Walking is one of the easiest ways to get on with your 30 minute daily activities. Hiking could also be described as “next level” walking – it’s more pleasant, more engaging and a little more challenging (but still not too difficult). Because of this, hiking is probably one of the most popular outdoor activities. More than 47 million Americans said they hiked at least once in 2018, says Statista.com. If you haven’t added hiking to your weight loss exercise routine, we are here to tell you why you should start today.
Get out there and take a hike! Here are 10 reasons to start hiking today:
1. Hiking is easy.
You don’t have to learn any special skills, be super fit or have previous knowledge. 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 probably hike too.
2. It burns more calories than walking.
At a fast walking pace of 17 minutes per mile, a 155-pound person burns about 149 calories in 30 minutes, says Harvard Health Publishing. Adding a few hills to a hike increases the calorie burn to 223 calories in 30 minutes – that’s about 50 percent more calories burned in the same amount of time.
3. It lifts your spirits.
According to Stanford News, walking in natural areas rather than 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 journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Other research has found that being in the great outdoors can help relieve stress, says Harvard Health Publishing.
4. Hiking strengthens your heart.
Stress is believed to contribute to heart disease and high blood pressure (high blood pressure), so reducing stress can also lower your risk of developing these heart conditions, says Harvard Health Publishing. Hiking gives your heart – a strong muscle – a steady workout that will help it become strong and pump more efficiently, even when you are at rest. “Like brisk walking, hiking is a great way to improve your cardiovascular fitness, especially if your route includes some hills that will force your heart to work harder,” explains Harvard Health Publishing.
5. Hiking flattens your stomach.
Ascending and descending slopes and traversing uneven terrain uses your core muscles – the large muscles between your rib cage and your knees, says Harvard Health Publishing. This includes your abs, glutes (back), and thighs. Hiking helps strengthen and tone these muscles as you lose excess pounds, making you noticeably leaner and firmer. Don’t forget to bring some flat-stomach snacks with you on your hike! Check out these four simple ideas. >
6. It improves your balance.
Our sense of balance is essential in many everyday activities, such as climbing stairs, getting in and out of the shower or reaching tall shelves. According to Time Magazine, hiking the uneven terrain can help build muscles that you don’t normally use. “Inflating these often neglected muscles can improve your balance and stability, which will keep you safe from falls,” they explain. Most people’s sense of balance deteriorates with age. Hiking keeps it effective.
7. It expands your mind.
Most of us spend our time looking at lighted screens and seeing the same views day in and day out. When we go out into nature, we can better focus our attention, solve problems, and develop creative ideas, according to the scientific journal PLoS One. So get out there, hike and get inspired!
8. Hiking is cheap.
Unlike almost any other fitness activity, hiking costs you next to nothing. All you need is a sturdy pair of shoes with a good profile. Yes, you can buy hiking boots that will make your hiking easier and more comfortable. However, you can wear regular sneakers first before you decide to buy shoes that are designed for this purpose.
9. Hiking takes place everywhere.
Every US state has national parks, historic trails, and protected wilderness areas that you can visit. You can search by state on the National Park Service website to find the ones that are closest to you. Many state and county parks also have marked trails with signs telling you how long and how challenging the trails are. With a little observation and investigation, you can often find unofficial hiking trails and undeveloped areas around your home. (Just be careful not to step on private property.) Check out the American Trails website for more trail ideas.
10. Hiking is for everyone.
Wherever you are in your weight loss journey, you can enjoy the joys of hiking. You don’t have to exercise, set goals, or measure results. You can just take a walk in nature and feel good about it and for hours after your return.
New to hiking? Check out these four helpful tips for beginners:
1. Start slowly.
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 end up sore or too exhausted.
2. Bring water.
This will ensure that you don’t get dehydrated on the go. Getting enough water will help you stay awake, energetic, and keep your metabolism going. Looking for the perfect water bottle for your hiking adventure? Click here for our tips on buying water bottles! >
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 that something goes wrong – whether you get lost or twist your ankle – help is by your side. If you do decide to go by yourself for a little solitude, be sure to tell someone where you are going and when you can expect to be back.
4. Keep your eyes and ears open.
We are used to listening to our inner dialogues all day. While hiking, take your time to take in the sights and sounds around you. There are so many joys in nature, from the chirping of birds and blooming flowers to the rustling of tree leaves in a gentle breeze. If you focus on them, you can take your everyday worries and worries away for a while and make your life feel a little better no matter what else is going on in the world.
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* Always talk to your doctor before starting any exercise routine.