You’ve probably noticed on social media that people post of a lot of photos of themselves in the outdoors, but have you ever wondered why hiking is so popular? There are lots of hobby’s to choose from, so why did hiking become a favorite?
Hiking gains popularity from its beneficial qualities as a form of exercise and relaxation. While some exercise forms are exhausting and take a long time to see rewards, the sight of a beautiful trail, stunning canyon, or mountain peak provides an immediate reward.
In this article, we’ll explore why hikers are addicted to the trails, what makes it such a fun hobby, and why so many people choose it as their primary form of exercise.
Benefits of Hiking
While hiking has obvious physical benefits, like muscle toning or cardiovascular health improvement, it has some lesser-known benefits as well!
Weight Loss and Toning
Let’s talk about those physical benefits first, though. Hiking is a lot like using a stair-stepper in the gym, only a lot more adventurous and entertaining.
As you hike, you’re burning massive amounts of calories – upwards of 400 per hour. That helps you to burn off excess energy, which decreases weight gain.
With proper diet, this calorie burn can even cause a calorie deficit, after which you’ll start to see gradual weight loss!
As you lose the weight, your muscles will start to poke out more- this is called toning. As you hike, you also build up slow-twitch muscle fibers, which will begin to show up as lean muscle mass.
Hiking isn’t weightlifting, however, so you shouldn’t go into it thinking you’re going to get ripped lugging pots and pans around Yellowstone. If you want to get shredded and compete in body-building competitions, you’re probably better off hitting the gym.
Mental Health Improvements
Many people don’t know this, but hiking boosts hikers’ mood, makes them more creative, and reduces their overall stress levels.
According to a study conducted at Stanford University, walking in nature reduces your risk of depression. According to this study, participants who took walks in nature saw decreased activity in brain regions associated with depression.
Hiking has also been associated with increases in overall creativity and decreases in stress levels. Poets and artists long used nature as a source of inspiration for their creations, and it’s not hard to see why.
Nature is filled with music and beautiful scenery!
Essentially, hiking gets the blood flowing, which improves your mood and creativity, and can lead to greater overall happiness. This is true for exercise across the board, but hiking is unique in that it provides enormous rewards for hikers in the form of exploration and discovery.
Reasons why Hiking is Fun
Hiking is a fantastic activity for anyone with a pair of legs to walk on. Whether you’re 10, 80, or somewhere in-between, hiking can present challenges and rewards which will improve your mood and health.
Hiking is a form of exploration. While many may have trekked the trails before you arrived, the scenery and the environments are all new to you, and you get to discover them at your own pace.
If you’re living in the country, there could be a beautiful waterfall close to you that you had never even heard of!
Hiking gives you a feeling of independence. When you walk along a trail, you get the feeling that you’re out on your own and making things happen on your own.
Finding secret caves and waterfalls out among the trees also provides much-needed solitude that you may be lacking in today’s interconnected world.
Additionally, when you hike, you’re often treated to the fascinating sights and sounds that nature has to offer.
For example, have you ever heard the sound of a woodpecker drumming on a tree or the wind flowing through a forest? If not, going on a hike can be just the thing to provide you with these must-see (and hear) experiences.
I’d go on to say that they’re just downright good for your soul too!
Hiking can also be a great bonding activity for friends and family. As you come upon obstacle after obstacle, you may need to help one another with legs up or helping hands.
The sense of interdependence that comes from this kind of teamwork is indispensable for any close relationship.
Finally, hiking allows you to do new things you’d never thought you’d do. If you’ve never walked five miles with a forty-pound bag, eaten oatmeal with a stick, or slept in a tent out in the bushes, you must.
It doesn’t sound pleasant, but when you’re done, you feel you’ve accomplished something other people can’t, and that’s special!
Is Hiking a Good Hobby?
Yes! Hiking is a great hobby, especially for people living in rural areas with not much else to do.
Hiking is a healthy, relaxing, low-cost way to pass the time on lazy days.
In terms of cost, hiking is the best hobby you can have. While you could run out to your local REI and pick up a hundred dollar bag, a pair of boots, and carbon-fiber hiking poles, a school backpack, dirty tennis shoes, and a stick work just fine.
You’ll find that hiking gear can be expensive, so don’t feel a rush to get everything right away!
Anyone with access to a forest, trail, or park can go hiking so long as the sun is up. Some adventurous folks even choose to hike at night! Although I wouldn’t recommend that when you’re first starting out.
Instead of paying for a pool table, an hour of bowling, or a squash game, try the free entertainment just beyond your backyard.
Hiking also works your muscles and burns off excess energy, so it’s one of the few activities you can feel good about yourself while enjoying. Over a long period of time, regular hiking can improve your mood and health and lead to greater happiness.
Hiking is also incredibly relaxing. If the sounds of the city, the hustle and bustle of the subway, or the frantic honking of afternoon traffic get you down – then hiking could be your answer!
Compared to the peace of nature, a city’s sounds can be like nails on a chalkboard. Some hikers choose to live in a rural area and commute to their jobs because they can’t imagine living anywhere without the quiet one finds in a forest.
If you’ve never heard birdsong in the springtime or a babbling brook, hiking is just the hobby you need to broaden your horizons and have these incredible experiences.
Is Hiking Better than Walking?
Hiking is essentially just walking, but with added difficulty and nature 😉
Whereas you might go for a walk on a paved trail or a city sidewalk, you hike on rooted trails with rocks sticking out all over the place. These provide obstacles that you can overcome and gain immense amounts of satisfaction.
As you hike, you build a lot more muscle than if you were walking on flat terrain. This is because to keep your balance on a trail’s rough terrain, you have to work the muscles in your ankles, legs, and core.
These muscles gradually build up, becoming more robust than they were before you started hiking. If you’ve ever twisted your ankle on something as simple as a sidewalk and thought: “How?” It might be because you have weak ankles.
Hiking works your muscles and connective tissues, making them stronger with time and more resilient to injuries in the future.
Hiking also often goes on over much longer distances and up great heights. This means that you’re working your body more and burning more calories.
If you’re wearing a heavy backpack, you also have to expend more energy to get yourself moving, which can aid in weight loss.
Hiking is also different from walking in that more difficult hikes can take lots of training. Hiking can provide a much-needed burst of pride and accomplishment for hikers who accomplish incredible feats, like hiking the Appalachian or Pacific Crest trails.
From a subjective point of view, hiking might be better for several aesthetic reasons. If the city’s bright lights and blaring soundscape aggravate you, you’ll probably find the subtlety of nature a welcome walking companion. Hiking also brings you to hidden locations, unspoiled by litter and infrastructure.
So, although hiking is essentially a more adventurous form of walking, it has distinct advantages over a plain walk on the sidewalk and can broaden your horizons. We recommend you walk to your car and drive to the country for a relaxing hike.
All in all, hiking is a great hobby with many advantages over other forms of recreation.
For one, it’s cheap, and for another thing, you don’t have to be surrounded by noise and glare when you’re out on the trail.
Hiking is a healthy alternative to other hobbies and can show long-term benefits for even casual hikers! However, many find it a truly addicting hobby (in a good way of course).
If you’d like to get into hiking, you might try looking up your state’s park service website. They’ll have maps of trails and state parks that you’ll find enormously valuable.
If you’re too lazy for that, just find a nearby forest, and go walking. Happy trails my friends!
Make sure to take a look at these other related resources before you go!