The Health Benefits of Hiking

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”

– Lao Tzu

In a world where time is a valuable commodity, taking a hike might seem like a waste of precious hours. However, the health benefits of hiking are invaluable and can transform your mind, body, and spirit. Join us as we examine the health advantages of hiking and how they can improve your life.

A 2016 study stated that a sedentary lifestyle is associated with negative health consequences and that hiking is one of the best ways to improve your health especially when you consider how accessible and inexpensive it is in comparison to many other forms of exercise.

As people become more aware of the numerous advantages of regular exercise in everyday life and desire to spend time outside and in nature, hiking has grown in popularity in the modern world.

Hiker meditating near water

Mental Health Benefits of Hiking

Amid the hustle and bustle of modern life, mental health has become a pressing concern. Fortunately, outdoor exercise like hiking provides a natural and accessible remedy to help individuals improve their mental well-being.

Here are some ways hiking benefits mental health:

Exposure to Nature

Spending time outdoors, surrounded by nature’s tranquility, is a powerful remedy for stress and anxiety. The beautiful and peaceful natural scenery helps lower cortisol levels and has a calming effect on the mind. Hiking exposes individuals to fresh air, beautiful landscapes, and the sound of birds chirping, offering a much-needed break from the hectic pace of urban living.

A Stanford-led study found that walking in nature yields measurable mental benefits and may reduce the risk of depression. It’s undeniable that there are many benefits associated with spending time exploring nature and with mental illness becoming a growing concern in the modern world it’s becoming more important to recognize this fact now more than ever.

Self Confidence

Hiking is an excellent way to develop self-confidence. The sense of achievement that comes with reaching the summit of a mountain or completing a long-distance hike is unmatched. The process of planning, preparing, and executing a hiking trip instills a sense of independence, and the satisfaction of accomplishing something challenging improves self-esteem and self-worth.


Hiking also offers a chance to connect with like-minded individuals, forging new friendships and creating a supportive community. Group hikes provide opportunities for socializing and bonding, sharing the hiking experience, and learning from others’ experiences.

Inclusivity and acceptance are hallmarks of hiking groups and communities, and they foster a sense of belonging that can positively impact mental health.

If you’re not sure of how to meet other hikers, most cities have a local hiking group or Facebook groups centered around hiking that may host group hikes or other outdoor activities.

Family hiking with their dog

Reduce Anxiety

Hiking is an excellent way to alleviate anxiety symptoms and promote happiness hormones. The physical exertion of hiking releases endorphins that reduce stress and tension, leading to a feeling of relaxation and euphoria that can last for hours or days after most hikes.

The repetitive motion of walking also acts as a form of meditation, promoting mindfulness and reducing negative thoughts. The soothing sound of running water and the rustle of leaves provide a peaceful ambiance that further aids in relaxation.

Physical Health Benefits of Hiking

An excellent way to improve one’s physical fitness and health is to go hiking. It is an efficient form of cardiovascular exercise that may improve physical stamina and endurance while strengthening the heart and lowering the risk of chronic illnesses. Hiking is also a low-impact sport that can be tailored to suit different fitness levels, making it accessible to practically everyone.

Similarly, hiking is a great method to burn calories and keep your weight in check. It works several muscle groups, including those in the legs, upper body, and core, which promotes muscle strength and tone. Individuals can benefit from a variety of physical health advantages from regular hiking.

Hiker on an overgrown trail

Build Muscle and Endurance

One of the most significant physical benefits of hiking is that it builds muscle and endurance. Hiking is an excellent cardiovascular workout that can help you develop strong muscles in your legs, hips, and core. The uneven terrain of many hiking trails can also help improve your balance and stability, which can further enhance your muscle strength.

Hiking on steep inclines and uneven terrain also requires a lot of endurance, which means that the more you hike, the better your endurance will become. This can help you with other physical activities such as running or cycling, where endurance is essential.

Promote Weight Loss

Another benefit of hiking as a form of physical exercise is that it can help with weight loss. Hiking is a great way to burn calories and increase your metabolism.

Hiking and other outdoor weight-bearing exercise are excellent methods of facilitating weight loss due to the cardio and use of stabilizing muscles associated with these activities. This means that hiking regularly can help you maintain healthy body weight or even lose weight if you are overweight or obese.

Hiker in a misty forest

Exposure to Sunlight and Vitamin D

Hiking can also provide exposure to sunlight, which is essential for your overall health. Sunlight exposure helps your body produce vitamin D, which is vital for bone density and health and can also boost your immune system. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a range of health problems, including depression, osteoporosis, and heart disease.

It is essential to note that you should always wear sunscreen when hiking, even on cloudy days, to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. You can also wear a hat and sunglasses to further protect your skin and eyes when participating in any form of outdoor exercise.

