This probably won’t come as much of a surprise, but hiking just once a week can have numerous health benefits!
It’s truly one of the best exercises you can do so you would be foolish to not try and implement it into your weekly routine at least one day a week. Studies have found a vast array of benefits for people that spend consistent time with good ole mother nature.
My hope in writing this article is that you will have a greater desire to get out there and begin hiking on a consistent basis.
I’m not talking about just the usual once a year trip to a nearby National Park.
7 Best Benefits of Hiking Regularly (at least once a week)
When you get out there and start hiking each week you will start to see positive changes to your overall mood and stress levels.
Not to mention your long term health will be greatly enhanced.
Below, we discuss the 7 best benefits of hiking once a week starting with perhaps the most important one!
1) Hiking Lowers Your Risk of Heart Disease and Diabetes
Do you know someone in your family who has diabetes? If your family is anything like mine, you might have a few different people that struggle with these limiting diseases.
This benefit alone gives me the desire to get out there and get moving.
Being active in any capacity helps lower your risk for heart disease and diabetes. In fact, research has shown that there were 58% fewer cases of diabetes for groups that showed increased aerobic exercise.
So you’re telling me I can cut my risk of diabetes in half just by doing some aerobic exercise? Sign me up!
Personally, I don’t find much excitement in running the treadmill, so why not do an aerobic activity that you do like doing.
For me that is hiking. It is one of the best aerobic exercises you can do, so we would be silly not to implement it into our weeks plans.
2) Hiking Improves Your Blood Pressure and Blood Sugar Levels
I have quite the sweet tooth. I love to eat cookies and cakes. If you are anything like me, I am sure you do too. If you aren’t, congratulations!
Studies have shown that 61% of the food we buy is highly processed foods! Ouch! I think it is time to start eating some normal everyday whole foods (not the grocery store).
Ok, now let me hit you with some encouraging facts.
Regular physical activity like hiking or walking lowers your blood pressure by 4 to 9 millimeters of mercury.
This increase in insulin sensitivity means you are better able to regulate the sugar in your bloodstream in a natural way.
It also helps your muscles use blood sugar for energy and muscle contraction. This keeps your blood sugar levels from getting too high or too low.
That’s what I like to hear!
3) Hiking Builds Strength in Your Legs and Hips
The benefits of incline walking in an exercise like hiking can be compared to using a Stairmaster over and over again.
Just like on the treadmill, I don’t find much enjoyment using the Stairmaster at a gym. That thing will put you to sleep in boredom.
Quite frankly, there isn’t enough TV’s at the gym to grab my attention using that thing!
Ascending up a mountain makes the pain and struggle worth it as I am seeing the beauty all around me. The struggle feels as though it is nothing.
Well, not exactly, but you get the point.
That’s not to say it won’t be a challenge. In hiking, you are are creating an intense burnout in your quads, glutes, and calves.
Even more, hiking downwards gets your legs sculpted and sore. You work your legs hard on the way up and sculpt them on the way down.
Finally, the stabilization in your knees and hips gives you a full lower body workout.
Now that my friends, is a comprehensive session at the gym that I actually enjoy doing.
4) Hiking Strengthens Your Core
Every time you turn on the television you see another infomercial with the latest ab chiseling machine.
The reason these “revolutionary” ab machines and exercises do so well is because people have a burning desire for flat belly’s and six pack abs. What guy doesn’t want to look like Gerard Butler in the movie 300?
Not surprisingly, the core is one of the most important parts of your body to keep under control. A little extra built up fat in your stomach can have some bad lingering effects on your body down the road.
How does hiking strengthen your core you might ask?
Moving around in difficult terrain forces your abs, oblique’s, and lower back to work harder to keep your body stabilized and upright and even more so if you're carrying a backpack.
A weighted bag, at just 5 to 10 pounds makes you unstable up top so your core muscles are forced to work that much harder.
This is the reason why many trainers at the gym recommend doing walking lunges with the weight above your head and not at your side. It forces your core to work harder.
