Hiking offers plenty more than just fresh air and a scenic view. It’s one of the healthiest (and least expensive) pastimes you can pursue. If you need an excuse to lace up your boots and hit the trail, November 17 is Take a Hike Day. Whether you wander through a forest preserve or trek up the side of a mountain, celebrate National Take a Hike Day with the knowledge that you’re improving your health. Read on to learn more about the health benefits of hiking.
Hiking is great for the heart.
Hiking is unique because it’s a low-impact sport that offers cardiovascular benefits on par with other aerobic activities. That’s because climbing up a hill intensifies your heart rate, even if you’re moving at walking speed. Studies show that hiking on a regular basis can lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Hiking alleviates stress.
Hiking naturally lifts your mood while combating stress and anxiety. A study commissioned by a British mental health charity revealed that hiking in the scenic countryside reduced symptoms of depression, while walking within a shopping center increased them. Hiking also offers participants the rare chance to unplug and disconnect from technology.A recent study conducted by professors of psychology at the University of Kansas and the University of Utah showed that spending time outdoors increased attention spans and problem-solving skills by 50%.
Hiking is good for your muscles and bones.
A weight-bearing exercise, hiking can boost bone density. It’s been shown to reverse the effects of osteoporosis and slow the rate of calcium loss from bones. Trails are often softer than concrete or asphalt, which is good news for your joints. Regular hiking will also strengthen your glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings.
Hiking is a social activity.
Unlike swimming laps or cycling in a single file, hiking is an inherently social, noncompetitive activity. In fact, it’s highly recommended that you always hike with at least one partner in case of an emergency or injury. Next time you want to meet up with a friend, try hiking instead of catching up over dinner and drinks.
Hiking boosts weight loss.
You’ll get a much better workout hiking on a trail than on walking a treadmill. A 5–10% incline equals a 30–40% increase in calories burned. A 150-lb person hiking and climbing hills for 60 minutes can burn more than 535 calories, compared to 235 calories burned by simply walking at a moderate pace for an hour.
Ready to hit the trail? Read our hiking tips first.
- Start slow. Stick to shorter, flatter hikes if you’re new to hiking, and be sure to get your doctor’s clearance before beginning any exercise regimen.
- Always go with a buddy.
- Pack plenty of water and a snack, such as Atkins Harvest Trail Bars.
- Hike during daylight hours and don’t forget a trail map.
- Be sure to wear the right hiking gear, including sturdy boots and weatherproof clothing.