10 Benefits of Hiking: Exercise in the Great Outdoors

Written by
8fit Team @ 8fit
Written by
8fit Team @ 8fit
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Do you find it difficult to incorporate movement into your everyday life? We’ve got you covered! If lifting weights or running on the treadmill is not your thing, then hiking is a great way to be more active. But hiking isn’t just about wandering around in nature--it’s also a powerful workout that boasts a variety of health benefits.

Beautiful scenery aside, hiking is good for the mind, too. Walking in the great outdoors is a healthy form of exercise that is proven to have a positive effect on your wellbeing. Not only is hiking associated with lower blood pressure and cholesterol, but it has also been shown to improve mood and curb depression. Need more convincing? Read on to discover the health benefits of hiking and understand why and how you should include hiking in any active lifestyle plan.

Top 10 benefits of hiking

There are very few activities that include as many benefits as hiking. Here are just a few reasons why it will soon become your new favorite workout.

1. Get fit

Looking for a way to stay active that doesn’t involve going to the gym? Hiking might just be the one for you. Whether you’re walking up steep hills or trekking along a rugged coastline, you’ll be burning through those unwanted calories without even noticing it. All in all, hiking is a killer workout that can really help you feel fitter.

2. Exercise on your own terms

Whenever you go on a hike, you can choose your level of difficulty, from newbie to advanced. You get to decide the distance you’ll cover and the pace you’ll be walking at. Essentially it’s your hike, your rules. This makes it a great workout, even for total beginners. 

3. Lower your blood pressure and sugar levels

Hiking is a fantastic way to decrease your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Thanks to this, you will be able to keep your heart healthy and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. It also improves your blood sugar levels which helps control and prevent diabetes. Who’s in?

4. Develop lean legs

Sure, hiking engages all of your muscle groups, but it’s especially useful for building lower body strength. Walking up and down hills works essentially like lunging and can shape your glutes, quads, and hamstrings. Trust us, your legs will never feel better.

5. Strengthen your core

If you’re looking to tone your body and get back in shape, hiking is a great way to do so. All the walking through uneven terrain requires you to constantly engage your core area, which will help develop stronger abs and obliques. Want an extra challenge for your core? Try carrying a backpack while you hike.

6. Protect your bone density

As we age, our bone density can significantly reduce. To help maintain healthy bones, it’s essential to get enough calcium, vitamin D, and physical activity. Hiking definitely checks the box for the latter two. Since walking is a weight-bearing exercise, it also improves bone density (or prevents its loss) by strengthening the muscles around the bone.

7. Commune with nature

Sick of sitting in the office? Tired of staring at screens all day? Hiking in open spaces allows you to truly unplug from the world for a moment and take a welcome break. It gets you out of the house and back to the wilderness, allowing you to connect with yourself and nature again.

Nature lovers, unite! Take a look at our article about forest bathing here.

8. Boost your brain

Hiking isn’t all about keeping your body healthy, it’s also great for your brain. Studies show that people who spend more time in nature are far more creative when it comes to problem-solving tasks. This is because being in nature increases attention-span and focus. Researchers from Stanford University also found that walking makes you more creative than sitting. Think about what walking in nature does to your mind!

9. Be happy

Research shows that hiking can significantly improve your mind and increase your happiness levels. A walk in nature helps fight against the symptoms of mental health issues such as stress and anxiety. Think about going for a hike next time you need to lift your spirits.

10. Socialize

Who said you couldn’t catch up with friends while staying in shape? The health benefits of hiking are easy to comprehend, but hiking can also improve your social life. We can’t think of a better bonding activity than going for a hike. Because anybody can join, it’s easy enough to enjoy the scenery and the company of your friends. Nobody to go hiking with? Look for local hiking groups. Also, exercising with others makes you more accountable and less likely to quit. Cheers to that! 

Hiking has very tangible effects, and its benefits are both physical and mental. This outdoor workout shapes your entire body, boosts your brain, and increases happiness levels. What are you waiting to get started?

Our best hiking tips for beginners

Ready to hit the trails? Here are a few things to keep in mind if you are a beginner:

  • Be comfortable: 

Hiking doesn’t look like your regular workout, but it’s still exercising. This means that you can wear comfortable clothes that allow you to move around easily. 

  • Wear appropriate footwear:

Choose hiking shoes that support your ankle properly. Don’t forget to wear them around before your first hike so that you don’t end up with blisters half-way through the trail.

  • Stay hydrated:

It’s of utmost important to drink plenty of water while you’re hiking. Don’t forget to pack your bottle with you at all times.

  • Pack smart:

Keep it light and don’t overload your bag with unnecessary items. Refer to our newbies' hiking gear list just below to know exactly what to bring with you.

  • Bring a friend: 

A hiking partner is great for company and safety. You can also join a local hiking group for some extra socializing.

  • Safety first:

Remember, hiking is supposed to be fun, so stay safe. This means making sure you start small with a trail that’s appropriate for your fitness level. Study a map of the area and check the weather beforehand. Finally, let someone know where you’ll be and when you plan to return.

Our newbies' hiking gear list

Don’t know what to bring with you on your next hike? Pack these hiking essentials, and you’ll be good to go.

  • Navigation system: map and compass

  • Sun protection: a hat, sunglasses, and sunblock

  • Lighting gear: a headlamp or flashlight for when the sun goes down

  • First-aid supplies: always comes in handy

  • Extra clothing: a fleece sweater and rain jacket in case of cold weather or rain

  • Extra food: nuts, dried fruit or bars when you need to replenish your energy

  • Extra water: staying hydrated is oh so important

  • Fire: matches or a lighter

  • Tools and repair kit: swiss knife, duct tape, and a whistle

  • Emergency shelter: tent or bin bag

Step up your hiking game

Once you’ve got the gist of it, here are a few ideas for a more challenging hike:

  • Go hilly: For a great workout that will be sure to engage your quadriceps and glutes, find a trail that includes plenty of hills and steps. Walking downhill and uphill will allow you to sculpt your legs as well as get your heart rate up.

  • Go bumpy: Don’t be afraid of a bumpy trail. If the terrain is uneven, it will help you work on your balance, stability, and coordination. Remember, the more challenging the hike, the more calories you'll burn through.

  • Go heavy: Carrying a heavier bag will make your muscles work that much harder and melt extra calories away.

A chance to get fresh air, a full-body workout, and a mood boost all at the same time, you can’t get much better than hiking when it comes to exercising. So grab a friend, your hiking boots and let us know how you did! For more fun workout ideas and tips on how to stay fit and healthy, head over to the 8fit app.

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