Hiking Health Benefits: Lose Weight and Boost Mindfulness

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Hiking is one of the best activities you can do to help you lose weight and improve your mind. You go up mountains and down valleys, all the while gazing at incredible scenery. At the end of a good hike, you feel a profound sense of accomplishment. You traveled all those miles to be rewarded with what you see before you. Because of your efforts, the hiking health benefits are numerous.

Shed Those Pounds

If you are overweight or want to look a bit slimmer for that beach body, hiking is an excellent way to lose weight. In fact, a 175-pound person who hikes for 2 hours will burn 1,100 calories, assuming plenty of good hills and terrain variety to keep you busy. That is an incredible amount of weight lost without even discussing the other benefits yet.

When hiking though, you probably will not be burning a straightforward amount of calories as there will be two primary factors to consider.

Personal Variables

Diet, current weight, age, and gender can all affect the amount of weight you lose. For this reason, you need to know your own body and you will see fat loss results from hiking. Out of all these factors, diet is the most important in combination with the exercise of hiking. When you manage what you eat in concert with consistent exercise, you will experience steady results.

Terrain

On nearly every trail you decide to take, there will be hills and valleys to keep you busy. If you are going up hill, you will burn more calories than someone just hiking on an open plain over the same distance. The terrain, though, is not consistent, so each time will be different.

If you are looking for a more intense way to burn calories while hiking, then consider backpacking. To prepare for any backpacking trip, you do need to hike on a regular basis.

Boost Your Mental Health

In a previous article, I wrote all about the mental health benefits of hiking. If you want to read more, then I would encourage you to dive into it. When it comes to your brain, hiking helps a few different areas in your mind.

  • Fight depression, hiking is a metaphor for life. There will be ups and downs, twists and turns, but, when you look back, you can feel pride in the journey you have accomplished. You feel that same feeling at the end of a good hike. You look from the top of a mountain or hill and swell with sweet emotion. If you hike with friends, then you bond with them through the mutual struggle.
  • Boost your mood. When you hike, you release endorphins, a powerful peptide that uplifts your spirit. The trees, rocks, view, scenery, streams, smells, and sounds cause you to put your life into perspective. The fresh air swells your chest with joy and hope for the future.
  • Creativity and problem solving ability, when you hike, you disconnect from technology. This forces you to be in the present moment and deal with the issue at hand. You have to look where you walk. The stimuli are emotionally positive and separate you from your problems, letting you escape from the past and future to the here and now. You can imagine greater for yourself after going on a hike.

Friendships

Hiking is an excellent opportunity to strengthen old friendships and make new ones. Bringing a friend or a new one with you on a hike will immediately strengthen your bond. As such, hiking brings a number of benefits to friendships.

Hiking makes new friends. When you walk with someone, it creates a sense of mutual struggle. You both are battling the same problem. You both are on this journey together and you will support each other to make it to the other side. If you are looking for people to hike with, then check out MeetUp. You can find people who like to hike and hit the trail with them.

Strengthen bonds with old friends. As has said been in this article, there is a struggle to hiking. The hill ain’t getting any smaller. When you have a friendship with someone and then you go on a hike with them, your relationship is further strengthened by the shared experience of hiking. You encourage one another up the hillside. It deepens your relationship, whether it be with a friend, significant other, or sibling.

Friends make hiking a lot more fun. You bond with one another through the experience and push each other to your goals. You reach new heights because of each other’s support.

Making the Time to Go Hike

Each of us lives very busy lives. There are kids to take care of, jobs to go to, family to see, and friends to hang out with. This makes finding the time to go hiking quite difficult. If you want to gain all of these benefits, then be sure to follow the tips below.

  1. Set a regular schedule and stick with it. People do not stick to their weight loss goals because they are inconsistent about it. All of us are habitual. If you integrate a constant time to hike into your routine, then you are more likely to follow through.
  2. Push yourself just beyond your abilities. Hiking 5 miles can be quite fun. If it is beyond what you are capable of though, then you should not do it. When you push yourself far beyond your capabilities, then you risk never going on a hike again. Do what you know you will do on a regular basis.
  3. Bring friends with you or make new ones. People stay at lousy jobs with poor pay because of the social network there. The same idea applies to hiking. A hiking group will provide you with the positive support structure to keep you coming back.

Gear You Will Need

When hiking, there are a number of pieces of gear that you will need with you on a hike. If you do not have the right gear with you, then you risk not getting all the benefits of a proper hike. The gear is listed below.

