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Benefits of Hiking – Physical, Mental, Social, Spiritual and More!

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There are many benefits of hiking.

Hiking enables you to build strength and fitness, connect with nature, get fresh air, and free your mind. Hiking has many positive benefits for your physical and mental well-being.

For me, hiking saved my life. I was going through a challenging and dark time right before I found hiking. Because of hiking, I’ve completely changed my lifestyle.

I met the love of my life because of it. I treat the earth better because of hiking.

I’ve taken advantage of the benefits of hiking, and in this guide, I’m going to show you how you can do it, too!

What are the Benefits of Hiking?

There are many benefits of hiking. Some benefits apply differently to different people based on what they desire the outcome of their hiking to be.

You might find multiple benefits while hiking.

You might even find some in the article that you didn’t know existed. It’s not just a walk in the woods regarding hiking; it’s way more than that.

What are the Health Benefits of Hiking?

Hiking has many health benefits. Some hikers aren’t even aware of all the health benefits hiking offers.

  • Hiking is good for your heart
  • Hiking makes massive improvements to your balance
  • Hiking is a great way to develop muscle
  • Hiking is a form of fitness that is weight-bearing
  • Hiking helps with weight loss
  • Hiking can aid in specific respiratory strengths and prevent future problems
  • Hiking improves your lower body strength

Hiking is good for your heart

It raises your heart rate, which helps to maintain a healthy and fit heart.

It also prevents heart disease, a leading cause of premature death in the United States and other parts of the world.

It is essential to give your heart a workout to remain healthy. Hiking allows you to do that with little effort.

Hiking makes massive improvements to your balance

Massive Improvements To Your Balance.
Maintaining my balance at Illinois Caverns which is full of rock formations and cave formations (Photo Credit: Shawn Gossman)

Most people lose their balance because they maintain walking on the easiest terrains or they rarely walk at all.

You’ve heard the saying, “use it or lose it,” right? That can easily apply to your balance on uneven terrain.

You’re training your balance to walk on rough terrain and conditions by hiking. The more you do, the better you’ll be at it.

But don’t be afraid to use trekking poles to help you maintain your balance when needed.

Hiking is a great way to develop muscle.

Hiking is just like any other kind of cardio fitness. It has many benefits shared with running, biking, and even CrossFit.

The difference in terrain, elevation, and conditions along the hiking trail help to provide a more profound fitness for those enduring it.

Here is an image of all of the muscles in your feet that you’ll be exercising each time you go for a hike.

My leg muscles are the best they’ve ever been, and I owe most of that to hiking.

Hiking is a form of fitness that is weight-bearing

Tinker Cliffs, Virginia Triple Crown Appalachian Trail section hike (Photo Credits: James Willamor)

This means you are walking with things weighing you down.

This is especially true if you carry hiking gear. Because of that weight, your bone density increases, making your bones stronger.

You should ensure you don’t hike with too much weight, but some weight is better than no weight when it comes to increasing bone density.

Hiking helps with weight loss.

Before I started hiking, I weighed about 350 pounds.

I started riding a bike which helped, but your body gets used to just doing one kind of exercise, and it’s harder to lose weight when that happens.

Enjoyed a gravel bike ride in the east side of the Shawnee National Forest!

I started hiking to balance it all out, which really helped me lose the weight I needed.

When it’s winter, I don’t like cycling because I get cold quickly on the bike.

I increase my hiking which helps me maintain core exercise and keep the winter weight off.

Hiking can aid in specific respiratory strengths and prevent future problems.

Combining breathing exercises, physical strengthening, and stretching with your hiking routine can increase your lung capacity and help you hike longer and steeper distances.

The more you hike, the more you exercise your lungs; this will only benefit you and your respiratory system at the end of the day.

Hiking improves your lower body strength

I enjoyed 42 mile Indian Peaks weekend backpacking trip (Photo Credit: Justin Hikes)

The weight of your gear helps you maintain healthy bones and keeps you fit.

You typically use your legs and feet more than anything else when hiking.

While doing that, you are exercising them and building strength.

Since hiking, I’ve noticed a significant increase in the mileage I can walk and hike at any given time.

I also heal quickly from long hikes on the previous day.

To further evaluate what hiking does for your legs, consider these points.

You don’t have to buy an expensive stair climbing machine if you have a hiking trail with a rocky elevation.

You don’t have to use a treadmill if you have hiking trails. All of those exercise machines will help strengthen your legs.

Hiking will do the same but at a much lower cost. Hiking strengthens your calves, glutes, quads, and hamstrings.

What are the Mental Benefits of Hiking?

There are just as many mental benefits of hiking as there are physical.

