13 Benefits of Hiking

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One of our goals at Landwinder Hiking is to inspire our readers to break the sedentary lifestyle that plagues us today. We all have jobs and important things to do, but we want you to strive for more. More focus on your exercise and health. More desire to connect with the outside world. Every one of us could be more active and hiking is a great way to accomplish this. You’ll improve your physical and mental health while seeing the beauty this world has to offer. If you’re still on the fence, here’s 13 benefits of hiking to sway you.

Physical Benefits of Hiking

1. Improve Your Cardiovascular Health

Improved heart health is an important benefit of hiking. Helps in lowering high blood pressure, improved blood flow, and general improvement to overall health.

One of the best benefits of hiking is the improvement we experience to our cardiovascular health. Hiking is considered an aerobic exercise (low intensity, high duration) which contributes to better heart and lung health.

Aerobic exercise (like hiking) has been shown to lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels and decrease our risk of heart disease.

In addition to the points above, hiking is a great activity to exercise in Zone 2 cardio. I’m not an expert but here’s a great article detailing what Zone 2 Cardio is, how to do it, and the benefits of exercising in this range.

Here’s some important key points in the article:

  • Zone 2 cardio is exercise that maintains our heart rate below our aerobic threshold for a long time. With the inclines and declines of hiking and controlling your pace, this is pretty easy to maintain.
  • The author includes a calculator to find your Zone 2 heart rate range.
  • A workout can be from 20 minutes to several hours so choose whatever trail you’d like to accomplish this workout.
  • The benefits of Zone 2 activity are numerous, but here’s a few big ones:
    • Lower resting heart rate
    • Increased blood flow
    • Your body will transport oxygen more efficiently
    • Burns fat for fuel instead of glycogen.

Again, I’m not an expert in zone 2 cardio, but if you’re active or want to get active with hiking, I highly recommend reading the full article to see how you can benefit from it. Hiking is a perfect activity to train in zone 2.

2. Strengthens Bones and Muscles

Weight bearing exercises, like hiking, lead to strong muscles and increased bone density.

Exercise develops bone strength and muscle. Due to the amount of trails you’ll experience, hiking is a great way to develop the different muscle groups.

Weight bearing exercise paired with the changing terrain forces your body to use different muscles and bones which leads to their overall development.

The best part about hiking is you can alter the exercise based on your goals. Looking for something with higher intensity, pick up the pace or make it a trail run. Want additional weight, add a ruck or weighted backpack to your hike. You can make your hike into whatever intensity you need.

3. Movement Helps With Digestion and Other Bodily Functions

The modern world is pretty stationary, where most of us spend extended periods of time sitting. Unfortunately, this is terrible for our bodies. Humans are natural movers, so when you quit moving it wreaks havoc on the body.

Many people suffer from chronic issues or pain caused by this lifestyle. Simply moving more is a good way to reverse many of these problems (not all but many). Hiking is the perfect activity to get your steps in while spending time outdoors in the fresh air. Increasing your daily movement will drastically improve things like digestion and other bodily functions.

4. Improves Balance

Balance is something we lose over time. It’s something you need to train to stay proficient at. Unfortunately, most of us don’t even think about this aspect of training. Then as we age, our balance declines and it leads to falls.

Hiking is an easy way to train your balance. Walking on uneven terrain, stepping rock to rock and climbing over fallen trees all require your body to use stabilizing muscles. If you lack this strength, your balance will be poor but the more you hike, the bigger difference you’ll notice.

It’s an overlooked health benefit that hiking offers us and all you have to do is get onto a trail and go. Save yourself down the road from a fall or slip by keeping your balance strong.

5. Weight loss

So many people want the secret to losing weight, but the reality is most simply don’t eat well enough or move their bodies enough. Hiking can be a useful contributor to your weight loss journey because it puts you outside in the sunshine and forces you to move for extended periods of time.

As covered in point 1, physical exercise that improves cardio also helps you lose weight. Zone 2 cardio forces the body to fuel itself by burning fat, not glycogen. If you want to lose weight, incorporating hiking into your routine will only be beneficial.

6. Improve Sleep Quality

Hiking helps aid in a good night's sleep.

Quality sleep is vital to our everyday health. Unfortunately, me and many other people don’t always get a good night sleep. However, exercise is shown to improve quality of sleep. If your’e struggling to sleep I encourage you to add some hiking (or other exercise) into your routine.

