Have you ever gone for a really nice hike before? Taking a lengthy walk can be a really rewarding experience, both mentally and physically. The benefits of hiking are quite numerous and they are definitely all worthwhile the experience. Things like increased heart health, weight control, a better mental outlook, better mental function, and socializing with others are just a few of the benefits that you can reap from going on regular hikes.
In our opinion, there is nothing better than getting in tune with Mother Nature and walking through a forest or up a mountainside. To find out what all of the benefits of hiking are and what they entail for you, just keep reading to get all of the valuable info that we have to offer.
Benefit #1: Helps You Socialize
The first thing that we really like about hiking is that it is quite a social thing to do. Sure, if you prefer to get some peace and quiet and hike by yourself, just you and nature, you can definitely do that. However, generally speaking, people go hiking in groups with friends or even with tour groups. Therefore hiking is a great way to socialize and spend time with your friends.
We all know that adults are busy creatures and between children, work, and other responsibilities, we don’t get nearly enough time to catch up with our old buddies. Hiking is definitely a great way for you to catch up with old friends.
Even better is if you take part in hiking or tour groups because it will get you out there, help you make friends, and enlarge your social circle. This is especially beneficial if you spend a lot of time at home or cramped inside a cubicle. The fact of the matter is that nobody likes to be alone and we all need friends. If you don’t have many friends you may want to try joining some kind of outdoor hiking group.
Benefit #2: Burning Calories & Losing Weight
One of the biggest benefits that you can get from going on regular hikes is that it is extremely healthy in terms of weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight level. Hiking does not only involve walking of course. When you hike, often you put on some thick clothes, heavy hiking boots, and usually you also pack a pretty big backpack that is full of food, supplies, and other goodies too.
While simply walking some trails may not seem that strenuous, that is definitely not the case. Depending on the level of difficulty of the hiking trail in question, plus the amount of gear that you are carrying, not to mention the speed at which you walk at, you can burn up to 500 calories in just 1 hour of hiking.
Of course, the more gear you carry with you, the faster you walk, and the more difficult the trail is, the more calories you will burn. If you want to increase the difficulty of your hike and thus the number of calories burned, you can choose to hike in hilly or mountainous terrain. It is actually shown that hiking at higher altitudes can help burn an increased number of calories due to the extra strain that is put on your body due to the altitude.
Moreover, if you don’t have too many calories in your system which are ready to be turned into energy, your body will turn to your fat deposits to produce energy, thus directly contributing to weight loss. Even better is the fact that exercise helps to boost your metabolic rate, thus helping your body burn calories or fat at an increased rate, ultimately also helping you to lose weight even faster.
Benefit #3: It’s Great For All Fitness Levels
Something else that we really like about hiking is that it is great for all ages and fitness levels too. If you aren’t in very good shape and are just getting started with leading a healthy lifestyle, you can go for a short hike on relatively flat terrain.
That is a relatively good starting point and will get you used to exercising. Once you progress and start to become fitter you can increase the difficulty of your hike by choosing to hike through harder terrain, and eventually even progress into something like mountain climbing. You can also increase the difficulty by carrying your gear with you or walking at a faster pace, thus making it ideal for people who are already in fairly good shape.
Moreover, hiking, especially in fairly easy conditions, is something that children and seniors can do too. Speaking of children and the elderly, hiking is a great way to get the whole family engaged in some healthy physical exercise.
Benefit #4: Working Out Your Muscles
Another thing that is extremely beneficial about hiking is that you actually get a pretty good full body workout that helps to keep your muscles in shape and even build them bigger too. This does of course depend on the difficulty of your hike, but even minimal walking is still good for the muscles in your legs.
Walking over rough terrain such as a forest or mountain scene definitely does put your legs to the test, therefore working out your glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings too. However, if you choose to walk uphill, the strain put on your muscles gets multiplied, thus actually strengthening and enlarging your muscles.
Moreover, if you are hiking in very extreme terrain you might be forced to climb over rocks, ridges, and trees, thus also utilizing your core, back, and arm muscles. Also, since you probably have a hiking pack with food, first aid tools, tents, and maybe some extra clothes, you will also work out your core, back, and shoulders thanks to the virtue of carrying around a bunch of heavy equipment.
Benefit #5: Create Your Own Exercise Path
Something which we really like about hiking is that it gives you the opportunity to chart your own course and work out the way in which suits you the best. Hiking is fantastic because you can hike anywhere you want.
