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10 Hiking Perks Will Make You Want To Hit The Trails As Soon As Possible.

Is hiking a good workout? Hiking helps you build muscle, sharpen your mind, and release chemicals that make you happy. Get out on the trail as soon as possible and enjoy the benefits of hiking.

If you’ve ever told someone to “take a hike,” you might want to do what you told them to do. Hiking is excellent for mental and physical health because it immerses you in nature. You don’t have to be a hard-core rugged hiker to get all the benefits. “Think of hiking as a long walk in nature,” says Alyson Chun, assistant director of adventure sports at Stanford University and REI instructor. “You can hike at any speed, at any elevation, and for any number of miles, hours, or even days.”

No matter how hard (or easy) it is, every trail has its own benefits. First, a moderate one-hour hike is a great way to get cardio and strengthen your lower body and core. And the benefits of hiking get better as you go higher. Chun says, “The more difficult the hike, the more calories and stress you’ll burn.”

A big plus is that it only takes a little to start. Hiking is easier to get into than sports like rock climbing and waterskiing, which require a lot of gear and often require travel and lessons. Chun says, “There are only two things you need: good shoes and a day bag.” Find a trail near you using the AllTrails app or Hiking Project, which has GPS and elevation data and tips from hikers for almost 14,000 courses that range from easy to complex. (Remember to save your route from the app so you can use it even if you lose cell service, which often happens in the wilderness.)

And if you already take short walks on the trails near your home, try a daylong hike to experience the next level of this natural high. Chun says, “Long-distance hikes show you a whole new world of terrain and make you feel like you’ve done something.” Grab a granola bar and your essentials, and head out on a hike to take advantage of these powerful benefits.

Why you should go on a long hike by yourself this year:


1. It works your legs in all directions.

Most hikes involve going up a big hill or even a mountain and then going back down. This is one of the best things about hiking because it gives your legs a great workout. “Trekking up a mountain is a lot like climbing the stairclimber or making lunges over and over again,” says Joel Martin, Ph.D., an assistant professor of exercise, fitness, and health promotion at George Mason University. “It strengthens your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves.”

But what makes your legs sore and robust is going downhill. Martin says, “When you go downhill, your glutes and quads need to do a lot of slow, controlled work to keep your knees and hips stable, so you don’t fall.” “These types of contractions, which are called eccentric contractions and are the same as when you slowly lower a weight at the gym, are the most damaging to muscle fibers because you’re fighting against the force of gravity and weight, which in this case is your body weight,” he says. This means you won’t be out of breath on the way down, but your muscles won’t have a chance to relax.

2. Every step you take makes your core stronger.

When you walk through rough terrain, your abs, obliques, and lower back must work to keep your body stable and upright. This is especially true if you’re carrying a backpack. Martin says, “A heavier bag, around 8 to 10 pounds, makes you less stable, so your core muscles have to work harder.” Think about it this way: you’re carrying a weight on your back, like doing both cardio and strength training simultaneously. (By the way, adding a weighted vest to your workouts gives you the same benefits.)

3. It’s a Killer Way to Cross-Train

Whether you’re training for a race or want to add some variety to your cycling routine, planning some hikes can help you get in better shape and make you better at running and biking. Martin says, “Cyclists usually have strong quads but weak hamstrings and runners usually have weak hamstrings and glutes.” “Hiking helps strengthen these muscles so that imbalances like these don’t happen,” he says.

Martin also says that if you often hike at high altitudes (above 4,000 feet), you’ll get used to working out in an area with low oxygen. Your body will get used to using less oxygen, which could help you do better in a race the next time you run one.

The science backs it up: Altitude training has been used by athletes to improve their speed and performance, according to the journal Sports Medicine. A study from the International Journal of Exercise Science found that runners’ endurance performance improved significantly after they went to a 10-day altitude training camp. Martin says, “A single hike won’t have much effect; consistency is the key.” Make hiking a habit, and you might get this benefit.

4. Helps you move better all the time

Many joint exercises, like running, walking, lunging, and squatting, move you forward and backward or up and down. On the other hand, hiking makes you move in all directions as you climb over fallen trees and avoid slick rocks. Martin says, “When you do things that require you to move in more than one direction, you strengthen the stabilizing muscles that help keep you from getting hurt.”

Consider this: Most common injuries happen when people move quickly from one plane of motion to another, like when they reach down to pick up something heavy and pull a muscle in their back. If you aren’t used to moving this way, other forces will try to compensate for weak stabilizers. This will lead to bad form and could cause you to pull, pop, tear, or break something.

