Hiking offers people and pets of all ages and abilities both physical and mental benefits. The ease of access and ability to scale difficulty and intensity all while exploring wild and wonderful outdoor locations makes hiking one of the best low-impact exercises. From backcountry wilderness, to the well-manicured convenience of handicap-accessible parks, natural outdoor resources offer great low-cost, safe and family friendly recreation for anyone, anywhere in the world.
Is Hiking Considered Exercise?
Hiking is a wonderful form of physical exercise effective for all ages and body types. Hiking can improve your mood, increase your strength, build stamina, reduce stress, or offer an opportunity to get away with friends. Your heart is an important muscle, cardiovascular fitness strengthens your heart, improves blood circulation, and enhances your overall cardiovascular health. As you workout routinely, your body adapts to more efficiently utilize oxygen. We are extremely adaptable creatures, and your physical strength and endurance is no exception.
When you hike, you walk uphill and navigate uneven terrain, all while carrying a backpack, which helps build lower body and core muscular strength and endurance. This adaptive aspect is rooted in our instinctual preparation for survival. While we’re not preparing to wrestle saber-tooth tigers, a stronger body, stable joints and proprioceptive awareness allows you to interact with your physical world (including keeping up with your kids) easier and with less risk for injury.
When you hike, your body experiences impact as your feet hit the ground, creating a small amount of stress on your bones. This type of stress is safe and beneficial for maintaining bone density. Regular exposure to safe types of impact can lead to stronger and healthier bones. When you walk on uneven surfaces, your joints adapt to different angles and positions improving flexibility and range of motion. If you want more intensity or are restricted to more of an urban environment, consider wearing a weighted vest or adding intervals of jogging or running.
How Does Hiking Make Me Stronger Mentally?
While the outdoor experiences of any one person is always unique, hiking offers a number of universal benefits for emotional well-being. Being exposed to fresh air, sunshine and natural scenery provides an opportunity to disconnect from everyday stressors and engage in a calming activity. Any type of physical exertion, including hiking, releases endorphins, known as “feel-good” hormones. These endorphins elevate your mood, can reduce anxiety and depression, and promote a sense of happiness and overall well-being.
The rhythmic nature of walking, stepping away from the busy hum-drum of daily life, and focusing on the present moment during a hike can promote mindfulness and even alleviate anxiety. Hiking encourages you to pay attention to your surroundings, and the sights, sounds, and smells of nature can provide an opportunity for peaceful self-reflection and introspection. Add in exposure to sunlight, a natural source of Vitamin D, which plays a crucial role in mental health and the “runners high” endorphin rush that some experience, and you can see how hiking positively impacts our physical health, mind and mood.
Hiking challenges you physically and mentally. Overcoming obstacles, reaching a summit, or completing a difficult trail can provide you with a sense of achievement, boost your self-confidence, and enhance self-efficacy. Hiking can be enjoyed alone in solitude, or be a social activity. Joining a hiking group or adventuring with friends and family can build connections and community and strengthen relationships.
Join our highly experienced, well-trained and passionate outdoor guides for your next adventure. We cover all the logistics, to ensure you have a safe and satisfying experience. Give us a call or contact us to learn more about our custom outdoor programs.