Other Physical Benefits of Hiking

Hiking has many other physical health advantages besides increasing strength and endurance, assisting in weight loss, and exposing one to sunlight. These include:

Reducing the risk of heart disease: Hiking can help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which can reduce your risk of developing heart disease. It’s a great way of promoting cardiovascular health and can help to reduce the risk of a heart attack.

Improving lung capacity: Hiking requires deep breathing, which can help improve your lung capacity and increase your overall fitness.

Enhancing joint flexibility: Hiking can help improve joint flexibility and reduce the risk of developing arthritis. Hiking may also have a positive impact on bone density.

Boosting mood: Hiking in nature has been shown to boost mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Time spent on the trail has numerous mood benefits.

Improving sleep: Hiking can help regulate your sleep-wake cycle, which can improve the quality of your sleep. A good night’s sleep is highly beneficial for your health.

Hiking Health Benefits FAQs

What are the emotional benefits of hiking?

The emotional benefits of hiking can be experienced in a variety of ways. Spending time in nature can have a calming effect on the mind and body, helping to reduce stress and anxiety. Hiking can also provide a sense of accomplishment, as reaching the end of a trail can be a rewarding experience.

The physical activity involved in hiking can release endorphins, which can improve mood and reduce feelings of depression. Additionally, being in nature can promote feelings of awe and wonder, which can contribute to an overall sense of satisfaction and tranquility.

What can hiking do for your body?

Hiking is a complete workout that has many advantages for your physical wellness. It can help bolster the cardiovascular system by boosting heart rate and oxygen consumption. Hiking involves constant movement and is considered by many to be a full-body workout, which can aid in caloric expenditure and weight loss. Muscles in the back, core, and legs, in particular, can be strengthened by hiking making it an excellent lower-body workout.

Hiking trails’ varied terrain can also help with balance and coordination. Additionally, hiking can help boost bone density, which is crucial for older adults in particular.

What happens to your body after a hike?

Your body may very well feel a variety of different physical sensations after a hike. Your muscles might be sore or tired, but this is a sign that they have been working hard, and it will eventually make them stronger and thus more able to endure long periods of activity.

Additionally, hiking can improve circulation and blood flow, which can help to lower inflammation and encourage long-term healing. The mental clarity and decreased stress that many hikers experience after a hike can also contribute to an overall feeling of well-being.

Why does hiking reduce anxiety?

Outdoor activities like hiking can help people feel calm and relaxed through the direct connection to nature and the environment, which can lessen stress and anxiety. Hiking’s physical activity also triggers the release of endorphins, which enhance mood and lessen depressive and anxious feelings.

The physical exertion of hiking can also improve sleep quality, having a variety of positive mental and physical benefits. Exercise can also increase self-esteem and give a sense of accomplishment, which can lead to a more optimistic outlook on life.

Backpackers hiking on a muddy trail

What are hikers’ legs?

If you spend a lot of time around experienced hikers or head out on a thru-hike, you may hear the term “Hikers’ legs”. Hikers’ legs refer to the strong and toned leg muscles that can result from regular hiking. As a hiker becomes more experienced and spends more time on the trail, one of the many health benefits they’re likely to experience is the strengthening of their core muscles and leg muscles which enable them to tackle longer and more challenging trails.

Hiking involves a combination of endurance, strength, and balance, which can help to tone and strengthen the muscles in the legs. This can lead to increased endurance and the ability to tackle more challenging trails.

How frequently should I go hiking for health benefits?

The frequency of hiking required to see benefits can depend on individual fitness levels and goals. However, we’d recommend going on a hike at least once a week if you’re seeking to improve your mental and physical health and have the means to do so.

For those looking to improve cardiovascular health or lose weight, more frequent hikes may be necessary. Proper nutrition combined with regular exercise like hiking will help you yield the best results.

Is hiking beneficial for high blood pressure?

Since hiking is a form of exercise that lowers blood pressure, it can be helpful for people struggling with this concern. Before beginning an exercise regimen, it’s crucial to speak with a doctor, especially if you have high blood pressure or any other health issues. In addition, it’s crucial to begin your hikes slowly and build up your intensity over time.

What hiking trails provide the most health benefits?

The most beneficial trails are those that offer a variety of terrain, incline levels, and scenic views. The best trails are those that are just difficult enough to raise your breathing and heart rate while still being within your range of fitness.

Trails that provide breathtaking natural beauty, such as waterfalls, mountains, or woods, can also help people relax and maintain good mental health. It’s also essential to choose a path that matches your level of fitness and to have the necessary equipment and supplies with you, such as water, food, and the appropriate boots.

Hike Recommendations

We’ve put together some awesome trail guides for some of the hiking destinations we’ve come to know and love, check them out below!

The 7 Best Waterfall Hikes in New York

The Best Hiking on Key West

Hiking the Long Trail of Vermont