The Many Benefits of Hiking

Hiking is the ultimate outdoor recreation activity. I know, I know, of course I love to hike, I blog about hiking and travel and wrote a book about hiking in the National Parks. Hear me out, though, I’ll back up my claim.

There are a few reasons why I think hiking is so great. First off, pretty much anyone can go hiking. You don’t have to be in great shape to set off on a trail. That’s the beauty of hiking. There’s a hike for nearly every fitness level. You can go on a short trail or hike a very long distance.

Even though you don’t have to be physically fit to hike, most people you find on a trail will likely be in great shape. That’s because hiking can be a tremendous workout. That is one of the many benefits of hiking. I’ve done a lot of hiking and it’s been pretty rare that I’ve seen someone out of shape (on a trail longer than a mile) or unhappy on a trail. The fact that there are so many benefits of hiking is why it is such a great outdoor activity.

Here are a few of the benefits of hiking:

  • It can be a great cardio workout. The longer and faster you go, the better the workout. Even if you take it slow you’re still getting good exercise though, which is what makes hiking a great workout for everyone. You’ll burn plenty of calories, improve your endurance, and can lose weight. The more often you hike the easier it will get. In other words, you can eventually hike faster and longer and burn more calories to get in better shape or lose weight if that’s something you want to do.

 

  • You’ll build muscle and improve your strength. Hiking, especially if you’re using trekking poles and carrying a backpack, can be a great full-body workout. Unsurprisingly, your lower body will get the biggest workout on a trail. Hiking will strengthen your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and hips. It’s also good for your core and can even help your back and arms.
    The Southwest Sojourn 205
    Walter’s Wiggles

 

  • There are even more physical health benefits. Hiking will also improve your balance, lower the risk of heart disease, and improve your blood pressure.

 

  • Unplug from electronics, clear your mind, and connect with nature. Like most everyone else in society these days I can be glued to my phone at times. When I hit the trail I put my phone away (unless I’m using it to take the occasional photo if I don’t have a camera on me). I want to connect to nature and listen to the wild around me when I hike. Unless I’m in bear country I try to be very quiet while I walk and listen for animals, flowing water, or even the trees blowing in the wind. Usually within a few minutes on the trail a sense of calm washes over me and I forget about all my outside stresses and just concentrate on my surroundings.

 

  • It reduces stress and curbs depression. I’m sure it helps with stress, so I guess it makes sense that it would help people dealing with depression, too (I read that it does anyway). It can also help you sleep better at night. Who wouldn’t want that?

 

  • It can be a social and/or family-friendly activity. Hiking can be a great way to bond with others. It’s also a good way to spend time with family. Like I said earlier, just about anyone can hike. You can hike with grandparents or young children depending on the trail. 
  • You can explore an unknown area, spot wildlife, and see magnificent scenery. To me, hiking is all about exploring a place and discovering new things. You could see wildlife or a waterfall, giant trees, or ancient ruins. I don’t hike for the exercise (it’s a nice bonus though), I hike to reach amazing vistas and photograph wondrous landscapes. On the best hikes the journey down the trail is just as good as the destination at the end. 
  • You’ll be happy and have fun. The number one reason I like to hike is because it makes me happy and I feel good doing it. I realize it’s not everyone’s idea of a good time, but I’m sure a little time on a trail in the woods away from distractions would be good for everyone. Hiking can be a lot of hard work, too, if you push yourself and take on a strenuous trail with a lot of elevation or a lot of distance, but I think that can be just as fun and more rewarding. Oftentimes it’s those more difficult hikes that take you to the best views, too. 

I think that’s a pretty good start if you want to know what types of benefits there are to hiking. If this doesn’t convince you to start hiking, I don’t know what will.

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