart muscle safely as each person can set the pace and difficulty of the hike. Middle-aged adults get many benefits from this flexibility of setting the pace for hiking because they start to realize they cannot workout as they used to. Elevation gain and pace are easy to gauge with any hike and provide positive impacts to heart heath. Keeping the heart healthy is extremely important to overall health especially for middle-aged adults and hiking is a great way to keep it healthy.

The rest of the muscles throughout the body atrophy as we age if they are not exercised. Hiking is a great way to consistently, safely use many muscles throughout the body. Strengthening of leg muscles, hips and core is achieved through hiking by movement, balance and core engagement throughout the hike. All levels of hiking have positive impacts on overall muscle strengthening and the best part is you can control the intensity of growth by choosing the hike intensity.

Bone density is another area that middle-aged adults have to consider as they age. Beginning at the age of 30, we start to lose bone density. Hiking is a weight bearing exercise; therefore, it helps boost bone density. Another benefit of hiking is absorption of vitamin D, which also promotes calcium absorption, which is necessary for bone health. Hiking is low impact on the joints as well protecting them from unnecessary repetitive jarring. Taking care of our old bones starts with protecting them and keeping them strong when we are middle age and younger hiking is a great way to keep bones strong.

Get out and enjoy the great outdoors by taking a hike. You did not know how beneficial it is for your health did you?

Hiking in the neighborhood

By Shaun Cruze

February 24th 2021

Does your neighborhood have a trail surrounding it or close by? Most neighborhoods in Reno Nevada and probably the majority of new developments in cities across the United States have trails between, through or around them. This is a huge benefit to take advantage of to improve your overall health. There are many benefits to these neighborhood trails but I would like to point out a few of them.

The first benefit to these types of trails are ease of use and access. For most of these types of trails, it is extremely easy to access sometimes just a few houses down there is a gate or access trail. These trails are also normally well maintained so they have nice smooth surfaces to hike and enjoy. They also are close to your house so you do not have to drive to them and park a car to start your hike. Ease of use on these types of trails make hiking extremely convenient so get out and get started.

Another great benefit of the neighborhood trail is the cost effectiveness of hiking. There is not any special types of hiking gear required other than a decent pair of comfortable shoes. The cost of getting to this type of hiking is also minimal because you can normally hike right to the start of the trail and there are not any fees to get there or take the hike. If you are looking for a low-cost healthy way to exercise hiking in your neighborhood meets the requirement.

The last benefit of neighborhood hiking that I think of is connection. The connection to a neighborhood makes for a safe hike. If you run into any trouble, there are several houses and probably many people nearby on the trail. Hiking on this type of trail minimizes the probability of criminal activity and the seriousness of any medical issue that could arise simply because people are around. The other connection is seeing people and being able to smile and say hi brightening your day and hopefully fellow hikers.

There are many reasons to get out hike in your neighborhood some of these listed are just a few. So get outside, explore and start to enjoy the benefits of hiking in your own neighborhood. If you need some ideas for hikes in the Reno area check out https://www.reno.gov/government/departments/parks-recreation-community-services/parks-trails/reno-trails

Hiking for health

By Shaun Cruze

February 17, 2021

What is hiking? Britannica defines hiking as walking in nature as a recreational activity. Hiking is a natural exercise that promotes physical fitness, is economical and convenient, and requires no special equipment. There are all types of hikes; some people might think “I’m not a hiker” “I don’t want to hike up a mountain” good news you can hike anywhere as long as you get outside and enjoy nature. There are organized hikes, hiking groups and groomed hiking trails. The area around Reno Nevada has several hiking trails; whether it is the foothills, Mount Rose or Lake Tahoe many areas have areas to hike. The best part about Reno or your hometown is that there are also parks and other trails probably right in your backyard so you don’t even have to drive to get to your hiking trail. The main thing to understand is that hiking is a great way to get exercise and improve fitness.

Hiking is good for all ages. Many fitness activities can be limited by age; the best part about hiking is any age can participate by controlling the intensity of their individual hike. Senior citizens can get outside and enjoy nature at their neighborhood park or take a drive to their favorite mountain and hike whatever level they wish. Adults can get off work from their busy hustle and bustle and head to their favorite hiking trail on the way home to reap the benefits of hiking. Kids can benefit from hiking as well, they can get out from behind the hand held device, disconnect and get connected to nature. Even fitness buffs can use hiking as a break from the physical demands of their normal routines. It doesn’t matter what age you are or what fitness level you possess you can enjoy the many benefits of hiking.

The physical benefits of hiking are valuable to overall health. The musculoskeletal benefits of hiking include strengthening and conditioning of muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones. There is also good impact to cardiovascular health when hiking. Interestingly hiking has been shown to prevent health ailments. All of these are just some of the physical benefits of hiking.

Hiking also has great impacts on psychological and mental health. The connection with nature and the beauty around you when you hike has positive impacts on your well-being. Exploring new areas or even changes to your favorite hiking trail peaks your interest and makes your mind think about that place. Seeing beauty gives you an appreciation of what is given to you and makes you feel optimistic. With all of the negative in our daily lives getting outside in nature and seeing the beauty will help offset the negative in our lives.

As you can see, hiking should be part of your life. There are many different types of hikes for all ages and skill levels. The importance of our health depends on staying fit and hiking is a great way to stay active and fit. The health benefits of a hike make it an important aspect to consider in our lives.