Walking is one of the easiest ways to achieve your 30 minutes of daily activity. Hiking might as well be called “next level” walking—it’s more enjoyable, more engaging and a bit more challenging (but still not too hard). That’s probably why hiking is one of the most popular outdoor activities, with more than 47 million Americans reporting that they hiked at least once in 2018, says Statista.com. If you haven’t added hiking to your weight loss exercise routine, we’re here to tell you why you should start today.
Get outside and take a hike! Here are 10 reasons to start hiking today:
1. Hiking is easy.
You don’t need to learn special skills, be super fit or have any prior experience. Hiking is simply walking on an outdoor trail. Even the challenges, such as going up and down hills or navigating uneven terrain, are manageable for beginners. If you can walk, you can most likely hike.
2. It burns more calories than walking.
At a brisk walking pace of 17 minutes per mile, a 155-pound person burns about 149 calories in 30 minutes, says Harvard Health Publishing. Add a few hills on a hike and the calories burned jumps to 223 calories in 30 minutes—that’s about 50 percent more calories burned in the same amount of time.
3. It lifts your mood.
According to Stanford News, walking in natural areas rather than in man-made environments reduces “activity in a region of the brain associated with a key factor in depression.” The 2015 study was published in the peer-reviewed journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Other research has found that spending time in nature may help to reduce stress, says Harvard Health Publishing.
4. Hiking strengthens your heart.
Stress is said to be contributor to heart disease and hypertension (high blood pressure), so reducing stress might also lower your risk of suffering from these cardiac conditions, says Harvard Health Publishing. Hiking also gives your heart—a powerful muscle—a steady workout, helping it to grow strong and pump more efficiently even when you’re at rest. “Like brisk walking, hiking is a good way to improve your cardiovascular fitness, particularly if your route includes some hills, which will force your heart to work harder,” explains Harvard Health Publishing.
5. Hiking flattens your belly.
Going up and down inclines and traversing uneven terrain engages your core muscles—the big muscles between your rib cage and knees, says Harvard Health Publishing. These include your abdominals, glutes (backside) and thighs. Hiking helps strengthen and tone those muscles as you shed excess pounds, so you become visibly leaner and firmer. Don’t forget to bring some flat belly snacks along on your hike! Check out these four easy ideas. >
6. It improves your balance.
Our sense of balance is essential to many everyday activities, such as climbing stairs, getting in and out of the shower or reaching up to high shelves. According to Time Magazine, the uneven terrain experienced while hiking can help to build up muscles that you don’t normally use. “Pumping up those oft-neglected muscles may improve your balance and stability, which helps protect you from falls,” they explain. For most people, the sense of balance deteriorates with age. Hiking keeps it working effectively.
7. It expands your mind.
Most of us spend our time looking at lit screens and the same views day in and day out. When we get out in nature, we get better at focusing our attention, solving problems and developing creative ideas, according to the scientific journal, PLoS One. So, get outside, take a hike and get inspired!
8. Hiking is inexpensive.
Unlike nearly every other fitness activity, hiking costs you almost nothing. All you need is a sturdy pair of shoes with a good tread. Yes, you can buy hiking shoes that will make your hikes easier and more comfortable. However, feel free to start out wearing ordinary sneakers before committing to purchasing footwear designed for this purpose.
9. Hiking happens anywhere.
Every state in the U.S. has national parks, historic trails and protected wilderness areas that you can visit. The National Park Service website allows you to search by state to find those closest to you. Many state and county parks also feature marked trails with signs that tell you how long and how challenging the trails are. With a little observation and investigation, you can often find unofficial trails to hike and undeveloped areas around your home. (Just be sure you’re not trespassing on private property.) For more trail ideas, check out the American Trails Website.
10. Hiking is for everyone.
Wherever you are on your weight loss journey, you can enjoy the pleasures of hiking. You don’t need to train, set goals or measure results. You can just take a walk in nature and feel good while you’re doing it and for hours after you’re back.
New to hiking? Check out these four helpful tips for beginners:
1. Start slow.
For your first few hikes, choose routes that are shorter than you would normally walk—hiking is more challenging than walking and you don’t want to overdo it and find yourself sore or too exhausted when you are finished.
2. Bring water.
This will ensure you don’t dehydrate along the way. Adequate water helps you stay alert and energized and keeps your metabolism working. Looking for the perfect water bottle to take on your hiking adventures? Click here for our water bottle shopping tips! >
3. Go with a buddy.
Almost everything is more fun when you do it together. Hiking with a partner also ensures that in the unlikely event something goes wrong—whether you get lost or twist an ankle—help is right by your side. If you do choose to go on your own for a little solitude, be sure to tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back.
4. Keep your eyes and ears open.
We’re accustomed to listening to our inner dialogues all day long. Take time while you’re hiking to tune in to the sights and sounds around you. There are so many delights in nature, from birds chirping and flowers blooming to the rustle of tree leaves in a gentle breeze. Focusing on them can chase away your everyday cares and worries for a little while and make your life feel a little bit better, no matter what else is happening in the world.
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*Always speak with your doctor before starting an exercise routine.
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