If you want to exercise regularly, one of the best things you can do is find a fitness activity that you love—and for many people, that fitness activity is hiking. Hiking offers the opportunity to get outside, get moving, and experience all that nature has to offer. But it also offers a host of health benefits—mind, body, and spirit.
In honor of Mountain Day on August 11, let’s take a look at five ways hiking can make you a stronger, healthier person:
Hiking is a great cardio workout
Cardio is a part of any well-balanced fitness regimen. And because hiking is considered a cardiovascular exercise, if you want to get a great cardio workout, and all the benefits that go along with it? Go for a hike.
Cardiovascular exercise offers a host of health benefits, including lower blood pressure, improved mood, better sleep, and a reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and certain cancers.
If you want to get the most cardio bang for your buck, look for hikes with steep inclines. The steeper the incline, the harder your heart will have to work to carry you up the trail—and the more cardiovascular benefit you’ll get in the process.
Hiking can strengthen bones
Strong bones are an important element of living a healthy life. But bone loss typically begins in your 30’s, and over time, can lead to a host of health issues, including an increased risk of bone fractures and bone-related conditions (like osteoporosis).
Luckily, there are steps you can take (pun intended!) to curb bone loss and keep your bones healthy as you age. According to the National Institutes of Health, weight-bearing exercises, like hiking, can slow bone loss and improve bone health.
And if you want to up the bone-boosting benefits? Supplement your hikes with foods rich in calcium and vitamin D, which help support bone health.
Hiking can aid weight loss
You don’t have to be any specific weight to be your strongest, healthiest self. But if weight loss is a part of your health and fitness journey, hiking can help you get there.
Burning calories is a key element of weight loss—and if you want to burn a significant amount of calories, hiking is a great exercise. According to the Mayo Clinic, a 160-pound person burns 438 calories during an hour of hiking. That’s more calories than jumping on the elliptical (365 calories per hour), going on a leisurely bike ride (292 calories per hour), or taking a brisk walk (314 calories).
And if you want to burn even more calories on the trail? Try adding a 10- to 15-lb weighted pack to your hike. The added weight—and extra effort—will deliver a serious calorie-burning boost.
Hiking lowers stress
Stress can wreak havoc on your health. So, if you want to be a stronger, healthier person, getting your stress in check is a must—and getting outside and going for a hike is a great way to get that stress under control.
A variety of studies have found that spending time in nature (like you do on a hike) reduces stress, both physiological and psychological—and that just 20 minutes spent walking outside in a natural setting (again, like you do on a hike) can lower cortisol levels.
Just keep in mind that, in order to reap the most stress-busting benefits during your hike, you need to be present and engaged. So, while you’ll want to have your phone on you for safety reasons, fight the urge to check your email or social media mid-hike.
Hiking can make you more creative
Clearly, hiking is an exercise that can make you healthier. But hiking doesn’t just benefit your body; it also has major benefits for your brain, including boosting creativity.
Research has found that spending time immersed in nature can improve creative problem-solving skills by up to 50 percent. So, if you’re feeling stuck, uninspired, or unsure, going for a hike can help you think more creatively—and find a creative solution to whatever problem or issue you’re facing.
Get out there and hike yourself to better health
Clearly, hiking is a great way to get yourself in better shape, physically and mentally. So what are you waiting for? Lace up those hiking boots, hit the trail, and get out there and hike yourself to better health!
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.