You can’t deny that there’s something amazing about the outdoors. Our planet is beautiful, and it’s the reason why so many people choose to hike. But while most avid hikers do it simply to enjoy nature, there are actually a lot of health benefits that come from hiking, both mental and physical. Whether you choose to go a mile or 20, here a few reasons why you should hike for a body and mind workout.
The Benefits of Hiking
- You burn more calories than just walking. Hiking tends to use 28% more energy in your body than a stroll through the neighborhood because the varying terrain and elevation requires your body to adapt to the situation. Your leg muscles lengthen or shorten while they work on an uneven ground, which increases the amount of energy you use. This means you burn more calories hiking than walking on a flat ground or sidewalk at a steady pace.
- You build strength in your muscles. Because of the varying terrain, your hike works your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves as well as some of the seldom-used muscles around your hips, knees, and ankles. But your legs are not the only things that benefit; hiking also builds upper body and core strength because it is a weight-bearing exercise (depending on the weight of your pack).
- It’s good for your heart and overall endurance. Like any good cardio workout, your heart rate goes up during a hike. This means hiking can help you develop a strong cardiovascular system. Hiking also improves your endurance, especially when hiking at higher elevations where your body adapts to using less oxygen.
- You boost your mood. Hiking has a positive impact on your mental health by getting you away from the hustle and bustle of normal life and putting you in the great outdoors. Spending time in the calm of nature has direct correlations to better energy, positive feelings, and less tension, anger, and depression. Plus, it allows you to reconnect with the amazing world we call home.
Tips for Starting a Hike
If you haven’t considered hiking before, here are a few simple tips to get you started on the trail.
- Start slow. Go to a local trail that’s shorter and has little elevation gain. Then gradually work your way up to tougher and steeper trails.
- Get familiar with the trail. Do some research before you go to a new park or a new trail. Make sure to always have a trail map with you and dress according to the weather and trail conditions of your hike.
- Don’t forget to bring water. This is the most important thing you can take with you on your hike! The amount you bring varies depending on the difficulty of your hike, but remember that your body needs water to function properly.
- Up your elevation gain. Even small inclines can boost your heart rate and burn extra calories.
- Weigh yourself down. Bring a backpack full of water, snacks, a jacket, and other hiking essentials. The extra weight will boost your calorie burn and strengthen your muscles.
- Bring a friend. While it’s generally safer to hike with another person (especially if you’re unfamiliar with the trail), having someone for accountability and conversation is great too. Invite some friends and make it a hangout.
Hiking has some amazing benefits for the body and mind. So get out there, blaze trails, and burn calories!