Mental Health Benefits of Hiking

7. Makes You Comfortable With Being Alone

If you’re looking for a way to make yourself more independent and comfortable with being alone, hiking is a great way to train yourself up. It’s very easy to go hiking on your own and you’ll be required to be completely self sufficient on the trails.

Don’t worry though, if it makes you uneasy. There’s numerous trails that are very close to people that can be a toe in the water moment for you.

Self sufficiency and independence are all important characteristics of succeeding in life and hiking by yourself helps you build the confidence to step up and do it.

If you are nervous when alone, start small with a local trail and slowly build up to more remote places. Don’t jump into the deep end right away.

8. Build Relationships

A hiking group is a way to build relationships with fellow hikers.

As a follow up to the last point, you don’t always need to hike alone. Most of my hikes are with family or friends.

Hiking allows us to spend quality time with loved ones and meet new people. It’s a great time to spend catching up with people and talking about important things. Or just have fun with the ones closest to us.

There’s also hiking groups that bring new people together and communities of hikers that offer social support to peers. Hiking not only strengthens yourself, but the ties you have with the people around you.

9. Unplug From Technology

The world has become so intertwined with technology that it’s near impossible to escape it. Everywhere you go, screens and technology dominate the landscape. Sometimes it’s overwhelming.

Hiking, however, pulls the plug on most technology, Of course, you still have your phone and maybe some wearable tech, but you won’t encounter many TVs or laptops on the trails. Hiking gives you the perfect opportunity to hit the pause button on your tech use.

10. Increased Vitamin D From Sunlight

Vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins for our body. I’m not a medical professional, but I understand it’s very important for our health to get the necessary dosage of vitamin D.

Other than supplementation, sunlight is the best provider of this vitamin. We need sunlight to maintain a healthy lifestyle and its been found that sunlight also contributes to increased overall happiness.

Please prepare to be in the sun! Sunlight is good, but getting burned because you didn’t use sunscreen isn’t what we’re looking for.

11. More Mental Clarity And Creativity

Going off the last point, sunlight and fresh air help get our mental juices flowing. You’ll have more clarity in your thinking, better decision making, and improved memory.

Being outside also inspires more creativity. The landscape, plants, and wild life are thought provoking and inspire new ideas. If you feel like you’re in a rut or stuck on a problem, getting outside can help shake it. Use that rejuvenated feeling after exercise to accomplish these tasks.

12. Fights Off Cognitive Decline

Walking has been shown to fight off mental decline and prevent things like Alzheimer’s and Dementia. These aren’t things you can completely control, but it’s important to do everything you can to keep yourself fit physically and mentally as long as possible.

If you’ve been personally affected by one of these you know it’s hard to watch and you would do anything you could to prevent this from happening to yourself or loved ones. Make the effort to exercise. But if you’re not sure what to do, hiking is an easy way to start getting your steps in.

13. Decrease Stress and Anxiety

We live stressful lives. Every day is filled with new pressures and if there’s no relief it becomes crushing. Hiking, like many other forms of exercise, can act as a release from this stress.

The physical activity mixed with sun absorption can reduce stress and temper any anxiety you feel. When you start hiking, you’ll feel more free than you ever have. Being outdoors, not tethered to a desk… it’s worth every visit to the trails.

Bonus: Witness The Beauty of the Outdoors

I included this one on here because it’s something that many people don’t get to experience. When I first got into hiking, it was insane how few of people had actually been to any of our national parks. Designated land, considered some of the most beautiful on the planet, and people weren’t seeing it.

It was disappointing because everyone that doesn’t get to see it is really missing out. I was awe-struck the first time I saw Zion. Felt like I was on another planet when I visited Glacier. Dumbfounded at how the hoodoos of Bryce could even be possible.

Nature has a way of invoking emotion, striking a chord inside you, similar to the way some people view art. It’s a feeling you shouldn’t miss.

The national parks are just the start, too. There’s so much more to see out there not included in those parks!

Final Thoughts

Exercise and being outdoors are two very important things we should do as humans. We’re so engrained in technology and “other things” in today’s world that our health and connection with the outdoors has dwindled. If you’re one of those that would like to change that, hiking is a great activity to start. The benefits of hiking are numerous, both physically and mentally, and we should take every opportunity we get to spend time in the great outdoors. Become less sedentary and embrace the freedom you feel when you’re on the trail!