9 Amazing Benefits of Hiking – Physical, Mental and Social

The ever-looming presence of the gym, with its sterile machines and intimidating hardcore patrons, can make the concept of regularly working out less than appealing – which is where hiking comes in. One of the biggest benefits of hiking is that it actively contributes to our overall levels of fitness in a big way.

While cardiovascular activities like running and cycling are great (depending on your definition of ‘great’, admittedly), hiking can actually offer equal – if not even better – benefits in terms of fitness. The muscle groups stimulated during a good hike include quadriceps, hamstrings, and our lower leg and hip muscles – and hiking with a backpack is a great boost to core strength. Plus, walking is a weight-bearing exercise, so it helps to build bone density. 

2. Helps you lose weight

It’s not just our core fitness levels and muscles that receive a vital boost during a good walk – one of the other great health benefits of hiking is that it helps us to lose weight. Lots and lots of weight. According to Livestrong, hiking can burn between 440 and 550 calories per hour.

That is a lot. A big lot. If you weigh an average of 160lbs, and you went for a 3-hour hike, you could potentially burn upwards of 1200 calories – more than half of the recommended daily intake for an adult. Do this twice a week? You’ve effectively burned off 1-1.5 days’ worth of calories. Phew!

It’s worth pointing out that the way we all think about weight and calories intake and burn is deeply personal – everyone will have different goals, and it will be more important to some than others. There are also a lot of other factors to our weight profiles, particularly diet, but if weight-loss is something you’re actively pursuing, hiking could be a fantastic addition to your routine. 

3. Improves blood pressure, and lowers risk of heart disease

One of the great things about regularly engaging in a spot of good exercise is the fact that the benefits are all-encompassing. This is particularly true when it comes to blood pressure and how healthy our hearts are – and it’s not surprising to hear that the health benefits of hiking don’t just include weight loss and a boost to fitness: it’s a fantastic way to lower blood pressure and the risk of heart disease as well as other serious conditions.

Research by the CDC has found that walking for an hour a day, five days a week, can cut the risk of a person experiencing a stroke in half. The aerobic activity of walking also strengthens the heart, and gives a fantastic boost to our HDL levels (“good cholesterol”) and lowers levels of LDL and triglyceride (the bad stuff).

The CDC also found that those who engage with cardiovascular exercise like hiking are half as likely to experience heart problems as people who don’t exercise – those are some stats we can get behind!

Now that we have looked into the numerous physical benefits of hiking, it’s time to focus on what hiking can do for the mind. So, let’s move on to the wide-ranging mental benefits of hiking. 

4. Makes you more creative

Hiking isn’t just great for the body; it’s also great for the mind – and soul. And this is one of the great things about this activity; there is so much more than just a single benefit of hiking. Engaging in regular hiking can even make us more creative. Forgive us if that seems like rather a wishy-washy statement, and bear with us, as there’s actually a fair amount of evidence to corroborate these claims.

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