A veteran’s successful transition to civilian life depends heavily on maintaining good health and fitness. However, finding the right way to achieve this can be challenging, especially when faced with war’s physical and mental scars.
Fortunately, there is a solution. Trekking or hiking long distances can be a hobby they can include in natural settings and offers a unique path to enhance fitness and well-being for veterans.
According to a 2023 Federal Benefits Guide for Veterans, Dependents, and Survivors, veterans are eligible for various benefits and services to support their physical and mental health.
However, many may need to know about these benefits, how to fight for them, or how to access them. So, this article will explore how trekking can benefit them in various aspects of their health and quality of life.
How Trekking Enhances Fitness and Well-being For Veterans
Ninety-eight veterans participated in four-day wilderness trips, including hiking, camping, and rafting. A team of researchers and volunteers from the Sierra Club organized the trips.
During and after the trips, the veterans who took part reported lower stress levels and greater well-being.
As a result of this and more, trekking increases veterans’ fitness and well-being in several ways:
Enhances Physical Fitness
Trekking is a great way to improve cardiovascular health, as it increases heart rate and blood circulation, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke.
The University of Colorado Boulder and the Veterans Affairs Eastern Colorado Health Care System conducted a study to prove this. During the 12-week program that included weekly treks in the Rocky Mountains, the veterans significantly improved cardiovascular fitness and mental health.
The activity also develops muscle strength and endurance since it involves carrying a backpack and walking on uneven terrain that challenges different muscles and joints. Furthermore, it can help with weight management by burning calories and fat, boosting metabolism, and regulating appetite.
Promotes Psychological Well-being
Trekking can also enhance psychological well-being, thus reducing stress and promoting relaxation. As a result, veterans can escape the distractions and noise of everyday life and focus on the present moment. And here’s the proof.
An American Psychological Association study found that exposure to nature can strengthen creativity and problem-solving abilities.
Veteran trekkers also develop mental resilience by overcoming physical and mental challenges, adapting to changing conditions, and coping with uncertainty.
Furthermore, it can improve mood by releasing endorphins and serotonin, which are natural chemicals that make them happy and calm.
Fosters Connection Between Nature and Well-being
One of the critical factors that makes trekking beneficial for veterans and promotes mental health is the connection between nature and well-being.
Spending time in nature has been shown to have therapeutic effects on various aspects of health. These effects may include improving inflammation, lowering blood pressure, improving cognitive function, and alleviating anxiety and depression.
Nature inspires gratitude, happiness, and meaning through its awe and wonder. And so, a hike allows veterans to reconnect with nature, appreciate its beauty and diversity, and experience its healing power.
Tailored Trekking Programs for Veterans
Several organizations and programs cater to veterans interested in trekking or improving their skills.
These programs, together with platforms that allow them to find local trekking companies, offer accessible and veteran-friendly trekking opportunities that suit different levels of ability, experience, preference, and budget.
Some examples of these programs are:
- Outward Bound for Veterans: This program offers free outdoor adventure courses for veterans that include trekking in various locations across the U.S., such as Colorado Rockies, Joshua Tree National Park, and Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
- Sierra Club Military Outdoors: This program organizes outdoor activities for veterans and their families, including trekking in national parks such as Yosemite National Park and Grand Canyon National Park.
These programs provide veterans with the equipment, training, guidance, and safety they need to enjoy trekking and connect them with other veterans who share their challenges and aspirations.
Trekking is a viable and enjoyable path for veterans to enhance their physical fitness and overall well-being. Through these activities, they can improve their cardiovascular health, reduce stress, foster social support, and accomplish their goals.
Moreover, they can overcome the challenges they may face while transitioning to civilian life, such as physical limitations, mental barriers, or financial constraints.