Activities

10 Reasons Why Hiking Should Be Part of Your Exercise Routine

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You may be able to guess from our other articles that we at KOA love hiking.

The camping + hiking combo is one of our favorites, and it’s not just because we love the outdoors.

Hiking boasts all kinds of benefits whether done alone or done with other exercises. And, over the last year, we have seen the popularity of hiking increase significantly. That’s largely due to COVID, where the risk of heading to the gym or a workout class is not within everyone’s level of comfort.

Since it can get boring working, sleeping, eating, and exercising all within the confines of your home, and walks around the neighborhood can start to feel very repetitive after a while, we suggest safely taking your walks and elevating them to hikes.

What many people use as a leisurely activity is actually a great way to get some exercise and is something you should add to your workout routine today.

Here are some of the reasons why you should be hiking.

Here Are 10 Reasons Why You Should Hike

Rear view of woman hiker sitting on rock on top of hill while looking at sunset over San Diego California

1. It helps calm you

Stress is something that we have all gotten way too close with over the last year and once that ugly creature rears its head, sometimes it feels impossible to get it to go away.

Hiking is one of the ways you may be able to alleviate some of your stress. This isn’t exclusive to hiking, as any form of exercise can help lower your stress levels.

However, what makes hiking different from other types of exercise is that it takes you away from your computer, your TV, your phone, all of the modern-day technology that often brings more stress and puts you outdoors, in nature.

Hiking of course isn’t the only activity you can do in nature, but it is easily accessible in times of high stress and usually doesn’t require much planning ahead of time.

You can hike up a nearby hill if that’s all you’ve got near you when you feel a stress emergency coming on. Or, you can plan a longer hike that takes you on more of an adventure away from your stress.

Studies have shown that walking in nature, specifically green environments can help us with the overwhelming mental fatigue that results from living in a world that is so centered around technology.

Nature is also a great place to gain perspective on your life, as you are looking around at things that are much bigger than you are. It can help to make your problems feel smaller as you look around at the incredible world around you.

Mother and her sons hiking in the forest .

2. You can start small and progress

The great thing about hiking is that it is a relative term.

What you consider to be a hike may be different than what I consider to be a hike, and so on.

A hike can mean walking up the small hill on your street, or it can mean a 12-mile trek through difficult terrain.

And that’s why we love it.

No matter what you consider a hike, you can always keep pushing yourself to do more, to challenge yourself further in your hiking.

If you’re new to this form of exercise, it’s a good idea to start small and hike for 1-2 miles on a mostly flat trail. Then, once you feel comfortable with that you can start scaling up to longer hikes, or hikes that have more of an elevation gain to them.

woman hiking at Red Rock Canyon during sunset

3. It requires minimal gear

Some workouts nowadays feel out of control with the amount of equipment you need to perform them.

But when it comes to hiking, all you need is a pair of shoes and a water bottle. If you plan to do a longer hike, you may want to bring some snacks along as well.

Because of the minimal gear needed for this activity, it is accessible to almost everyone and can be done on a whim without prepping a ton of gear ahead of time.

Hikers admiring Redwood trees, Redwood National Park, California

4. It can increase your creativity

Feel like you’re in a creative rut? Put your shoes on and go for a hike.

No, really.

Hiking is a great way to escape all the distractions in life and just look at nature, which when you give her a chance, can be the ultimate inspiration.

Hiking in nature forces us to disconnect from the things that usually have our brains running like hamsters on a wheel and allows our brains the space to tap into creativity.

Active senior couple on a walk in autumn.

5. It works with all exercise goals

No matter where you are in your fitness journey, hiking is there for you to help you reach your next goal.

That’s because hiking can vary in length, elevation, and difficulty of the terrain. There is something for everyone when it comes to hiking.

If you’re new to working out, hiking is a much more fun way to start losing weight than running on the treadmill (in our opinion, though no judgment if you feel differently).

If you’re big into exercise, then hiking is a great activity to do on your recovery days where you need to take some time off from the gym and let your body rest a bit. It also serves as a great way to incorporate some cross-training into your life.