Like I said before, I was in a very dark place before I hiked. I was depressed. I was lonely.

I was in the worst mental shape because I felt useless. The after I got addicted to hiking, all of that went away.

Hiking saved my mental well-being and my life.

  • Hiking has been known to increase memory performance and decrease memory loss
  • Hiking will lower your risk of getting depression
  • Hiking will significantly reduce stress
  • Hiking improves your sense of your surroundings
  • Hiking is a great way to improve your self-esteem

Hiking has been known to increase memory performance and decrease memory loss.

It makes sense while you hike because you’re constantly looking around to see new sights and remember specific landmarks for the hike back.

You’ll use your brain as a hiker, and that will improve your memory and brain functions.

Hiking will lower your risk of getting depression

(Photo Credit: Justin Hikes)

When I’m feeling sad, angry, or in a bad mood, I’ll go for a hike. My mood improves when I’m done hiking, and I leave with a smile.

Hiking lets you get away from the things that negatively affect your mood. Nature can take away the non-natural things that make you upset.

You’ll focus your mind on natural wonders. This will mainly be beneficial if you choose trails with a lot to see.

Nature is a wonder anti-depressant. Being out in nature allows you to escape the everyday grind that has dissolved your positive emotions.

Monotony is a factor in bad mental health. Escaping the modernized world and getting into nature allows you to clear your mind.

It will make you happier and improve your mood. Hiking has been the main thing that has improved my mental health over the years.

hiking will significantly reduce stress

Along with improving your mental health, hiking will significantly reduce stress.

Being out in nature, getting fresh air, and not dealing with everyday problems allows you to destress for a while.

Stress is a killer. That’s a proven fact. Stress is mental fatigue that can impact your physical health.

Finding ways to reduce your stress will significantly improve your health and mental well-being. Hiking is an excellent start for that.

Hiking improves your sense of your surroundings

Heron Pond Nature Preserve is always worth visiting when in Shawnee National Forest (Photo Credit: Shawn Gossman)

Hiking requires that you look around. You have to look everywhere. You look up, down, side to side, left and right – everywhere.

You’re looking to see new things, and ensure you watch your step and practice safe hiking techniques.

Nature can be hazardous if you don’t watch your step. So, because you’re looking around so much, you’re improving your sense of your surroundings.

This can help you in life. You can apply these improvements outside of hiking, such as in school, at work, and with your family.

Many people suffer from sensory perception disorders. This is a large and growing concern for children and younger people.

Hiking has been said to improve sensory perception.

That would make sense because it will open your senses to different sights, smells, sounds, feelings, and emotions.

Nature allows us to escape the monotonous world that we live in and see something different, something natural.

Hiking is a great way to improve your self-esteem

It helped with mine in many different ways. I created a whole local brand about my area’s hiking trails.

Because of that, I’ve met other people who consider themselves fans of my work. I met the love of my life through hiking.

I helped clean up trash at Garden of the Gods in the Shawnee National Forest. (Photo Credit: Shawn Gossman)

We live together now and have hiked together every weekend for four years. I used to be anti-social and a loner before I started hiking.

Now I have confidence in myself, I know I make people happy, I’m happily surrounded by others, and I love meeting new people, especially out on the trail.

Sometimes the best way to cure a sleep problem is to walk it off. In this case, you’d hike it off.

Hiking is a great way to improve your sleep problems. Insomnia is a sleeping disorder most often caused by depression.

As previously mentioned, hiking will decrease depression and help you overcome insomnia.

Hiking is a physical activity that will help wear the body down enough to want to sleep. I sleep my best after a long day of hiking.

What are the Social Benefits of Hiking?

Hiking is a great family activity
Hiking is a great family activity

There are many social benefits of hiking, too. Like I said before, I was very anti-social before I started hiking.

I would get nervous around strangers and could hardly talk to anyone new. It’s like I would be choked up.

I didn’t like being around other people. That was a lonely and depressing life.

Most people who are anti-social have bad spouts of depression. That’s because we’re a social species.

  • Hiking is a beautiful community development process.
  • Hiking allows you to open your life to new experiences

Sometimes the problem with socializing with others is that we don’t often find people we relate with.

If others are not into what you’re into, it is harder to associate with them. There are no common grounds.

There are no interests to relate to. But with hiking, there is a common interest that you can relate to.

We all love the nature aspect. We all love to see what natural formations can give us.

We love the wildlife, the plants, and the flora. We love talking about hiking and nature with one another.

It is the perfect setting to start a healthy social life.

Social media and the internet have done much damage to our social lives.

It enables us to be social without physical interaction, which only drives us further away from each other.

