photo by Holly Mandarich

Everyone agrees that staying active is a vital part of staying healthy. How you stay active is a matter of personal taste and motivation. A lot of folks prescribe walking as their preferred form of activity. They count their steps each day in the hopes of hitting that recommended 10,000 steps goal. It stands to reason that if you like walking, you’re enjoy hiking. The major difference between the two activities is the destination. A good walk can mean just going through your neighborhood. Hiking often requires driving to a designated trail.

The effort you put into hiking can provide some great health dividends. Here are five to consider:

Hiking Improves Overall Fitness

When you hike, you are activating your cardiovascular system and making it stronger. That can result in lower blood pressure and reduced risk of heart disease. That is always a positive. You are also activity several muscle groups like your quadriceps, hamstrings and hip muscles. Hike also improves your core strength and because it is a form of weight-bearing exercise, your bone density is elevated, too.

Hiking Helps You Shed Pounds

According to calorie number crunchers, hiking can burn upwards of 550 calories per hour. If you can commit to a three-hour hike, then that could mean burning off 1,200 calories. That is half of what is recommended that the average adult consumes on a daily basis. This puts hiking in a terrific aerobic category. Combine that with smart diet choices and you can see a lot of pounds shed quickly.

Hiking Clears the Mind

While your body is getting all the benefits from hiking, your mind is getting a boost, too. When hiking, you are taking yourself off the grid. Right out of the gate, you are creating an environment free from distractions. That provides you with two options: Focus on a situation or problem that you want to sort through or don’t think about anything and just take in nature. Either way, you will often find yourself with a lot more creative “juice.”

Hiking Makes You Happier

Hiking is an outdoor activity. As such, you’ll be taking in the fresh air and a dose of Vitamin D from the sun. Both of those can help with your overall mental health. Being around nature is equal parts humbling and exhilarating. When you come down from that hiking trail, you will feel a major sense of accomplishment. All of this will induce feelings of happiness. Could you experience some soreness? Sure, but you’ll do it with a smile!

Hiking Can Make You More Social

You can hike alone or with a friend. In fact, you can hike with a bunch of friends. This is a wonderful exercise to share both as a regular routine and on vacation. Along the hiking trail, you might also run into some other like-minded folks who are all enjoying the same experience. You can engage with these folks and make new friends. As for the friends you bring along, those hikes are a great time to talk and catch up. Ideally, you should have a list of folks who you can call and ask, “Do you want to go for a hike?”