In addition, hiking is great for keeping lactic acid from building up in your muscles.

Young family running down rocky mountain trail.

6. It’s safe

In times where being in close quarters with groups of people can feel quite scary, hiking is a great way for you to still exercise without the risk.

Hiking is a fabulous socially distanced way of working out that allows you to keep your stress levels in check and your mental health balanced.

If you feel like you’ve been spending way too much time at home and aren’t sure how to alleviate your feelings of cabin fever, head out for a hike and I’m willing to bet that you feel exponentially better upon returning home.

A senior woman hiking in a red rock sandstone canyon.

7. It helps with balance

One of the unfortunate parts about aging is that balance starts to become more of a struggle. However, you don’t have to accept your fate as someone who isn’t as balanced as they’d like to be.

Instead, you can opt to incorporate hiking into your workout routine and you’ll enjoy the benefits it brings you in terms of balance.

Because hiking is usually done on uneven terrain, that forces your body to remain upright, which is achieved by balance and a strong core.

Hiking helps you to work on your coordination which plays a huge role in your balance.

Young man helping friend to climb up the rock.

8. It increases muscle strength

As you hike you use all of your leg muscles to traverse the different terrain. That means that you aren’t just giving your heart a great workout when you tie up those shoes and head into nature; you are also giving your legs a great workout.

You can expect to see the strength in your quad, calf, and hamstring muscles improve as you do more and more hiking, and that will help you not only in your daily life but also in any other forms of exercise you do.

Hiker woman hiking in Grand Canyon walking with hiking poles.

9. It helps your brain

In truth, all exercise is good for your brain, not just hiking. But since hiking is our topic of discussion today, we are going to focus on the brain benefits of this particular workout.

Hiking and getting your heart rate up can help you feel younger as well as stronger, not to mention the extra boost of oxygen that comes with a hike in nature.

In addition to that, hiking challenges your brain in ways that other exercises don’t, which helps improve your brain health. Some forms of workouts are simply repetitive. You know what to expect, you show up, you do the moves, and that’s that. While that’s great for yoru body, it might not be doing much for your brain.

With hiking, however, you are often exploring trails that aren’t always predictable and that don’t always allow you to know what is going to happen next. Staying on the lookout for twigs that you don’t want to trip on, trail markers to keep you on track, animals that may come your way, and all sorts of other obstacles are great for your brain health. It forces you to make quick adjustments to your expected route, and we love that.

Couple hiking with daughter during fall.

10. It’s great for your cardiovascular health

This is likely the benefit of hiking that you’ve heard about. Low-to-moderate exercises is one of the healthiest things you can do for your body. Ideally, you would get over 2 hours or this moderate activity per week, and hiking is a fabulous way to clock this time.

Cardio exercises such as hiking can help greatly in reducing your chances of suffering from cardiovascular diseases as well as cancer and type 2 diabetes.

You will likely be able to tell whether your hike is a cardiovascular exercise by your heart beat, but if you’re not sure, you may want to get yourself a heart monitor or a smart watch to help you keep track of your heart rate.

As you can see, hiking is something that brings all sorts of benefits to your life. In fact, we can’t think of any reasons why you shouldn’t be out there hitting the trails anytime you can.

 

Here Are Some of Our Favorite Hikes

To check out some of our favorite hiking spots, be sure to check out these articles:

9 American Hiking Trails Sure to Wow

5 National Park Hikes Not to Miss

The Best Hikes for Waterfall-Chasing

These Are Some of the Most Breathtaking Hiking Trails in America


Leslie K Hughes

Leslie is a travel writer, copywriter, and web designer who gets butterflies from telling stories through words and visuals.

Her voice comes from a place filled with passion, dreams, and lots of sugar. “Cake over steak” is her go-to motto.

With over 10 years of experience in crafting words, and years of embarking on travels that have taken this Montana girl to some incredible places, Leslie loves the adventures of both body and mind her writing takes her on.

To see what Leslie’s up to in the writing and design world, visit her website here.

 


Hiking boasts all kinds of benefits whether done alone or done with other exercises. Learn why you should consider adding hiking to your exercise routine.