Are you a seasoned hiking vet with zillions of trail miles under your Redwings? Maybe you’d like to take up the sport but don’t think you have the time or ability. Or maybe you’re an “armchair hiker” who prefers hitting the trails vicariously?
Wherever you are on the hiking continuum, here are nine quick reasons to consider hiking or walking:
9 Reasons to Hike
- Hiking is a great cardio workout
- It reduces stress.
- It’s inexpensive and easy to start.
- Hiking doesn’t require a lot of specialized gear or technical training.
- Hiking can be easily adjusted for any fitness level, ability, and age.
- Hiking can be tailored to fit your personal schedule. A variety of trails exist, ranging from a few minutes to several hours to an entire summer (like the Pacific Crest Trail).
- Since it’s an outdoor activity, hiking boosts your Vitamin D (remember to use sun screen!)
- Hiking is more varied than many other types of exercise, particularly those undertaken in a gym. So it can be easier to stay motivated.
- Hiking is a great outdoor activity for the entire family.
But wait. There’s more. Hiking can also offer:
- Meadows marinated in wildflowers.
- The sun a yellow eye scorched in a skillet of blue.
- Disconnecting from technology.
- Peace and quiet.
- Life’s busyness receding like ocean breakers on an outgoing tide.
Physical Benefits of Hiking
According to the American Hiking Society, physical benefits of hiking include lowering your risk for heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. As a weight-bearing exercise, hiking and walking can also help reverse the negative effects of osteoporosis and arthritis.
Mental Benefits of Hiking and Walking
These include increased cognitive benefits and working memory performance, reducing depression, anxiety and other mood disorders, boosting creativity, and strengthening social ties. Hiking benefits also include increased happiness levels and an improved sense of well-being and peace.
Speaking of mental benefits, you don’t want to hit the trails without packing your brains. Like when:
- A really, really stupid hiker left her head at home and completely missed the cut off to the Forest Lake Trail at Mount Rainier, continuing on the wrong trail for miles. It only took half a day to correct my mistake.
- An epic face-plant ensued after a hiker misjudged a downed Douglas fir on the Wynoochee Lakeshore Trail on the Olympic Peninsula. Thankfully, my fall was cushioned by an obliging slab of granite or I might’ve been seriously injured.
- A World Class Brainless Wonder met Mama Bear and her two cubs hiking Mazama Ridge at Mount Rainier. And decided to whip out her tablet and take pictures. Good thing Hiker Dude jerked her down-trail at warp speed. It took all afternoon for my head to stop spinning.
There’s also nothing like a Yeti-sized burst of adrenaline to cure those creaky knees or hollerin’ hamstrings. Like when you round a bend on Mazama Ridge and come face-to-fur with Mama Bear and two… Oh, never mind.
So when it comes to hiking, don’t overthink it. You don’t need to burn a hole in your wallet buying fancy trail doo-dads or high-end gear. Be in top tri-athlete shape. Or ready to summit Mount Everest. (Whenever I feel like summiting Mount Everest, I lay down until the feeling goes away.)
Just grab some sturdy shoes and a hat. Fill a water bottle. Bring your common sense. Find a trail and Go Nike: Just. Do. It.
You got this.