That could be in your local city whilst you explore landmarks, you can go for a hike at the nearest beach and maybe even go for a swim, you can hike through the forest and get in tune with the trees, or you can go for a difficult mountain hike too. The variety you get from hiking is definitely a big bonus.
Moreover, you can also choose how fast you go and how hard your exercise is. You can walk at a very slow pace if you choose, you can go at a brisk walk, or if the mood hits you, you can even take a jog too. It’s a really good type of exercise because you can also choose the distance you go. It’s great because you don’t have to go to the gym and get yelled at by sometimes snooty instructors and you can see the finest of nature at the very same time.
Benefit #6: Controlling Health Problems
The next thing that hiking is good for is to keep you healthy. What we mean by that is something as simple as hiking can help combat diabetes. It is a well-known fact that regular exercise can help control diabetes by controlling blood sugar levels. Hiking is a good way to utilize your muscles, as we discussed earlier, and this using of your muscles moves glucose from your bloodstream by converting it into energy.
In essence, this has to do with your metabolism because the more you hike, the better your metabolism gets, and the more sugar gets removed from your blood, something which is essential when it comes to controlling diabetes.
On that same note, hiking is also a form of cardiovascular exercise and it can be light or strenuous cardio exercise depending where you hike and what gear you are carrying. The point is that cardiovascular exercise is of course very good for you. It trains your heart and lungs to be more efficient in terms of delivering blood and oxygen to your muscles, thus increasing physical performance.
Regular cardiovascular exercise is also shown to help control cholesterol levels, control high blood pressure, decrease your resting heart rate, lower the instance of cardiovascular and arterial disease, and helps lower the chances of suffering from a traumatic event such as a heart attack. If you want to be heart healthy and keep your body in top condition, hiking is definitely a good way to get started.
There is also something that is even better than cardiovascular health and that is the healing of your body, especially from diseases such as cancer. It is shown that long distance hiking helps to improve the antioxidative capacity of your body and may also increase the amount of antioxidants in your body. An increased amount of antioxidants in the body is very good because it helps to fight off cancerous disease in ontological patients, also known as those who suffer from cancer.
Benefit #7: Increasing Moods & Happiness
Yet another benefit that comes along with hiking is that it has the ability to help make you happier and increase your mood too. One of the main ways in which hiking helps to make you happier and even lessen the severity of depression is because of the outdoors. It is shown that exercising outdoors or even just simply being outside helps people feel happier. There is just something about the serenity and beautiful nature of the outdoors that seems to improve people’s moods.
There is of course also the fact that hiking outdoors is a form of exercise, exercise which causes you brain to produce feel happy chemicals. When you exercise your brain produces neurochemicals such as serotonin as well as various endocannabinoids. Serotonin is a natural chemical present in your brain which produces feelings of happiness, elation, and a sense of increased general well-being, thus making you feel happier and helping to deal with things like depression, stress, and anxiety at the same time.
At the same time, endocannabinoids, some of the compounds present in marijuana, also help to make you feel happier, more relaxed and less anxious, and can also reduce the perception of pain. If you are sick of feeling down in the dumps, hiking might just be the solution you need to make you happier and improve your mental health.
Benefit #8: It Won’t Cost You A Fortune
Something else that you might just appreciate about hiking as a form of exercise is that it won’t cost you very much. Sure, to go hiking on a regular basis you may want to get a decent pair of hiking boots and maybe even a good backpack to carry the essentials with you, but past that you really don’t need anything. You don’t have to buy expensive gym memberships and you don’t have to waste money on transportation either. All you need to do is to put on a pair of shoes and get outdoors.
Benefit #9: Increasing Brain Power
The final thing we want to mention when it comes to hiking is that it helps to get the juices flowing to your mind. It is shown that hiking helps people be more creative, helps with problem-solving skills, and also helps people increase their attention spans. Fresh air is always good for the brain, plus it doesn’t hurt to take some time apart from our computers and smartphones either! Being outside can actually make you smarter!
As you can see, there are many benefits of hiking. The fact of the matter is that even though hiking may not be the most intense form of physical exercise around, it is still more than enough to provide you with a wide variety of health benefits. Both your mind and your body will feel much better from something as simple as hiking through the forest. If you haven’t already tried hiking you don’t know what you are missing out on, so strap on some boots and get out there!
If you have any comments or questions about hiking please feel free to leave us a message and we will get back to you as soon as we can.