“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.” — John Muir, The Mountains of California
Face it: there are lots of things that are good for us that aren’t any fun. Mammograms, for instance, or going to the dentist. We do them because we have to.
Fortunately, mountains aren’t like that. They’re good for us and we love them. Without mountains, we wouldn’t have skiing. And what a loss that would be.
As John Muir said in the quote above, mountains are good for us for a lot of different reasons. Let’s examine some of them below:
Mountains promote physical activity.
There are a lot of sports that specifically rely on mountains. Skiing, of course, but also mountain climbing, mountain biking and rock climbing. And though you can hike in the flatlands, mountains make it so much better. Not only are all these activities fun — which is great for your mental health — but they can build strength and endurance, which are important for your physical well being.
Mountains can generate inner peace.
Throughout history, people have turned to mountains to find peace. There’s not much more calming than standing on a mountain top, taking in a gorgeous view and breathing in that clean mountain air. The absence of city sounds, the removal from your daily routine, all can help stress fall away. Even pine, one of the scents prevalent at high altitudes, is good for us. A study shows that walking through pine can decrease hostility, depression and stress. So yes, mountains are good for your emotional and mental health.
Mountains can lower your risk heart disease and improve respiratory health.
Air in the mountains is cleaner, and that can help respiratory problems and make breathing easier for people who suffer from asthma. Altitude can also help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, since reduced oxygen helps create new pathways for blood vessels in which oxygen can flow. People (especially women) living at high altitudes are less likely to die from heart attacks.
Mountain life helps fight obesity.
Recent research has also confirmed a link between altitude and weight loss. A study in 2013 showed that living at sea level is associated with a four to five times higher risk of obesity, compared with people living at the highest altitudes in Colorado.
It also promotes better sleep.
I don’t know if it’s the increased physical activity, the air, or the feeling of peace, but you just sleep better in the mountains. And better sleep is key to better health. It can help reduce blood pressure, facilitate muscle repair, and make you a lot less cranky.
Mountains put you in touch with the natural world.
Many of us have jobs that are about as far from the natural world as you can get. We’re in offices or shops or someplace inside. The most we come in contact with the outdoors is when we go to and from our jobs. This isn’t the case in the mountains. We’re up close and personal with nature. And that can make us more aware of the importance of protecting the environment, both for ourselves and future generations.