If there’s something that hiking helps me much with, it’s my health. The amount of hiking I did was growing progressively. In my late teens, I was at 10 hikes per year and total around 200km. These days, I am (depending on several factors) somewhere between 30-40 hikes per year and 700-1000km walked during those. And over the last 10 years, my health gradually improved. I’ll try to have a look back and share how much.
Asthma and immunity
In 2005-ish, I was still struggling with light asthma and having light cold 2-3 times per year. Today, there was not much left of my lung issues and the last time I went to the doctor with something serious is over five years ago. I have no doubt that the frequent and quite regular time spent outside had much better effect on my asthma than any amount of medication could ever have. The fact that it started to get better when I began hiking alone and thus more often can’t be a coincidence.
Before 2010, the longest hikes I did were somewhere around 22,5km and usually in cases where the terrain was not so harsh. Since 2010, I started pushing myself much more. In 2013, I managed to walk 36km across the Jeseníky mountain range and brought myself to my limits. It was really painful since maybe the 25th kilometer. Since 2015, I can do 25+km quite often and 30-ish a few times each year. I think that my theoretical maximum could now be close to 40km now but I did not manage to plan a hike that would test me like that again – because of finding a way to do so with enough backup options is not that easy.
Probably not the best way to say it but whatever. The first time I walked 36km as mentioned above, my whole body hurt for the next four days. In 2016, three years later, I did 34km in much more difficult place and my body took it much better – I needed barely a day to recover from the exertion.
So far, I was at four truly hiking holidays: in 2009, 2012, 2015 and 2017. They illustrate quite well how my condition improved. In 2009, I was struggling the third day and even though I had a break the fourth, the sixth and seventh day I had to take the easiest possibility.
In 2012, I ‘lasted’ five days. In 2015, I was only slowed by injury the third day and was taking medium-difficulty hikes from the fifth to seventh day (fourth was break again).
In 2017, I was taking the medium-to-high difficulty versions every day, even the seventh day and even though I had quite some share of pain the eighth day, I still managed to walk the full ‘epilogue’ even though I was almost hobbling the first half an hour.
I also believe I managed to have a calmer approach to things since I started hiking more frequently and learned to enjoy it much more. I became less selective about weather and started hiking during the winter as well. I started looking around more, trying to realize what I see around – even though it made some people victims. One of the frequent victims was my mother, who was given a two-hour ‘lecture’ about how satellite navigation works during one hike and how the shape of a mountain range can affect floods below them during another, as an example. The last years, I am mostly silent, thinking about the story I started writing just before the 2015 holiday.
I think there might be some other smaller things where my hikes helped me but those are the most obvious.
Photo credit: author’s archive, taken by friends or family.