Written by Jack Boardman
Benefits of Hiking
Hiking is a popular cardiovascular activity that provides muscle strengthening, toning, impact and incline training as well as stress management all while making the most of the great outdoors. If the fresh air and scenery weren’t enough, here are just some of the many benefits to be had from choosing hiking over gym machinery.
Cut the risk of cardiovascular disease. As an excellent cardiovascular exercise, you’ll be contributing towards a healthy heart. Did you know that walking for an hour a day, five days of the week can also cut your risk of having a stroke in half?
Leave your troubles behind
It should never be overlooked how much physical exercise does for your mental wellbeing. Hiking lifts your spirits – it’s a fact. Not only do you have the perks of outdoor scenery to calm your nerves and help you find your centre, you’ll also take in a healthy free dose of vitamin D. These, combined with the endorphins produced by exercise, are all ideal ingredients in managing your stress levels.
Natural incline interval training
Training on a five percent incline – be it a treadmill or outdoors – can burn off almost 100 more calories than training on flat surfaces. This means burning more calories as the greater effort will use up more energy. It also means putting more muscle fibres to work than you would while walking on a flat surface. Trekking through woodland and scaling slopes will see your trail rise and fall, altering the intensity of your hike along the way. There are buttons that program this on a treadmill to see you feel the burn of interval incline training. Hiking outdoors, it’s built in – with fresh air in place of the AC function on your machine.
A good balance of high impact cardio exercise
Hiking draws on varying impact exercises, arguably taking the benefits of each. More calories may be burned and more muscles engaged during higher impact exercises like running, compared to swimming, but if injuries to the shins, hips, knees and ankles are an issue, lower impact training is necessary. Hiking, therefore, strikes a good balance as you can choose your pace and thus the level of direct impact upon your body, but also engage more muscles than you would from a leisurely stroll, all the while burning more calories and strengthening your muscles more than you would be doing yoga.
Agility and strength training
To compare, you’ll gain in a similar way to using a stepper machine in the gym, putting your calf, quad, glutes and hamstring muscles to work. As well as this, your varying terrain will see you twist, turn, shift your weight and balance more than you would on a programmed machine. This will strengthen your core while toning all the above.
Improve your endurance. Because of the extra effort required to hike, due to inclines, impact and the extra muscle fibres you put to work, it is a kind of resistance training. For more advanced hikers, you can increase the effects of this by strapping on a weighted backpack. Then, the next time you’re taking a walk through town on the straighter, flatter streets, it’s going to be that much easier that you’ll last longer.