If you like walking as a fall workout, then you’re going to love hiking – and what better way to appreciate the natural beauty of the worlds varied and extensive landscape, than by getting out there and exploring while you’re burning off those calories? Just be careful not to stumble across a hibernating bear while you’re out and about!
Feel the Burn on the Path Less Travelled
For those of you who are more at home pounding the pavements, hiking might sound like something you’d rather leave to the professionals equipped with the right gear. However, it’s neither the gear nor the time spent exercising that sets walking and hiking apart; backpacks and boots are only necessary for really extended walks, and hikes can be as long or short as you want. The main distinction between these two forms of exercise has more to do with the terrain. When you’re walking, the path you follow is usually smooth, whether it’s a paved road or the flat belt of a treadmill. On a hike, you’ll be taking steps on uneven ground, testing your balance and working your muscles in a more varied way. It’s this ever-changing footing that makes hiking an excellent addition to any workout routine.
The type of hiking paths available to you will vary depending on where you live, but whether it’s a mountainous trail or a desert track, one thing’s for sure – the route will often be topped with gravel, interrupted by boulders, or involve many twists and turns, which all challenge your body to move in different ways. Due to hiking trails being trickier to navigate than your typical flat track, you’re likely to move more slowly, covering just two to three miles an hour. But a slower pace doesn’t have to make for a less intense workout – the hills you encounter on a hike can help rack up a calorie burn similar to that of a brisk walk, and inclines also provide resistance training for your lower half. In fact, a hike is similar to using a step machine or setting the treadmill to the ‘random’ program, where the incline and speeds change in an inconsistent pattern.
Enjoy the Stimulating Sights
The unpredictable terrain and varied elevation help the walk feel less repetitive for your body and more interesting for your brain. The never-ending stimulation of a hike, including where you step and the scenery you encounter, really helps to alleviate the boredom that can creep into workout routines. While exercise is one definite payoff of hiking, being in the beauty of nature is another reason why people get hooked on hiking. While a walk around the neighborhood gets you outside, a hike could take you to a tranquil lake or along a mountainous trail, with stunning views for miles.
Then, there’s the chance of spotting wildlife, such as a deer grazing in a meadow, and if you do happen to run into a bear in the forest, or a crocodile emerging from a swamp, just think of the exercise you’ll get running away! Joking aside, the natural beauty you see when you’re hiking can be very inspiring, so much so that you will probably want to bring a camera with you to capture the new sights you see – that’s something you definitely can’t say about working out at the gym! Furthermore, as you’re hiking you’ll be inspired to keep going for longer in order to catch a glimpse of the next stunning sight, meaning that you will be working out for longer than if you were keeping to a time or mile limit.
Go Take a Hike!
Before you step outside into nature, make sure you know where you’re going. You can search through the thousands of hiking trials available online and then focus in on an exact location. If you haven’t exercised for a while, start with a shorter trail of just a mile or two that’s mainly flat terrain, then as you build up your strength, stamina and experience, you can increase the challenge of the workout. If you’re already walking regularly, then your current distance should make for a challenging but achievable hike – just remember to take into account the extra time it will take to complete a loop, due to the slower pace of hiking.
Once you’ve printed a map or downloaded it onto your phone, prepare the rest of your gear. Walking shoes are fine on a hiking trail, but if you’re travelling rocky, loose ground, you might want a stiffer less slippery sole and some ankle support. As for clothes, you should avoid cotton and layer up in man-made fabrics like nylon, which repel water and dry quickly. You’ll need to keep hydrated even on a short route so make sure you take a bottle of water, and if you plan to hike for more than three miles, it’s advisable to pack extra water, a first aid kit, snacks and sunscreen.
Hiking can make a great family day out, or you can go with friends for a laughter-filled energetic catch-up with some impressive scenery. Whatever your mood, you’re sure to find a trail worth exploring, and if your friends and family aren’t as eager as you then you could consider joining a local meet-up group, or asking an outdoor supply stores about hiking clubs in your area. Lastly and most importantly, whether you’re going hiking alone or with a group, it’s vital that you let someone know where you’re going, giving them a copy of your exact route and letting them know when you expect to be home by. But don’t worry too much about those bears, they’re bound to all be asleep by now anyway…right?!
Are you inspired to put your boots on and get hiking? Let us know your thoughts below!