16 Benefits of Hiking: Why You Should Take a Hike Today!

The physical benefits of hiking

09Builds leg strength

Hiking on flat terrain is a good way to slowly gain endurance in your legs and maintain strength. Start hiking on steep terrain, however, and you’ll also build strength in your legs. Hiking up and downhill is like doing hundreds of lunges. It’ll be tough going to start with, but as your strength improves you’ll be able to climb for longer and with more confidence.

10Activates your core

Whether you realise it or not, every step you take on the trail will engage the muscles in your core. Sure, you won’t finish a hike with sore abs or anything. But you’ll activate the small, deep muscles of the core in a subtle and natural way. The more challenging the hike, the more you’ll have to engage your core. And if you’re carrying lots of gear on your back then all the muscles around the torso will get a very good workout.

11Improves cardio fitness

Just like running, cycling or swimming, hiking gives your lungs an excellent workout that can be sustained over a number of hours. Hit the hills and you’ll feel the benefits of hiking for fitness sooner than if you stay on the flat. But if you are new to hiking then you may find that a short, flat hike is plenty tough enough to get your lungs working hard.

12Stabilises joints and improves balance

Hiking on uneven terrain is one of the most natural ways to help stabilise the joints of your lower body. Unlike walking or running on the treadmill, every step on an outdoor trail is different, with your feet hitting the floor at a different angle each time. The result is that all the tiny supporting muscles that surround the joints have to fire up. The more they fire up, the stronger and more stable they become. This in turn helps to improve your balance on the more tricky sections of the trail and prevents injury.

13Weight loss

Hiking is a superb activity for people who want to lose weight. Firstly, the idea of it doesn’t feel as daunting as going for a run and a short hike is manageable even for those starting with very low fitness levels. Secondly, it’s the sort of fitness that doesn’t always feel like fitness! Sometimes it can be tough, of course. But most moderately fit people can maintain hiking for many hours without really feeling like they’re ‘working out’, as such. Add some weight into your backpack, and choose hilly hikes and the calorie-burning potential will soar.

14Prevents disease

As mentioned at the start of the health benefits of hiking section, the evidence supporting hiking as a positive choice for a healthy lifestyle is so strong that doctors are prescribing it! Regular hiking lowers the risk of heart disease, improves blood pressure and stabilised blood sugar levels. New research also indicates that exercise may be the key for preventing Alzheimers. Get hiking everyone!

Social benefits of hiking

15Meet new people

The simplicity of hiking means that there are loads of social groups in existence that welcome new members and are open to anyone. Join a  hiking Meetup group near where you live and have the added benefit of exploring your local area. Plus, joining a group means that you can share transport to and from the trail, if needed.

16Time to talk

If you want to really get to know your friends and family, take a hike with them! There are very few other scenarios in life where you spend several hours at a time with a person without the distractions of everyday life. Think of all the things you could talk about on a 6 hour hike! Plus, because you’ve ditched your devices and given your brain time to de-stress, your creative juices will start to flow encouraging all sorts of interesting things to talk about.

Whether you want to get fit or lose weight, or need some downtime away from everyday life, taking a hike is guaranteed to make you feel great. And with the benefits of hiking effecting so many areas of your life, including disease prevention and mental wellbeing, it’s hard to justify NOT getting out on the trail.

Happy hiking, healthy hikers!