Reposted from | By Meredith Bethune | January 2021

The first time I went hiking, I thought I was going to die. 

OK, that’s an exaggeration. But before this outing near my home in upstate New York, I hadn’t given the particulars too much thought. To me, the word “hiking” inspired images of strolling along paved paths through the peaceful woods. 

Boy, was I wrong.

My heart felt like it was going to beat out of my chest while I dragged myself up the steep slope. I had to stop every few minutes to catch my breath. I even tripped a few times while trying to navigate around rocks and tree roots. 

The ascent felt like an eternity, but I was eventually rewarded with a breathtaking view from the top of the mountain. My struggle had not been in vain.

Anyone who’s experienced the triumph of summiting a mountain knows that hiking is an incredible workout. And it’s particularly beneficial for the brain. Combine intense exercise with nature, and you have an activity that packs a one-two punch when it comes to supporting cognitive health. 

My hiking abilities have now markedly improved. I even recently completed a 270-mile backpacking trip along the legendary Long Trail through Vermont’s Green Mountains. 

And I have to admit, I do feel much sharper and more focused than I did before. While my experience is merely anecdotal evidence, there is plenty of research to support the brain benefits of hiking.