There’s something about packing up your backpack, putting on your hiking shoes, and hitting the trails that’s oh-so-invigorating. Once you’re out in nature, you instantly forget about all your problems and literally feel your stress melt away with every step. All that exploring isn’t just good for your soul, though: it’s also an incredibly effective workout that can benefit your body in more ways than one.
The Benefits of Hiking
Even though you’re too distracted by what you come across on the trails for hiking to feel like much a real workout, it does wonders for your health. While you’re walking, you’re burning calories that can aid in weight-loss. And whether you’re going uphill or downhill, both are beneficial in keeping your heart healthy.
During your time exploring, you’re also boosting your brain function and memory, increasing your focus, lowering your anxiety and improving your mood, and possibly even fighting off cancer. On top of that, you’re also becoming stronger overall. “Since walking is a weight-bearing exercise, hiking is a great way to boost your bone density while strengthening your legs, glutes, and core,” says New York City-based personal trainer Lana Herzig. See? The list goes on and on.
The Pros and Cons of Hiking
When it comes to hiking, there aren’t many cons. People of all ages and fitness levels can enjoy the activity since it’s so easy to make the workout as hard or as easy and you want it to be. And the cons? It can be hard to find the time to escape out into nature to go walk the trails. Then when you do, you have to be prepared: If you get hurt or lost, it’s essential to have a plan of action to ensure you get the help you need. Plus, with tick-borne illnesses on the rise, you have to do a thorough check of your body afterward.
How to Get a Solid Hiking Workout
To utilize hiking to get a mind- and body-benefiting workout, first thing’s first: like any other form of exercise, you have to have the right tools—and that includes getting proper hiking shoes or boots. After you’re all set to go, Herzig recommends going on an hour-long hike 1 to 2 days a week. “Start off with easy terrain and then gradually—over time—change the difficulty, distance, and/or scenery of your trail,” she says.