Benefits of Hiking

Rock climbers, campers, fishers, mountain bikers, and hikers—we all have friends who fit the token “outdoorsy type.” The ones who seem to spend more time in the sun than at work (jealous). And it’s a safe bet they’re some of the happiest people you know. This is no coincidence—exploring the great outdoors is awesome for mental and physical health.

Luckily, you don’t have to have a fly-fishing rod, carbon fibre bike, or decked-out camp set to enjoy a piece of the peace nature provides. All it takes is a sturdy set of boots and a willingness to go outside for a hike.

Here are 10 scientifically sound benefits of hiking, plus a few tips for your own outdoor adventures.

10 Awesome Benefits of Hiking

1. It Brings You Closer to Nature

Humans are right at home in the outdoors. Spending 15 minutes in the wild—or your backyard—is shown to reduce stress levels. And one reason is purely auditory. The sounds of the natural world—the babble of trickling water, the crunch of crispy leaves, the wind breezing lazily by—are all forms of pink noise, which has been found to relax the mind and lower blood pressure.

2. It Delivers That Sweet, Sweet, Sunshine

Time outside gives you an energetic dose of sunlight, which signals to your body to produce vitamin D that can help boost your mood. Wear an appropriately rated SPF sunscreen and reapply often—especially when sweating or swimming. (Or, like me, profusely perspiring while dog-paddling). Low levels of UVR exposure are just as bad as too much sun, leading to vitamin D deficiency. Reach for a vitamin D supplement when your time in the light is lacking.*

3. It’s Great for Your Mind

Huffing it up the hillside combines exercise, the outdoors, companionship, and screen-free time—they work wonders for your mental well-being. Navigating a mountain trail and experiencing other natural features also puts life’s problems into perspective. Worries come and go, but you can always turn an appreciative eye toward nature’s beauty, which in turn aids your gratitude.

4. It Keeps a Healthy Lifestyle on Track

Walking at an incline engages your whole body, keeping your heart pumping and lungs channelling oxygen to every hard-working organ. Healthier eating habits are also one of the natural benefits of hiking—you can’t sneak in an unhealthy treat when you’re 2,000 vertical feet above your fridge. Pack wholesome, low-glycemic foods for energy instead.

Hiking 101 : Bring your own granola bars πŸ˜‚πŸŒ²πŸŒ³πŸŒΏ #Christinessnaps #hiking #nature #LetsFaceIt #Manifestation

♬ original sound - Christine

5. It Builds Relationships

There’s no better way to hike than with a plus-one (or two, or three). Family, friends, and even your furry buddies will enjoy the benefits of hiking and your companionship. In an age where it’s all too easy to keep in touch exclusively through the internet, hiking with dogs, family, or friends, and sharing real-life experiences makes a world of difference.

6. It Keeps Your Heart Happy

Escaping to the great outdoors, engaging in moderate exercise, socializing, and de-stressing are all benefits of hiking, and they also contribute to a healthy cardiovascular system. Your heart loves being active, and hiking pushes your body just the right amount to keep the blood pumping.

7. It Improves Bone Density

Studies show weight-resistance training—working against gravity—is the best kind of exercise for strengthening bones. Your legs are constantly elevating your body through the uphill portions of your hike, a natural bodyweight leg workout. And the impact coming downhill engages multiple muscle groups for a softer landing. Just make sure to take it easy on those knees.

Enjoy the journey πŸ” #switzerland #mountains #swissalps #travel #switzerlandnature #explore #gelmerfunicular #gelmerbahn #hiking #tiltoktravel

♬ Can We Kiss Forever? - Kina

8. It Increases Flexibility + Coordination

While hiking, your body constantly readjusts to varying elevations and hazards along the path. This engages your entire body, and especially your core, lower back, and legs. It’s a lot like yoga or stretching, for people who don’t like yoga or stretching.

9. It Lowers Body Fat

Hiking burns an average of 440 calories per hour. And the benefits of hiking and regular exercise only look better long-term—your overall metabolic rate increases in correlation with more muscle mass and a healthier heart, even at rest. And, again, you can pack healthy snacks so the temptation to indulge isn’t even an option. (This works best for me—I have zero self-control in the kitchen).

10. It Pulls You Out of Your Comfort Zone

One of the benefits of hiking is exploring all-new areas and meeting people out on the trail. Even outdoor extroverts will find challenges delving into the unknown—to say nothing of the often-indoors introverts.

(Like me.)

Make the Most of the Benefits of Hiking

Before you venture out, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
  • Pack plenty of water, food, sunscreen, and bug spray. Your body will thank you.
  • Wear the right shoes and socks. Nothing is worse than realizing your feet are goosed halfway up the mountain.
  • Get the facts on local fauna. Did you know there are five subspecies of poison ivy?
  • Carry a satellite phone, or tell someone where you’re going. Some who wander are, in fact, lost.
Hike with friends. Beyond camaraderie, there’s safety in numbers.

Happy hiking!
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.