This is Why Hiking is the Best Exercise

7 min read

Getting Your Best Workout With Hiking

There are many reasons why hiking is the best exercise. Whether you're looking to burn fat, build some muscle, or improve your cardiovascular health, hiking is proven to be hugely beneficial to your overall health.

Hiking involves walking up inclines, down declines, muscle strength, and a lot of breathing.

It's the activity that took my own fitness level from an out-of-shape, depressed, former smoker to someone who regularly partakes in boxing training, weight lifting, and running.

The reason I proclaim hiking as the best exercise is that it doesn't focus only on one aspect of your fitness. Hiking involves tuning up several areas of your physical health and mental health. It's also great for anyone who is looking to improve their quality of life.

Here are some of the reasons why hiking is the best exercise:

Needless to say, hiking is a well-rounded exercise that improves multiple facets of your health.

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Benefits of Hiking

Getting exercise by hiking is a tried & true way to get into shape mentally and physically. There are several known benefits of hiking. It sounds like a daunting task, at first. However, sticking to it will bring results quicker than you’d expect. After all, the best results come from consistency.

Not only is hiking great for your physical health, but it also helps build mental strength and clarity, too. After all, when it’s just you, the outdoors, and your thoughts, it helps you hone-in on the important things. It gives you breathing room and time to think. Perspective.

Hiking Builds Strength & Muscle

Hiking involves incline and decline walking, sometimes very steep. It’s physically demanding to get up hills and get down them safely. The end of a tough hike can leave your legs feeling like soggy noodles — and I’m not talking al dente.

To understand how hiking builds muscle and strength, you should first understand how strength and muscle are built. The short of it is, hiking for long periods or on steep inclines puts stress on your muscles, which leads to tears. Through rest and proper nutrition, muscle tears are repaired.

Hiking is a great exercise if you’re looking to build up strength and muscle endurance in your legs, core, and, yes, even your back. 

Hiking Improves Cardio

Now that we know hiking helps improve strength, what about cardio? Another reason I feel hiking is the best exercise is that it improves cardio endurance.

Many a time I’ve been on trails and felt out of breath before I even began feeling muscle fatigue. It’s a physically demanding activity that requires more oxygen and blood flow.

If you’re just starting hiking with the hopes of building your cardio endurance and stamina, start slow and stay consistent. You’ll start to notice after a few weeks that the hill that once wore you out isn’t so hard anymore. That’s progress!

Mental Clarity & Toughness

Your muscles are filling up with lactic acid. They feel like they're going to burst through your skin.

Out of breath, you pant, hungry for that next gulp of oxygen to extinguish the burning in your lungs.

"That's it," you say. "I'm done!".

There's nothing worse than having that nagging thought of quitting sprout from the seed of doubt in the back of your mind.

Don't give up yet!

A great trick to building mental toughness with hiking is reminding yourself that it’s not about how fast you get it done, but that you just get it done.

It's a little work-around I use to make sure my hikes are completed, regardless of how long or difficult they are.

Sometimes a tiny push is all you need to really improve your toughness.

Being outdoors, surrounded by nature, and away from the noise of our busy lives is a great way to clear your mind and toughen up. I’ve had some of my best ideas and “ah-ha!” moments when hiking. I’ve considered things I wouldn’t have otherwise used a neuron on. It’s how I came up with the idea for Hike Authority!

Just remember: pushing yourself is a great way to build mental toughness, but you do have to know when to stop. If you start to feel light-headed or faint, stop, drink some water, and take a breather. When you’ve collected yourself, carry on.

Puts You In-Tune With Nature

As mentioned above, there are thoughts I otherwise wouldn’t have had if I wasn’t hiking. Just taking in my surroundings and embracing the peacefulness opens my mind to new thoughts and mental growth. 

Hiking is a great exercise if you’re looking for inner-serenity. I remember taking a break from a, particularly intense hike to sit and enjoy the scenery.

During that break, I realized all the rocks, trees, and nearby river beds had been there for hundreds of thousands of years, if not more.

This was a humbling observation and truly helped me put a lot of my personal life from the right perspective.

You see, sometimes it's not about the obvious physical benefits of hiking, but the little-known benefits of hiking, too.

Hiking Opens The Door To Other Workouts

Another reason why hiking is the best exercise is that it's what I consider a "gateway workout".

Simply put, hiking helps you build your confidence with exercise and gives you a desire for more. It's a great way to get your body and mind in the shape needed to pursue other workouts you once considered "hard".

Hiking brings a big sense of accomplishment, especially if you're new.

Nurturing those seeds of accomplishment work wonders when you're looking to increase your fitness goals and personal challenges.

Each completed hike is like a drizzle of water on those seedlings. Building your confidence slowly but surely.

And when those seeds of confidence finally blossom into new levels of self-esteem, your desire for more will flourish.

How To Get The Best Exercise By Hiking

Whether you’re looking to burn fat, improve your cardio, or just have a personal epiphany, I consider hiking the best exercise to start with.

One of the greatest things about it is you will get results regardless of pace. Unlike running, which requires a steady pace for the best benefits, hiking will help build muscle at a slow pace, and build cardio endurance at a fast pace. 

If you're looking to get the best exercise with hiking, here's a quick guide:

  • Wear proper shoes like hiking boots, shoes, or trail runners.
  • Practice good form and hiking posture.
  • Bring enough water for your hike & stay hydrated
  • Don't overdo it! It's okay to push yourself, but be smart about it.
  • Bring healthy snacks for long hikes.
  • If your muscles get tired, push through it but rest when needed.
  • Take small breaks when you're getting burned out.

Why You Should Use Hiking For Exercise

Hiking is a great and proven way to build muscle, improve cardio health, and improve mental health. It also helps you connect with yourself when you're disconnected from the noise of everyday life. So put your best shoes on, hit the trails, and clear your head.

Because of the various physical and mental demands of hiking, it's perfect for shaping you up and opening the doors to new fitness possibilities.

If you've considered hiking as a way to get in shape—go for it. You won't be disappointed.