Want a workout you don’t have to think about? Head out for a hike!
Every time my husband and I go hiking (bushwalking in Australia), I wonder why we don’t do it more often. It’s so many things I love. Good exercise, beautiful scenery, very relaxing – just a great time with friends and family. I’m always really happy to get my exercise in a non-gym setting doing something I enjoy.
Hiking is also a kick-ass way to exercise, whether you are trying to or not. Here are three reasons why:
It’s a different way to walk.
Hiking trails are not usually smooth and level. There are rocks, roots, puddles, streams, holes in the ground, branches falling across where they shouldn’t be – all things that you have to step over and get around. This results in a change from our normal walking gait, which changes how we use our muscles. Moving in unusual directions – like when you have to step up and sideways to step over something – is a greater challenge than simply moving forward in a straight line. That results in better joint mobility, functional flexibility, and more calories burned.
It can throw some great intervals at you.
You can’t adjust the incline in nature! Hiking is great for climbing up hills, then coming back down, often with repeated ups and downs. And even if you are more or less just headed uphill, you can stop when you feel like it to catch your breath and get a drink. Just like any interval training you do at the gym, working hard for a period and then allowing your heart rate to come back down is a really effective workout.
Getting out into nature and exercise that consists of repetitive movements (i.e. hiking, walking, etc.) both have been shown to decrease stress on their own. This is a result of a decreased level of stress hormones and an increased production of endorphins, biochemical that elevate your mood and work as the body’s natural painkillers. Combine them and get an even bigger bang for your buck. Plus, unlike other workouts where you’re counting reps or desperately counting the seconds until you can stop running, you get to just head out, follow the trail, and enjoy the scenery.
Need additional reasons to get outside? Getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city means cleaner air, beautiful landscapes, and friendly people. I’m always surprised at how many people will stop for a quick chat to tell you about a not-to-be-missed lookout, or give you a heads up if there’s a significant obstacle ahead. Even for an introvert like me, it can make the experience a lot more enjoyable. Want to share your favorite hike? Let us know in the comments – we’ll understand if you want to keep it a secret though!