3 Reasons to Take a Hike

Hiker follows trail through mountain meadow
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1. You’ll Burn Calories.

In fact, depending upon the difficulty level and intensity of your chosen hike, you may burn a lot of calories. Hiking makes you engage muscles in ways you wouldn’t if you were walking or jogging on a treadmill, or even just walking or jogging on level ground. It forces your brain to focus on your balance and your senses as you make your way across uneven natural terrain.

Hiking can also help you build lean muscle, particularly in your legs, which in turn may increase your basal metabolic rate—helping you torch more calories, even at rest.

The benefits of the hike can last long after you’ve returned home.

2. You’ll Improve Your Cardiovascular Fitness.

Obesity is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, but losing weight and improving your cardiovascular fitness level through regular aerobic exercise can help reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease.

There is good evidence that aerobic exercise leads to sustained benefits not only for losing weight and keeping it off, but also for long-term cardiovascular fitness and general health and well-being.

In his book, Aerobics Program for Total Well-Being, Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper defined aerobic exercise as an “endurance activity which takes place over a relatively long period and depends on establishing a balance between the intake and expenditure of oxygen.”

Dr. Cooper developed the Aerobics Point System approximately 45 years ago, and determined that aerobic exercise was the best type of fitness activity to produce benefits for both the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, improving not only circulation but overall health.

In addition to hiking, other examples of common activities that can count as aerobic exercise are brisk walking, swimming, jogging or running, cycling, dancing (such as Zumba) and cross-country skiing, to name but a few.

3. Nature Abounds.

Hikers get to experience incomparable scenic views up close and personal, and a number of studies have shown that humans need a connection with nature that goes beyond glancing out the window.

Exercising outdoors can lift your spirits, ease symptoms of depression, provide stress relief, help you sleep better, and even improve your memory and concentration. Plus, it’s a lot more fun than trudging along on an indoor treadmill!

In one study, researchers looked at postmenopausal women and how likely they were to stick with an exercise program. The researchers found that outdoor exercise was much more popular than indoor exercise, and resulted in a higher rate of adherence over the long run. In addition, symptoms of depression decreased and physical activity level increased only for those who engaged in outdoor exercise.


Cooper KH. Aerobics Program for Total Well-Being: Exercise, Diet, and Emotional Balance. Bantam 1985.

Cooper Health Tips: Top Five Aerobic Exercises. Accessed online at http://www.cooperaerobics.com/Health-Tips/Fitness-Files/Top-Five-Aerobic-Activities.aspx on November 21, 2014.

Elder CR, Gullion CM, Funk KL, DeBar LL, et al. Impact of sleep, screen time, depression and stress on weight change in the intensive weight loss phase of the LIFE study. International Journal of Obesity. 2012;36:86-92.

Lacharite-Lemieux M, Brunelle JP, Dionne IJ. Adherence to exercise and affective responses: comparison between outdoor and indoor training. Menopause. 2014 Nov 24 [Epub ahead of print]

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