Hiking Is Much More Than A Good Workout

Since shortly after I started my weight-loss and healthy lifestyle journey, people have expressed interest in my diet and fitness routine. While no one seems to be surprised by what I’m eating and avoiding in the kitchen, people are shocked to learn that most of my activity is hiking, as often as the weather permits, and walking when it doesn’t.

Hiking Ospreys Building Nest on Long Island

Since I have access to a treadmill, you may be wondering why I hike. Hopping on and off a treadmill is easier and saves a lot of time but, for me, hiking is much more than fulfilling a daily exercise routine.

One of the tools we use in positive psychology is to consider times in which we were at our best during our lives to hone in on themes and elements to reinforce or reintroduce into our lives now. As I focused on my recovery after harassment, I reflected on those times. One of the strongest commonalties during all of the times I was at my best was regularly spending some amount of time in nature. I decided to make sure to incorporate nature time in my new routine and began hiking locally.

Hiking Long Island Fall Autumn

Hiking has physical benefits, for sure. According to Daniel Ferris, University of Florida senior associate chair of J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering and professor of Engineering Innovation, when you walk on uneven terrain, as is common on nature trails, your heart rate increases and you burn more calories. In addition, the varying ground types and slopes require slight shifts in the way your leg muscles work, increasing the amount of energy you expend.

But, hiking is much more than an efficient workout. When I step into nature, my world changes, and I change, too. I reconnect with a much more peaceful existence and beautiful sights, sounds, and scents. Every outing is an adventure, even when I return to familiar trails.

Research shows that even brief nature experiences can have a large positive impact on our wellbeing, according to Dr. Miles Richardson, University of Derby head of Psychology and deputy head of Life Sciences, and head of the Nature Connectedness Research Group. He explains that “a sustainable relationship with nature is more than science . . . It is also a network of joy, calm, meaning, and beauty.”

Hiking Red Fox

Time spent in nature calms activity in a part of the brain linked to mental illness, shares University of Washington School of Environmental and Forest Sciences Professor and Harvard University JPB Environmental Health Fellow Greg Bratman. “Hanging out with Mother Nature also seems to reduce your mind’s propensity to ‘ruminate,’” which may be linked to depression and anxiety. “There’s mounting evidence that, for urbanites and suburbanites, nature experience increases positive mood and decreases negative mood.”

“Exposure to nature can reduce hypertension (abnormally high blood pressure), respiratory tract and cardiovascular illnesses; improve vitality and mood; benefit issues of mental wellbeing such as anxiety; and restore attention capacity and mental fatigue,” according to Dr. Richardson. “But more than that, feeling a part of nature has been shown to significantly correlate with life satisfaction, vitality, meaningfulness, happiness, mindfulness, and lower cognitive anxiety.”

Hiking Long Island Lisa-Michelle Kucharz

Recovering from trauma is not easy. It takes deliberate effort and positive actions over time, as well as learning about triggers and interventions. Therapy and the support of my close friends were instrumental for me to survive my ordeal, mindfulness meditation helped me regain my focus on the present, and hiking helped me transition from surviving each day to enjoying life again.

Time spent in nature may have helped me lose 100 pounds, but it also helped me gain so much more. I’m not only in better physical health, but I’m also in a better frame of mind. Adding hiking to my routine has helped me rediscover peace, experience exciting adventures, and thrive again.

See more hiking, nature, and wildlife photography on Instagram at @the.lisa.michelle.kucharz.

Head, M. (2017, July 5). Exercise in Nature: Why Hiking Is a Mind-Body Workout. Time Magazine.
Richardson, M. (2019, February 11). Nature and Wellbeing: Tapping into the Secret NetworkFinding Nature.
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Spreading Good Vibes

Do you ever wonder what the world would be like if it was filled with positive messages and random acts of kindness — and we showered each other with good vibes?

Talia and Gracie Shuman Spreading Good Vibes and Random Acts of Kindness

Talia and Gracie Shuman Spreading Good Vibes

Elementary school Brooklynites, Talia and Gracie Shuman, decided to spread good vibes and boost happiness in their community, and they hope you will, too. Inspired by an article in Kazoo Magazine, the sisters created a poster with positive messages on tear-off tabs. Thanks to their art teacher at the Brooklyn Prospect Charter School, Ms. Walsh, who helped them make copies, they were able to reach even more people.

