Coronavirus has changed all aspects of our lives and changed the way we live. In many countries, just like South Africa, lockdowns were imposed. Extensive social distancing policies were put into place, restricting people’s daily activities. This of course meant that we spent most of our time (if not all) at home leading to fewer opportunities to be physically active, especially since leisurely activities such as jogging, going to the gym, and hiking were restricted. Furthermore, these drastic measures also made it so much easier to be inactive at home for long periods.
It was during this time that I also developed bad habits of not exercising enough, watching too much TV, and spending too much time online (which at times was depressing). I could see myself falling into this deep sense of hopelessness. The impact of this physical inactivity may very “likely be seen in many areas such as health, social care, mental well-being”. And Although these social distancing measures are important, were needed and are still needed in a time such as now, our bodies and minds still need physical activity and the many benefits thereof.
When the lockdown was eased, I knew I wanted to get out, but most importantly I needed to break the habits that I had developed during the lockdown. I tried exercising around the block. I did it a few times and did not get any inspiration from doing it. Developing a fitness habit is hard and even harder if you are uninspired.

I needed an activity that would get me out of the house, physical exercise, unplug from technology, and allow me to interact with friends safely (while social distancing). I have hiked a few times before but knew that this is what I might just need. So, I decided to take up hiking, and immediately I started seeing the benefits. Some of the notable benefits that I started seeing and experiencing are: –

Physical Exercise

When I did my first hike post-hard lockdown in South Africa, I was inspired by the outdoor beauty and that made it easier to complete the trail. I now do almost 10 Km of walking a day and one hike every week. Not only has my fitness level improved, but research also shows that getting outside for even a short hike regularly can reduce your risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, and cholesterol.

Mental Health

Mental Health is an important part of overall health and wellbeing. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It may also affect how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices during an emergency.

According to a study conducted by researchers at Stanford University, “spending quality time in the great outdoors reduces stress, calms anxiety, and can lead to a lower risk of depression”. https://news.stanford.edu/2015/06/30/hiking-mental-health-063015/.
Since I started hiking consistently, I have realized how calm I have become, and I sleep well.

Cleared my mind

Our lives have become busier than ever. Lockdown has forced us to spend a lot of on-screen time. I found that I was tired most of the time. Research has also shown that going for a hike “ reduces your blood pressure and cortisol levels producing a calming effect only nature can offer” – over and above the benefits of exercise alone. For me this is was one of the greatest benefits. The ability to think clearly.

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