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Activities for the Non-Athletic Adventurer

I have this friend: super athletic, loves being outside, goes on 18-mile hikes for fun, naturally good at sports he has never played before, and is always trying to get me to join a game of ultimate frisbee. Know the type? Hang around this guy and it’s easy to feel like you’ve got to be a triathlete to enjoy the outdoors.

But the truth is, you don’t have to be athletic to spend time outside. In fact, much of what people do inside can be done outside, like walking, sleeping, laying down, waiting around … the list goes on.. It’s not about straining yourself, it’s about being in the sunshine and fresh air.

Hiking Walking Outside

The best thing about hiking is that it’s not difficult unless you want it to be. Hiking is the perfect introduction to the outdoors because many offer the best views of waterfalls, lakes and valleys, and many don’t require much work at all on your part. It also comes with some surprising health benefits. Besides vitamin D and the obvious work out bonuses, hiking can actually improve balance and reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety. There are plenty of short and sweet hikes that will get you excited about being in nature.
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Swimming

Swimming reduced the stress impact on your body, meaning you can swim at a high intensity without feeling tired or sore. Or you can just swim around and basically just hang out in the water. You’ve likely been doing it since you were a kid. All you need is a bathing suit (usually ;)), a few friends and one of these swimming holes/hot springs. No crazy workout required.
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Camping Sleeping Outside

Camping is essentially sleeping, but you get to do it outside under the stars after a night of sitting around the fire and roasting marshmallows. The glow from a campfire increases melatonin in your body, making sleep even easier and more peaceful than usual. Going camping is peaceful, quiet and gets you acquainted with the outdoors. It doesn’t have to be traditional camping, either. If you prefer to have the conveniences of home, you can set up shelter in the backyard or go glamour camping (glamping) to get some peace and quiet while feeling like you’ve never left home.
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Floating a River Laying outside…on a river

Sun-tanning has never been so relaxing. Float a river with a huge group of friends or go it alone to get some peace and quiet. It’s one of the easiest things you can do outside, and it’s been known to reduce back and neck pain while improve spinal alignment. But not all rivers are slow and steady, so keep in mind if you’re after a relaxing float, you’ll want to find one without rapids or sharp turns. And make sure you have good music to keep you company during the slower stretches!

Fishing Waiting outside…for a fish

Fishing is notorious for helping people clear their minds. Because it requires you to focus on one thing, it distracts you from internal conflict, reducing symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. Or you can chat with some buddies, read or draw while waiting for the pole to budge. All you have to do is cast your line and wait for something to bite. You might even get a meal out of it.

Sledding

Now this one is a little more involved, but not by much. Just because it’s snowing out doesn’t mean you have to stay inside! It’s easy to feel like you have to stay inside during the cold winter months, but without some fresh air, you’ll start to go stir crazy! Sledding is the best way to get your blood pumping enough to enjoy the snow and keep you from getting cabin fever. Not to mention being exposed to full-spectrum light while in the sun gives you a great energy boost for other winter activities.

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These are just ideas to get you started. It’s not ultimate frisbee or a triathlon, but it’s enough to help you appreciate some sunshine and a little fresh air. The world has lots to offer, and it doesn’t have to cost any money, and it definitely doesn’t have to be hard. Whichever activity you decide, don’t let fitness keep you from enjoying what’s outside your front door.

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Tell Anxiety to “Take a Hike”

As long as I can remember, I have always been an anxious person. I was always a nervous kid. I would cry when my parents left for their dates every Friday night. I was nervous when we would do family activities where someone could potentially get hurt. My heart would race when I had to do something new or unfamiliar. My mind was always overthinking.

I thought I grew out of it around age twelve, but when I attended college, during my final semester, my anxiety re-presented itself. I was taking 18 credits, working a part-time job, working an internship, leading my collegiate DECA organization, and I moved three times. My anxiety skyrocketed and I felt lost, broken and alone.

The one thing that always seemed to help get rid of that anxiousness throughout my life, was going on hikes, getting fresh air, making and taking time for myself. It has always been a time for me to clear my mind. As I have learned more about taking control of my mental health, I have found that hiking has more benefits than I had originally thought. Here are three things that I have learned:

Stress

Stress is normal. But when it comes to mental illness, stress drags you down more than it does to other people. I have found that when I am more stressed, it triggers my anxiety.

When you make your body move and and elevate your heart beat, your body releases endorphins in your brain. Endorphins act as your body’s natural painkiller and higher levels of it can increase your ability to sleep better.

I know that when I sleep better, my stress levels decrease and I am able to function better. I can face life head on.

Anxiety

Anxiety is a constant nagging feeling of worry and nervousness, usually about something that is going to happen with an uncertain outcome. When you deal with increased anxiety or anxiety disorder, you typically cannot place where that worry or nervousness is coming from. Your mind and your body is consumed with this fear of something unknown.

Often, the best way to get out of the funk of it all is to just move. When your body feels better, so does your mind. Moving your body can help release that feeling of being trapped. Releasing those endorphins can kill that pain and worry that you feel.

Hiking will take you to a place that is new and will focus your mind on something else rather than your anxiety. It will allow you to take those obsessive thoughts and nagging emotions and put it toward helping your body.

Mood

When your body feels good, so does your mind. When you work and move your body, it releases dopamine in your brain. Dopamine is a chemical in your brain that send signals to other nerve cells. It plays a major role in making you feel happy.

When you take time out of your day to spend time on yourself, and allow yourself to take a break from work, drama, or chores, you will feel more free and open. Allow yourself that time for self-discovery and find out who you are when you aren’t doing everything else. Think about a movie, listen to a podcast or just enjoy nature and allow yourself to feel happy.

Everyone deals with stress and anxiety, some people more intensely than others. But moving your body helps your mental health no matter how intense it is or not.

Do research on good hikes near you. If you aren’t comfortable with the hiking trails near you, walking around the block or around a park can be just as rewarding. If you’re new to hiking, start with some small hikes somewhere that’s comfortable. You may want to speak with a doctor to know where you can start.

Hiking is just one of many ways to improve or overcome mental health issues. If you need to take medication, do so. Doing all you can to take control of your mental health will put you ahead of the game.

You are not alone in wanting to improve your mental health. Many people are taking time to take care of themselves and going on hikes to help take control. What are you waiting for?