Hiking is an aerobic exercise the gets the muscles moving, heart pumping, and helps burn off fat and calories.

Plus, it is a scenic and social activity that lets you explore picturesque trails, target and strengthens muscles (especially in the lower body) and stimulates the positive feeling hormones like endorphins and adrenaline which boost your energy and mood levels.

Health benefits of hiking include:

  • Boost the mental well-being
  • Helps to control weight (on average, 225-250 calories are burned an hour)
  • Lower risk of stroke and heart disease
  • Improves muscle strength
  • Slows the loss of bone density (hiking is a weight-bearing activity)
  • Better sleep quality and reduced depression
  • Less risk of triglycerides and high cholesterol
  • Strengthens the core, quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings
  • Better blood sugar levels and blood pressure
  • Lower risk of lung, endometrial, breast, and colon cancer
  • Relieve anxiety and tension
  • Better cardio-respiratory fitness (blood vessels, lungs, and heart)
  • Lower risk of type 2 diabetes

Fitness-boosting benefits, tips and strategies

1 – Bone density

Hiking is a weight-bearing activity that helps to fight off the onset of arthritis and osteoporosis. Plus, this type of exercise can have a positive impact on bone density. Regular hiking of up to 150 minutes per week has the ability to improve muscle strength and prevent joint stiffness which can lead to lose of bone density and osteoarthritis.

2 – Calories

A regular hiking adventure is certain to help burn calories and keep the weight under control. On average, the calorie burn for hiking is 225-250 per hour for a 150-lb person (although several factors can influence this, such as the weight of the pack and level of incline). Gradually increase the pace and difficultly of terrain and aim to hike up to 60 minutes daily.

3 – Cancer

Regular physical activity has the potential to lower the risk of certain cancers. Aerobic exercise like hiking can decrease the chance of developing cancers such as colon, breast, endometrial, and lung cancer.

4 – Cardiovascular system

Similar to other regular exercises, the health benefits of hiking include the ability to maintain the cardio health at full strength. Hiking is an adventurous and engaging activity which will help to lower the triglyceride levels and elevate the high-density lipoprotein levels. A consequence of this is the ability to lower the risk of stroke, high-blood pressure, and heart disease.

5 – Creativity

On average, creative problem-solving skills and attention span is increased by nearly 50% for those that spend a lot of time outside.

6 – Diabetes

Regular physical activity has the ability to prevent or control diabetes by lowering the blood sugar level. The extra stress on the muscles helps to promote the movement of glucose from the bloodstream to produce energy.

7 – Energy

Hiking (or similar aerobic exercise) can leave you feeling energized while also helping to move extra fuel and oxygen to the organs, muscles, tissues, etc. This increase in fuel and oxygen gives a boost to the energy level, alertness, and endurance, while also strengthening the lungs and muscles. Plus, the people that spend a lot of time outside are considerably more energetic.

8 – Group exercise

Hiking can be a social activity which makes it possible to plan long-distance treks and interact with other like-minded people. Plus, hiking health benefits in a group environment are long-term and increase the likelihood of committing to this cardiovascular activity and reveling in the group dynamics. Also, by getting involved with the larger hiking community you will be kept accountable for your fitness.

9 – Heart and Lungs

Any health-oriented organization will advise that a challenging cardiovascular workout, such as hiking, can increase the fitness level and promote a stronger heart and lungs. Plus, with hiking it is easy to adapt the intensity of the challenge, from flat, forested strolls to steep mountain climbing.

10 – High blood pressure

Health benefits of hiking (or similar physical activity) includes the ability to produce a 4 to 10-point drop in blood pressure and arriving at the point of having a healthy body weight, a 5 to 20-point drop is possible. High blood pressure can lead to a variety of serious health complaints such as blood clots, stroke, and heart attack.

11 – Insomnia

An invigorating hike makes it easier to get a peaceful night’s sleep at the end of the day. Hiking is a relaxing and refreshing activity which makes it possible to get to sleep faster and alleviate the symptoms of insomnia.

12 – Mental well-being

Why hiking is good for the soul: Hiking the picturesque mountain trails can help to lift the spirits, increase energy, decease anger (as well as depression, confusion, and tension), gives a greater feeling of revitalization and calms the nerves. Mental health benefits of hiking leave you feeling less depressed and better able to relax. Getting more active is also able to help fight the symptoms of anxiety and stress. By the time you get back to the office, or home, you will definitely notice an improvement on your mental well-being.

13 – Pace

Whether it is a steep incline up a mountainside or slow scenic trail, a personalized hiking chart makes it easier to set the preferred distance and pace to match the experience and age of hikers.

Benefits of hiking once a week gives a pleasant break from the high-intensity workouts that consist of a fast and energetic approach that isn’t practical for everyone. A more leisure pace which includes trekking the scenic trails for an afternoon or a weekend in the wilderness, is still great for the mood and cardiovascular system.

14 – Tones

Hiking up sharp inclines, clambering over rocks, or using hiking poles is certain to give every area of the body a workout. Physiologically, you are not only able to work multiple muscle groups (calves, glutes, hamstrings, and quads), but also help the upper body and engages the core. Benefits of hiking or trekking up hills help to increase the aerobic threshold and burn a good number of calories, especially if climbing over rocks.

What muscles does hiking work:

  • Abdominals
  • Ankle and Knee Complex
  • Calves
  • Gluts
  • Hamstrings
  • Lower Back
  • Oblique
  • Quadriceps
  • Thigh (inside and out)

Use the trekking poles to give extra support, stability, and propulsion and engage the upper body more efficiently in an allover workout and burn more calories. Hiking with a heavy pack will further challenge the endurance level and strength to help tone the upper body.

Many of the hiking trails are softer so more joint-friendly compared to concrete or asphalt, so less stress is caused to knees and ankles compared to a runner.

15 – Vitamin D

Vitamin D can play several important roles and is a critical nutrient to help maintain strong bones and muscles. The sun provides a reliable daily dose of vitamin D (a mere 15-20 minutes is enough time outside), while there are also many fortified foods, including:

  • Cereals
  • Dairy products
  • Orange juice
  • Soy milk

16 – Weight loss

Is hiking good exercise for weight loss? Simply put hiking can help to achieve a healthy weight and waistline with the ability to lose 225-250 calories per hour (for hikers weighing in the region of 150-lbs) – although to appreciate the full benefits of hiking weight loss it is vital to combine this cardiovascular activity with a well-balanced and healthy diet to maintain the results for the long-term.

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Darren Lintern is an outdoorsy sports enthusiast and a health nut who aims to help others reach their goal of reconnecting with their body to enjoy a fit and healthy lifestyle. I have gained invaluable knowledge on nutrition, natural medicine, diet and fitness, and intend to make Kerrash.com a trusted source for a variety of health and well-being information.