Benefits of Hiking – Physical and Mental

Enjoy the benefits of hiking in one of our newest tour offerings – Volcano Hiking Adventure.

Here’s another good article on the benefits of hiking from HikingInk.

The benefits of hiking make a long, healthy list! Hiking’s health perks include physical and mental benefits. Spending time outdoors on the trail comes with a LOT of bonuses.

Add the pleasures of the outdoors with the physical activity of simply walking, and you have a healthy activity. When you move up to the more intense hikes, the benefits multiply.

The true benefits of hiking go beyond the simple pleasures of breathing fresh, clean air. The benefits of hiking also include enjoying nature’s relaxing views. Hiking helps you increase your physical fitness too. Increased physical fitness, has a healing, calming effect on your mind as well.

Physical Benefits of Hiking

Let’s start with hiking’s easiest benefit. First, consider the positive impacts on your body’s health. Hiking and walking are alike. However, when you go hiking, the difficulty of the hike makes your body work harder.  Factors the make a hike harder include how rough is the trail and how steep the inclines.

Rougher trails and higher slopes give you a healthier hiking workout. The more challenging your hike, the better your workout. During a hard hike, your body works much harder than when you go for a stroll in the park. Depending on how far you hike or how big the area you explore, hiking can be a powerful heart exercise.

The benefits of hiking have a wide range of positive benefits for your body. Among the benefits of hiking, expect the following (WebMD – September 2013, “How hiking is good for your body and mind”):

  • Improve your body’s ability to control blood sugar levels.
  • Lower your blood pressure.
  • Lower the risk of heart conditions.
  • Increase bone density (a benefit of hiking is similar to walking since both are weight-bearing exercises).
  • Improve your balance.
  • Strengthen core muscles.
  • Maintain healthy body weight.

You gain all those benefits even if you only hike on easy-to-moderate trails. Gain these benefits even you do not hike steep inclines or hills! Expect the benefits of hiking even when you just hike short distances! Hike harder trails and get more benefits.

Improvements in Physical Functioning

Studies with outdoor walking groups found real health improvements. The studies showed improvement in different metrics commonly used to measure your health. These benefits of outdoor hiking were published in a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, June 2015, “Is there evidence that walking groups have health benefits?”

The study found the following health benefits:

  • Reduced Body Mass Index (BMI) used to measure your body fat. Doctors say a lower BMI means better health.
  • A lower total cholesterol level which reduces your heart disease risk
  • A lower resting heart rate and a lower rate relates to a healthier heart.
  • The British study also observed increases in how well your body takes in oxygen. More oxygen helps make strong muscles.
  • A generally improved ability for you to live a more active life.

Think about this. These health benefits were linked to outdoor walking groups. These groups took easy walks. The easy walks were almost exactly like easy hiking (National Park Service, December 2017, “How to determine hiking difficulty”). Expect more hiking benefits when you take harder hikes.

Mental Benefits of Hiking – Decreased Fatigue and Worry

A study with 42 people found true benefits for mountain hiking (PLOS ONE, May 2017, “Responses in mountain hiking … differences between indoor and outdoor activities”). Mountain hikes caused a huge reduction in fatigue and worry. People in the study were less tired and less anxious! 

Compared to using a treadmill and walking indoors, mountain hiking was a LOT more healthy. Hiking outdoors also showed a big improvement in people’s moods. As a result of hiking outdoors, people in the study were calmer and happier. In addition, the study also said doctors should recommend difficult hikes. The physical activity that hiking gives you promotes better mental health!

More Mental Benefits – Stress Reducing Effect

Among all of hiking’s benefits, stress relief is an important one. Even the most casual hiker can expect and get reduced stress right away.

Some small studies show reduced stress when you spend time outdoors (Harvard Health Publishing, September 2016, “Health benefits of hiking: raise your heart rate and your mood”). When you spend time in natural areas, urban parks, woodlands, and any green space you likely help ease your level of stress.

Since it has been established that stress can negatively affect health (National Institute of Mental Health, December 2016, “5 things you should know about stress”), any physical activity that has the potential to relieve stress is helpful.

Conclusion – Benefits of Hiking

One of the great things about hiking, you can hike just about anywhere. You do not have to climb hills and mountains to get hiking’s benefits. Any activity that involves walking for about 3 miles or so can be considered easy-hiking. Even easy-hiking offers you many health benefits!

Everyone regardless of age can find a healthy hike. You can easily find a healthy hike with the right level of difficulty for you. The right level hike improves your physical fitness. The right hike also lets you enjoy the relaxation that comes from spending time on the trail.