hiking boots walking through fall leaves

Hiking for Fitness: 5 Reasons Why Hiking is the Perfect Exercise

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I don’t know about you, but I strongly dislike the concept of working out at a gym. And the thought of doing cardio, no thanks.

Even at-home workouts are difficult for me to get through.

As a nurse, I know it’s important to stay in shape, but working out at home or at the gym are just boring to me and I have zero motivation to do either.

Hiking on the other hand… I don’t mind doing that at all!

No, you won’t build large biceps by hiking, but hiking can be a great overall workout.

Listed below are the 5 reasons why I believe hiking for fitness is one of the best exercises out there!

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5 Reasons Why Hiking for Fitness is the Perfect Exercise

walking on trail

It’s the Perfect Low-Impact Exercise

Hiking the perfect low-impact way to exercise. It’s easy to do, you don’t need any special equipment and you can start at the fitness level you’re at. 

So find a pair of comfortable tennis shoes or hiking boots and go for a stroll!

There are hikes of all types of intensity! This is one of my favorite things about visiting National Parks. There are typically hikes for all skill levels. Some are flat and paved while others are rocky with intense elevation gain.

If you’re not in the best of shape, start by going for a 10 or 15-minute stroll around the neighborhood or your local park. You can work your way up to a short day hike in no time.

No matter your fitness level, hiking can prove to be an effective workout. Look for hikes with elevation gain or switchbacks to get higher intensity exercise.

There is even such a thing as urban hiking. I got my first experience with urban hiking while visiting my friend in San Francisco. Do a quick Google search of urban hikes in your area and check some out. Mix up your route and visit different parks to keep it interesting!

The main thing is that you get out there and move around. Try using a fitness tracker to track your steps! I used to use my Fitbit all the time until it ended up in the washing machine. Now I use my Apple Watch to track my steps.

hiking with trekking poles

Hiking Improves Balance And Coordination

As you hike, particularly when hiking on rougher terrain, you are working on balance and coordination! I cannot tell you how many times I’ve almost lost my balance on a hike (or just walking in general). Each time you take a bit step up on a rock you’re working those stabilizing muscles!

Speaking of balance, make sure you know your limits, especially going down mountains. Hiking downhill can be hard on your knees. And while it’s important to work your stabilizing muscles, you don’t need to hurt your knees in the process.

If you have bad knees or will be hiking downhill, try out a pair of trekking poles and see if they help! I wrote a whole post about beginner budget trekking poles you can check out.

woman arms open in sunshine

Hiking Gets You Outside in the Fresh Air and Sunshine

No matter how fast or slow you walk, hiking gets you outside and in the fresh air. This alone will make you feel better as your body absorbs oxygen and some sunshine. Both of which are important for your health and wellbeing.

The air quality outside will typically be much better than the air inside your home or gym. Which is very important during our current pandemic! There is a reason the experts are recommending outdoor activities. When inside, the same air just gets re-circulated over and over. Would you rather share air with 50 people in the gym or 50 people outside on a trail? Exactly.

Being outside in the sunshine also will help your body produce Vitamin D, which is essential for calcium absorption. Vitamin D and calcium are what keep your bones healthy and strong!

stress free zone stop sign outside

It Can Boost Your Mood, Fight Depression & Reduce Stress

Did you know that exercise is one of the best ways to beat stress? Hiking releases endorphins that will help lift your mood and can even reduce depression. Give it a try. The next time you’re feeling tired or are in a bad mood, lace up your hiking boots and go for a quick hike. 

Stop trying to do all the things all the time and be all things to all people. Make sure you take time to focus on reducing stress in your life. Hiking is a great way to do that. When hiking, I am rarely thinking about all the things that I need to get done. I’m too busy enjoying the beautiful scenery and simply being outdoors in the fresh air.

The more you make time to get outside and hike, the more you will notice it’s benefits. It doesn’t take a lot to start seeing the results. Even something as simple as a short “hike” around your neighborhood will help, and the benefits stack up quickly when you make it a habit. You may not be able to hike everyday, but trying to get out there a few times a month will certainly benefit your wellbeing.

person hiking with child

Hiking for Fitness is a Great Family-Friendly Activity

This is where I feel hiking really stands out from regular, “traditional” exercising. You can bring your family and kids along.

Most kids love being outdoors. They would probably hate it if you drug them to the gym with you for your workout, but you can entertain them AND get some exercise if you make hiking a family activity. Plus the kids should sleep better that night (#winning). Not to mention it will help them begin living a healthy lifestyle.

I personally love seeing a family out on the trail together. It reminds of when I was younger and my dad would take me to various National Parks out west. I thought it was so cool that the Morning Glory Pool in Yellowstone had all my favorite colors in it and loved playing in snow-drifts in Wyoming that were as tall as I was.

Now that I think about it, pretty much all of my favorites memories have involved being outside. It may seem like a chore to pack the kids up and get them out there on the trail. But you never know how much it can positively impact them down the road. And to me, that makes it worth it!

Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the moments!

Now that you’ve read how hiking can positively impact your life & is the perfect exercise, make plans to get out there and hit the trail!

Looking for hiking guides? Check out these posts below:

Hiking the Trail to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park

Hiking the Narrows in Zion National Park

Hiking to Laurel Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains

Hiking the Trail to Sky Pond in the Rocky Mountains

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Why Hiking is the Perfect Fitness Exercise!

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