Connect with Nature: The Physical & Mental Benefits of Getting Outdoors & Outside of Your Comfort Zone
By John Ibach, director of outdoor recreation, Red Mountain Resort
Hiking and other recreational activities are central to any fully rounded fitness program, but the term “outdoor recreation” for me implies a whole different experience than fitness, and the outdoor enthusiast should take a much broader perspective.
Outdoor pursuits, which can range from a walk outside to outdoor sports and adventures, offer you an opportunity to do something physical, but maybe more importantly, allow you to move around in a more natural environment, something the human mind craves. The more you do it, the more you realize that it is central to human nature to be moving around in the real outdoors, much like our hunter ancestors, and all the while gaining a truer understanding of the natural world around us, even as we walk on a busy city street.
Connect with the Earth, Connect with Yourself
Taking advantage of the opportunity to experience an outdoor lifestyle will lead to a lifetime of good health, both physically and mentally. For instance, as you hike, you gain the benefits from a pace that suits your ability, which then allows you to experience the balance that connects your body to the earth. The more you move around outdoors, the better your body will move with the changes in elevation and the changing of the terrain under your feet.
Hiking will give you the mental and physical start to your day you crave as your mind contemplates the complex natural systems and how they are connected. Once we make these connections, we know why that favorite place of ours is so special and why it is crucially important to protect it because we have seen the big picture and we have taken the time to better understand it. Red Mountain Resort’s emphasis is on sustainable recreation.
It’s Up to You
The tools to make outdoor activities a central part of your life are in your hands, and moving into this world puts you in association with people dedicated to this same outdoor lifestyle – a very positive place to find yourself.
Learning to make time in your life to experience nature or an adventure that takes you a bit out of your comfort zone, enhances the mind and body, and invigorates you to better handle the stress that can come from living in a busy world. It’s not only the pace of your hike that accomplishes these goals; to be completely fulfilled, you need to take the time to enjoy and marvel at the beauty around you.
Tips to maximize your outdoor experiences:
- Use your mind to learn about human history, geology, plant identification, sustainable use, wildlife, and local lore, and you will enhance the experience tremendously.
- Keep in mind that hiking in a beautiful setting year-round is not something to avoid, but rather, it is something to embrace.
- When you hike those many miles, take time to see the vast lands around you. The sights, smells, and sounds of the natural world (something that you may have been ignoring for years and even forgotten what they looked, smelled, and sounded like) start to make an impact on your conscious mind. Remember beauty is in the eye of the beholder it is not easy to compare hikes based on their visual merits as each person is well-positioned to judge for themselves where they find beauty and each setting offers something an untrained eye might miss.
Tell us, do you love to hike or go on outdoor adventures?
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This post was written to help you embrace the “Connect with Nature” pledge for Wellness Week! From March 11 through 17, make your week well with valuable wellness tips, free classes and events, and exclusive deals and offers. Plus, enjoy a free $25 Wellness Week Gift Card when you purchase a $25 SpaFinder Wellness Gift Card during Wellness Week (March 11-17). Learn more about Wellness Week 2013!
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John Ibach brings 30 years of experience with the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation, including search-and-rescue missions on Utah Lake and the Great Salt Lake. In 1993, he became park manager at nearby Snow Canyon State Park, where he served to help protect the natural environment (including his nurturing of the Naturalist program) while providing outstanding recreation opportunities. Guests at Red Mountain Resort, Ivins, Utah, have benefited from Ibach’s vast knowledge and passion since 2006. Ibach served in the United States Navy and is a graduate of Utah State University with a degree in Outdoor Recreation. Read more about our Wellness Week experts.