Fact of the matter is, your stomach muscles needs to work that much more to balance the heavier than normal upper body.
Instead of doing a bunch of crunches at home, why not grab your backpack and hit the trail?
5) Hiking Improves Your Balance
Going off that last benefit on core strength, hiking also helps improve your overall balance.
How does it improve your balance?
Hiking helps build up your lower body strength which is an important element to balance. This simple act of moving around reduces the risk of you taking a tumble due to an improved equilibrium.
I have noticed the more I go hiking the better my overall stability is. The benefits aren’t incredibly obvious, but I have slowly noticed that I am much less likely to trip and fall when I have done some solid stepping.
Over time, I have built up an unstoppable force that won’t allow me to fall. This has helped me out a ton!
I am, by nature, on the tall and clumsy side.
Even though I do hit my head often on things above me, I rarely do fall to the ground when I am walking and get tripped up.
Clearly, the benefits of stability are an often underrated advantage from hiking that should not be overlooked.
6) Hiking Helps Control Your Weight
Have you ever had an issue with controlling your weight?
If you are anything like most Americans, you will probably find that maintaining your weight and staying in shape can be quite the difficult task. Sadly, studies have shown that only about 18% of Americans are at their ideal weight!
In today’s busy, sedentary world, sitting down seems to be the norm.
Most people, like myself, spend over half the day sitting at a desk job so naturally our metabolism slows down to an inhumane level.
Thankfully, here’s where the hiking comes in.
The brisk pace of hiking boosts your metabolism and gets the blood flowing. By doing this, you increase the number of mitochondria and how efficiently they burn fat throughout the day.
Burning fat throughout the day, with the help of your metabolism, is crucial to keeping that dangerous visceral belly fat kept at bay. Visceral fat can be the source of many issues down the road.
If you include a nice aerobic exercise like hiking to your weekly routine, you will burn fat easier and also speed up that all-important metabolism.
This is yet another way to keep that vital tummy in check.
7) Hiking Boosts Your Mood and Makes You A Happier Person
This last benefit is definitely not one we can overlook.
In fact, it might be the most important of all the benefits listed above. Especially if you or your family has a history with depression. Sadly, many do.
In today’s always on digital age, it’s easy to grow depressed looking at other people’s status updates and social media posts throughout the day.
However, studies have shown that just a few minutes in the outdoors will brighten your day.
The fresh air, the beautiful trees, and the other beautiful elements that you encounter on your hike is sure to bring a smile to your face.
Exercise produces endorphins, which takes away your stress and replaces it with happiness!
Next time you have a big report to finish for work or a big exam to study for, why not schedule a quick hike the morning of?
It is sure to lower your stress and increase your focus when you do get back to the office.
Just 15-20 minutes a day in nature can have long term benefits on your health.
Set a Goal to Go Hiking One Day This Week
I know finding the time to go hiking can be difficult. However, the benefits of hiking once a week are all too important to overlook. Schedule time to spend a couple hours in nature this week!
My hope is you build up a consistent weekly routine, whether that be every Sunday afternoon or every Tuesday morning.
The time isn’t the important thing, the consistent routine and the built-up habit (check out the book) is what is most important.
Some of these hiking benefits might not come as much of a surprise to you. But that’s not to say they are not imperative to your overall long term well-being.
I hope this article has created in you a greater appreciation for this wonderful exercise.
I know for me, just understanding the benefits makes me realize that this is something that I should be taking serious for more than just the pleasure factor.
It has numerous preventative benefits and improves your overall mood.
Although it’s great to go in groups, don’t let hiking alone stop you from getting out there.
One of the benefits of hiking alone is you can go at your own pace and experience nature in a whole new way.
I love putting on an insightful Podcast or audiobook during my hike alone.
Next time you find yourself lacking motivation to head to the gym, grab your hiking shoes and hit up a local trail.
We want to hear from you, what do you enjoy most about hiking?