Hiking is one of the best physical activities for your mind, body, and soul. It is possible to get a great workout in at the gym or at your home; however, the benefits are not the same as you get with hiking.
Hiking takes you outdoors where you can connect with nature, get an amazing cardio workout and build muscle all at the same time.
Hiking can become much more than an exercise you do to achieve your fitness goals — it can become a lifelong activity. Perhaps you are in a place right now where you have tried hiking, but found it difficult. Maybe you had to stop every few minutes to catch your breath or you felt that others were looking at you in a condescending and judgmental way. Don’t let this discourage you! Anyone can start hiking regardless of their fitness level. If you can climb stairs, then you can hike in Mother Nature’s gym where you can achieve the ultimate workout.
Benefits of Hiking
- Hiking will reduce your risk of hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease drastically.
- Hiking can increase the density of your bones, effectively reversing the effects of osteoporosis.
- Hiking releases the adrenaline in your body that builds up from a stressful work week, reducing stress and anxiety.
- Hiking has been proven to improve sleep at night.
- Hiking keeps your cardiorespiratory system healthy, and will give your muscles more endurance.
Great for Endurance
If you are new to hiking, get ready for an entirely new level of fitness. It is common for beginning hikers to get sore legs and be short on breath on those steeper inclines and higher elevations.
Hiking is a great activity for increasing your overall lung capacity. The total lung capacity is the maximum amount of air a person’s lungs can hold, which is approximately four to six liters (4000 to 6000 cm3) for the average person. Typically, a third of this capacity is used during normal activity, but this fraction increases during strenuous activity when the body requires more oxygen.
Breathing more fully is the key to preventing lung and leg fatigue while hiking. David Ross, M.D., a pulmonologist at UCLA Medical Center, states that when you take deeper breaths, you use more air sacs in your lungs, which allows you to take in more oxygen to feed your muscles.
Another practice, called focused hiking will also help your breathing and give you more stamina while hiking. Synchronize breaths with your stride so your steps become smoother. The key is to inhale as you step forward with one foot, then exhale with the next step of that same foot. As you relax, you can take fewer, longer breaths coordinated with more strides. According to Dr. Ross, this puts you in a more natural rhythm of walking.
Why Hiking is Great for Weight Loss
Hiking to lose weight is one of the most efficient ways to exercises because of the amount of calories your burn and you get to enjoy the beauty of nature.
Since hiking burns considerably more calories than walking, you are likely to see a noticeable increase in weight loss if you previously stuck to walks around the neighborhood for exercise. If you have a tendency to sweat quite a bit during workouts, then wear a sweat band or bring a light towel. Hiking will quickly raise your heart rate (you can burn up to 450 calories per hour) so even when it’s cooler outside it doesn’t take long to warm up.
A person who is 175 lbs and hikes for two hours on a hilly terrain can burn up to 1,100 calories. If the same person spends two hours walking on flat terrain, they will burn approximately 500 calories. Over the course of a week, if you hike for a total of six hours, you will lose 1/2 pound more than the walker. In windy weather, the wind resistance can boost your burn potential by approximately 5 percent, experts say. Hiking is an excellent total-body workout.
When you hike, your body gets hit from many different angles and engages muscle groups you could miss at the gym such as the back, outer thighs and deep core muscles. On trails, you encounter different challenges such as rivers to cross or logs to climb over. If you hike consistently, you will lose weight safely and in a gradual manner. It is hard work wearing a backpack, using hiking poles with each step, and contracting the major muscle groups for hours at a time.
The steeper the grade a person hikes, the fewer miles the will need to hike in order to see results. For example, if you hike at a 20 percent uphill grade for six miles, the resulting energy expenditure is the same as if you’d walked 18.9 flat miles. Terrain greatly affects the number of calories you will burn hiking, and in turn, the amount of weight you will lose.
Once you have some longer hikes under your belt, consider backpacking, which burns even more calories due to the extra weight you are carrying. Hiking to remote areas can be a lot of fun and you will get to see plant and animal life you wouldn’t see otherwise.
Why Hiking is Better than….
Running: Hiking is easier than running on your lower leg joints.
Swimming: Public swimming pools contain large amounts of chlorine or who knows what else. You don’t have to sport a bathing suit either to hike.
Biking: I enjoy Mountain biking- but it definitely is more dangerous than hiking. If you fall-you’re going a lot faster and will crash harder because you’re higher off the ground. Also- from what I’ve seen in AZ- there are not as many “trails” open to mountain bikers as there are to regular hiking.
The Gym: Your largest investment with hiking will be hiking shoes and various other essentials. You won’t have the reoccurring costs of a gym.
Sitting at home: Hiking pumps oxygen to your cells, thus increasing the endorphins in your body. You will experience the hikers high – and will create lasting memories.
Walking: Hiking builds up endurance, and muscle tone quickly. You will lose weight faster by hiking.
Best Practices to Hiking for Weight Loss
- Choose hiking trails that are challenging, but will not make you feel defeated. If you are just starting out, you need to work steadily to increase your mileage and slowly add in some elevation gain.
- Every day opportunities: Do your best to avoid elevators and escalators, and park as far away from the front door as possible. Look into using a standing desk for computer work and every hour take stretch breaks. You should incorporate walking/hiking daily into your self care routine.
- Get a new perspective: Do not be ashamed of eating. Food is fuel for your body. It’s energy for your muscle contractions, and a necessary part of being healthy.
- Don’t get frustrated: Don’t fight your hunger and thirst sensations. You must Eat and drink adequate amounts of water -Be grateful for your body and that you CAN go hiking.
- Save sweets for the trail: Rather than keeping snacks at home like chocolate, bring them with you when you go hiking instead.
- Record your Reward: Keep a log/journal of where you’ve been hiking, sights, smells, and how you feel as you are moving along steadily down the trail.
- Motivation: Plan your hikes in new and exciting locations! Choose hikes that have amazing views, waterfalls, and beautiful scenery along the way. It won’t be long before you are hooked on hiking- and it goes way beyond burning calories.
- Be open to a New life: Hiking can be hard work,but you will also experience a new joy that you never thought possible. Hiking will not only improve your waist line, but your attitude and your life overall.
Losing weight can be challenging- and hiking is difficult when you first start out. Put these two together and you can see why many women lose motivation and give up. But not you!
If you are not part of a hiking group or don’t’ have friends that hike- no worries! There are numerous hiking groups on a site called meetup.com.
When you do join the Group (Best Practices)
- See if you can choose the hiking destination and lead the hike.
- Research the trail beforehand to make the hike enjoyable.
- Bring homemade trail snacks to share with the group- make them high carbohydrate/moderate protein/low fat nutrients.
- Say hi during the week- or get together with coffee/lunches. Be a friend and lift eachothers spirits even when you’re not hiking.
- Celebrate your weight loss goals together!
- Keep hiking, no matter what the weather throws at you!
Find a Hiking For Weight Loss Mentor
If you would like help losing weight with hiking- then you’re in the right place! I can help you with your weight loss goals and work with you on a strategic hiking plan.
Losing weight while hiking has worked for many women, and the extra benefits of cardiovascular health, improved muscle tone, and mental well being cannot be ignored
Please contact me if you would like me to help you succeed with Hiking For Weight Loss.