Social media and the internet can do a lot of good, but they can do just as bad.

Hiking allows us to disconnect from technology and experience a time when nature was all we had and the social occasion was starting.

Reconnect with people in nature by disconnecting with technology that removes physical and social well-being.

Hiking is a beautiful community development process.

Before I was a hiker, my community was alcoholics and lonely bar hoppers. Depressing huh? It was.

Now my community is other hikers, campers, thru-hikers, and nature enthusiasts.

I’ve made some of my best friends because of hiking. I met the love of my life because of hiking.

I now support critical environmental causes because of hiking. It is the best community I’ve ever met and become a part of.

Hiking allows you to open your life to new experiences.

When I first started hiking, I would only explore easy and short state park trails.

Then I started checking out longer trails off the beaten path. Now, I am a full-blown adventurer.

I bushwhack. I go on the most challenging hikes looking for the most exciting things.

I’ve almost hiked every inch of the Shawnee National Forest. Hiking also led me to overnight backpacking, thru-hiking, and bushcraft.

All of these activities have been a real treat; if I had never hiked, I would have never got to experience them.

Are there any Spiritual Benefits to Hiking?

I think there are. I’ve been able to connect to nature in such a way that I relate it to how Native Americans interpreted nature.

I feel connected with the trees, the wind, the wildlife, and even the bluffs which are the most ancient things in nature.

Selfies with greenery are my favorite kind of selfies! And the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois gives us plenty of opportunities for them! (Photo Credit: Shawn Gossman)

The bluffs were around long before people existed. There is a connection there to think about.

If you want to get closer to what you believe in spiritually, nature is the best way to do it because it wasn’t my people.

It’s all-natural. If that isn’t spiritual, I don’t know what it is.

FAQs

Let’s look at some of the most commonly asked questions about the benefits of hiking.

Why is hiking the best exercise?

For me, hiking is the best exercise because it’s exercising without realizing you’re exercising.

If I’m at a gym on a treadmill, I know I’m exercising, and it becomes harder to do it.

But when hiking, I pay attention to all my senses, the trail conditions, and my love for nature.

Are there any disadvantages to hiking?

There may be disadvantages for certain people. Hiking isn’t for everyone.

Some people don’t like bugs or are afraid of wildlife.

I always recommend overcoming those issues because you’ll miss so much when you don’t hike.

But if you can’t hike, why not try something else outdoorsy such as cycling or running?

What happens to your body when you start hiking?

Many things start to happen. You build stamina and strength to push your efforts even more.

You increase your lung capacity and prevent heart problems by exercising your cardiovascular system.

You build muscle in your lower body and strengthen your legs.

To sum this all up, you’re setting yourself up to live a longer and healthier life by hiking.

Is hiking better than running?

This is a tricky question to answer. Some runners get a different feeling from running than what they get from hiking.

Hiking is a moderate activity, while running is a high-intensity exercise.

Higher-intensity exercises can often do more short-term or long-term damage to the body.

You have a better chance of getting hurt as a runner versus a hiker.

Is it reasonable to go hiking every day?

If you were to hiker shorter and easier trails every day, there would likely be beneficial outcomes.

Hiking is walking on more uneven terrain. However, moderate to strenuous hiking every single day could wear you down.

Even thru-hikers on extensive trails like the AT and ADT will take rest days for the body to heal up a little bit.

It is good to take a break now and then, even if the rest day pertains to a more leisurely walk down a flat hiking trail.

Can you get in shape by hiking?

You sure can! I’m a big cyclist. I road and mountain bike all spring, summer, and fall.

When winter rolls around, it gets colder, and I don’t like to ride in the cold.

I instead increased my hiking activities and focused on hillier conditions.

I maintain my weight and fitness conditioning every winter by hiking more while I am not biking.

Hiking also gives me a perfect balance between cycling.

In the past, when I just biked, I would find myself getting burnt out and going back to my old unhealthy ways.

What kind of exercise is hiking?

Hiking is lower-body cardiovascular exercise.

But while it mainly tones your body out and helps you maintain a healthy weight, it also has many muscle-building properties.

Wearing a heavier pack can strengthen your bones and leg muscles.

Hiking uneven terrain will help you stretch your body out, which aids in fitness healing and improvement.

It is important to stretch. Hiking might be one of the best cardio workout routines you’ll get because you don’t realize you’re exercising.

Summing it up

As you have learned, there are many benefits of hiking.

Hiking not only benefits your physical health, but it also improves your mind, body, and soul.

Hiking is medicine for your mental well-being. Hiking improves your social life.

Hiking is overall one of the best things for you. Find the time to start hiking, reconnect with nature, and live a better life because of it.

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