5 . Makes You Happier

Know that “mmm…ah!” feeling when you see a beautiful waterfall or look out from the top of a mountain? Research shows that these things suit your mental health: A study in the Landscape and Urban Planning journal found that people who walked for 50 minutes in nature felt less stressed and happier than those who walked near traffic. Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She says, “We know that just looking at photos of nature makes you feel less stressed.” (See every default desktop background ever.)

A review of studies by the University of Essex in England found that even just five minutes in nature can improve your mood and sense of self-worth. And because exercise makes endorphins known as the “happiness hormone,” moving through the heart adds a new level of happiness. Whitbourne says that hiking is a great way to feel less stressed and happier at the same time.


6. Beats making friends at the bar

Working together toward a common goal, like finding your way through the woods, strengthens relationships and builds bonds. “When hiking, you usually have to solve small problems together [“Uh, did we take the wrong turn?”], which makes you feel like you’ve done more as a group,” says Dustin Portzline, a rock guide who is certified by the American Mountain Guide Association. “More than anything else, I’ll always remember the people I went hiking with,” he says.

No hiking, buddy? No problem. Find a hiking group in your area on Meetup or sign up for a class or trip with REI to go with a pro and get this benefit of hiking.

7. Makes you less worried

A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that adults who took a 90-minute walk in nature brooded less than those who walked through the city. Also, they had less blood flow to the part of the brain involved in rumination, while the city group had the same amount of blood flow. Researchers thought being in nature took people’s minds off negative, self-centered thoughts. Observers are trying to figure out what it is about nature that makes it such a “positive distraction.” The good news is that you can try out this “green immersion” and get the benefits of hiking by walking along a path in your local park.

8. It makes you stronger without making you out of breath

Going for a hike will make you stronger and give you a lot of physical benefits. However, these benefits won’t seem all that sweaty. Eva Selhub, M.D., a co-author of the book Your Brain On Nature, says that when you exercise outside, you feel less pain and fatigue and can go faster and for longer than when you exercise inside.

Working out outside is good for your mind and body.

At the same time, the challenges to your balance and the extra resistance of going uphill are making your body stronger for other activities. Jax Mariash, a professional ultrarunner who hikes as part of her cross-training, says, “Hiking is a great way to build up your endurance without putting such a hard load on your body.” “The slow miles also help build your stamina, so when you run long distances on flat ground, your legs just get used to going faster,” she says.

9. It helps lower stress

Need to get some fresh air? Hiking is the best thing to do. Research shows that exercise alone is a great way to control your emotions, improve your mental health, and lower your stress levels. “When you work out in nature, you get twice as much out of it,” says Dr. Selhub. “People have said that walking in the wild is like putting a drop of morphine in your brain. The stress response and stress hormones go down, while feel-good chemicals like dopamine and endorphins go up,” she says.

Most people are amazed by nature, which is at least part of why hiking can be helpful. A lower stress response also means the body is less inflamed, and Dr. Selhub says, “We know that inflammation is strongly linked to a bad mood.” In short, a green routine is an excellent way to deal with stress.

10. It Is Safe

When it’s scary to be close to a group of people, hiking is a great way to get exercise without putting yourself in danger.

Hiking is a great way to exercise and get away from people. It’s a great way to check your stress levels and mental health.

If you feel like you’ve been spending too much time at home and don’t know what to do about it, go for a hike. When you get back home, you’ll feel a lot better.



  • When you go up, and down hills, your heart rate goes up and down, which is a great cardio workout.
  • Like most cardio exercises, hiking lowers your risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and even some cancers.
  • Hiking is a weight-bearing activity that helps build muscle and keeps bones from weakening.
  • Going hiking can help you keep your weight in check.
  • It is a form of exercise that is easy on the joints and can help people with arthritis stay flexible and mobile.
  • The body makes Vitamin D when it is out in the sun.
  • Those with type 2 diabetes who go hiking might need less insulin or not need it at all. Talk to your doctor about how working out might help you need less medicine.
  • Hiking is good for your mental health and often makes you feel more relaxed and better overall.
  • “Make sure to talk to your doctor before hiking if you have high blood pressure or heart disease of any kind,” says Dr. Bednarz. “Even if you are healthy, vertical climbing can be a different ballgame. You use other muscles than when walking on flat ground, so stretch and pay attention to your body’s limits.

Hiking is good for your mind and spirit as well as your body.

When you’re dressed for success, hiking is a great way to work out your whole body. It makes your big muscles stronger and boosts your mood and energy by making your body release chemicals that make you feel good, like adrenaline and endorphins.

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