Good Vibes Poster

“We put them up around school and our apartment building,” said Talia Shuman, 10. “Next thing we knew, people had torn off the tabs, and we got really excited.”

Recalling a time when she witnessed the power of spreading good vibes, Talia shared, “Our grandfather is a WWII veteran and, on Veteran’s Day, he received a plate of homemade cookies from some of his neighbors. They were intended to make our grandfather happy, but they made us happy, too, because we thought it was a really nice thing to do.”

Their project to bring happiness to their neighbors and friends has motivated them to want to do more. They’re now looking to expand beyond posters and want to speak up for others, even when it’s not easy.

Talia’s also encouraging other students to spread good vibes by “posting nice messages, helping people before they ask for help, or just smiling — especially on a gloomy day.” She says adults also can help spread good vibes by sharing positive messages with their friends.

In the fall, Talia will be starting middle school, and she wants to spread even more positive messages and good vibes there. “Because it’s middle school, I think a lot more kids will be under pressure. Even if they have a lot of weight on their shoulders, I don’t want them to feel to stressed about it. I want them to go into whatever’s up ahead with confidence.”

Talia hopes “that everybody reading this will spread good vibes, too, because the world can be a gloomy place.”

In a time when we may feel like we’re surrounded by negativity, especially from seemingly endless upsetting news, it’s important to remind ourselves of the good in the world and in our own backyards. The Shuman sisters reminded me of how each one of us can share good vibes and make a difference. If we follow their lead, we can encourage one another, making our world brighter and better.

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Weight Loss and Healthy Lifestyles for Optimal Wellness

I’m down 97 pounds/44 kilos. I usually don’t talk about my weight loss, unless asked.

Lisa-Michelle Kucharz Wellness Coach

When I reached the 50-pound loss milestone, I shared that I hadn’t talked about it so far, because I was embarrassed I had that much weight to lose. After enduring several years of public ridicule and online shaming about my weight, among other things, I was still thinking about what others thought. I’m glad I’m now able to see it for what it was and move past it.

Receiving a lot of questions about my weight loss lately, I posted about it on Instagram and got even more questions, so I’ll be sharing some of my journey and what worked well for me here.

On January 1, 2018, I set out to lose 40 to 50 pounds over the year. During the first few months, I didn’t focus on the best nutrition, which was harmful, even though I lost weight. In hindsight, my biggest mistakes were not eating till I was hungry or pushing it further, often not having anything other than water till the afternoon; consuming large quantities of fruit and fruit smoothies; and justifying occasionally overindulging in desserts by limiting other food intake on the same days. I wasn’t giving my body the basic nutrition that it needed to properly function.

After some unpleasant surprises at my annual checkup, I regrouped and applied the same success strategy I use in my professional life and to help others achieve their goals.

Lisa-Michelle Kucharz Strategy for Success Coach

Lisa-Michelle Kucharz, November 4, 2018
Completion of 52 Hike Challenge, -76 lbs.

I saw a nutritionist and continued hiking and walking as much as possible. Meeting with a nutritionist with recent blood test results in hand was one of the best things I did for myself. There is a lot of misinformation about healthy living and fad diets readily available, and it’s easy to fall for it. A nutritionist is a trained professional who understands realistic healthy lifestyles, and can see your big picture, discuss your goals, and help you create a plan that will work for you.

Today, I couldn’t be more pleased with my results. I surpassed every new goal weight I set throughout 2018 and, most importantly, achieved my health goals.

If my weight levels off here or even fluctuates within five pounds or so, I’ll be fine. While I’m proud of my weight loss, it’s not the number on the scale that’s most significant to me.

It’s important for me to maintain my healthy habits, to continue eating well, and to stay active. I’ve created a routine that I enjoy and appreciate that supports my goals. I track my progress, celebrate my successes, and adjust when necessary.

If I can achieve my healthy lifestyle goals, so can you. We got this!

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