  • Backpack, this is the first piece of gear you will need with you on your hike. You will need it to store all the gear listed below.
  • Sunscreen, the sun causes burns, which can lead to skin cancer. Take the bit of extra time and put some on your skin. You will be thanking yourself down the road.
  • Multi tool, it helps quite a bit to have a multi tool. You can pop a beer bottle open or cut off some excess string. Its strength lies in its versatility. When you have a multi tool, you can do a lot in one tool.
  • Compass, you can tell the direction just from the sun, but it helps to have a compass. You can use it with a map to locate your position.
  • Topographical or trail map, when hiking, there are going to be a lot of different trails. It can be confusing to distinguish between all of them. To navigate, be sure to bring a map, so you can find your way.
  • Whistle, with a whistle in hand, you can call for help or use it to help find a friend. If there are animals nearby, then you can use it to scare them off, making this is a versatile must have tool for the wild.
  • Flashlight, darkness sets in quickly in the outdoors. It will surprise you how fast the sun goes down if you are not careful. For this reason, it is essential to have a flashlight when the sun goes down.
  • Food or small snack, when I hike, I like to bring a cliff bar and some fruit. It helps to give me the energy I need to complete the hike.
  • Rain gear, when hiking, there is always the possibility of rain. It happens, but it is no issue. Bring a poncho or rain jacket with you, so you can just shrug off the rain.
  • Trekking poles, a lot of people overestimate their balance. Trekking poles are a great way to stay steady despite your body’s inclination to tip over. Your future self will thank you for the investment in a good pair of poles.
  • Basic first aid kit, cuts, scrapes, and scratches do happen, but it is no big deal. You just need to patch it up and then you are all set to go.
  • Hat, the sun can be quite harsh, so it is important to have plenty of sun protection. It will protect you from a nasty burn and keep you cool. If you are staring into the sun, it will also help to keep the sun out of your eyes.
  • Dry bag or zip lock bag, if you have a phone or any other electronic with you, then you will want to keep it dry. If you have food with you, then a zip lock bag is an excellent place to store it.
  • Toilet paper, your body has its own schedule, especially when it comes to going to the bathroom. You cannot really control it, so play it safe and bring a bit of biodegradable toilet paper with you in case nature strikes.
  • Camel pack or water bottle, personally, I prefer a camel pack. They let you drink water while you are hiking, making it great for any trail. A water bottle is also another way to store water. Either way, you will need a way to keep water with you on your hike.
  • Hiking boots, these are the critical foundation for your hiking trip. For anything over 5 miles, you do not want to use new boots or else you risk blisters and setting yourself back. If hiking under 5 miles, then new boots should be fine.

Final Thoughts

Hiking helps your body, social life, and mental well-being, making it an activity with many benefits. After the next hike you go on, you will realize the power inside you and your own potential. More than likely, there is a trail near you where you can get started. Hit the trail, find yourself, and boost your health!

If you have any thoughts, think I missed anything, or have a question, do not hesitate to comment below and please do share this article. Thank you so much and I hope you make it a great day!

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24 Comments on “Hiking Health Benefits: Lose Weight and Boost Mindfulness”

  1. My favorite thing about hiking is it combines two of my favorite hobbies, getting some good exercise and photography. There’s nothing more rewarding then getting to the top of a high climb and being able to take a beautiful photo of the landscape and some photos of you and your friends having been able to summit the mountain!

    I wholeheartedly believe that hiking is great for both your physical and mental health, it is all about finding the right level of difficulty for your skills and fitness level!

    1. Yes Craig, hiking is wonderful for photography and exercise. People overlook it as a way to lose weight. It is wonderful for your boosting your body and spirit. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  2. This is certainly interesting Alex. Your article is very informative. I have never been on a camping trip before except when I was young boy in the boy scouts. My friends and I are are hoping to go with a group in February. This will certainly be of help. Cheers!

    1. It is good to know that you feel that way about this article. The Boy Scouts are an excellent organization for teaching kids about respecting nature and understanding it. I hope you have a fun trip in February. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  3. Hi there, great stuff. I used to hike a lot and really enjoyed it. Now that I live in Thailand it is not that much on my list anymore due to the heat and Thais are not really into walking 🙂
    I have to urge my family more to at least do some short hikes on the weekends.
    Seeing these pics and reading the article lets me really miss the beautiful and entertaining hikes we did in Switzerland.

    1. I appreciate the compliment Stefan. I am sure that there are some trails in Thailand you could take them on. Thailand must be quite a shift from Switzerland. It is a lot less humid there, with plenty of mountains to hike. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  4. Alex,
    As a Boy Scout leader, hiking and camping are big for me. Having broken my heel bone in the fall, I have not even walked until now. I am looking forward to the day I can get back on the trail and teach the young ones what you need to bring and what it will do for you head. You article will be very helpful.
    We like to cook and eat while on our hikes, finding the right combination for the trail is always something we do when planning our hike. What do you recommend for a half day or full day hike?
    John

    1. Hello John, it is wonderful to hear that you are Boy Scout leader. It must be very fun. I am sorry to hear about your heel bone. Hopefully it will heal soon, so you get back to teaching your scouts.

      When it comes to eating on a half day hike, I usually bring some apples and protein bars. For a full day hike, I bring a sandwich, apples, protein bars, and Gatorade. If you want to learn more, I would encourage you to check out this article I wrote. It gives some hiking food ideas in more depth than what I said here.

      Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  5. I have recently moved from Florida to North Carolina. We have mountains everywhere so I figure that I need to take up hiking.

    I found your article to be a great resource for me as a beginner. Also I never really gave thought to the mental side that hiking may provide.

    It looks a though you have covered everything here. Is there anything else I should keep in mind as I get started?

    Thanks,
    Brendon

    1. Yes Brendon, North Carolina has a lot of mountains and hills to hike. It is a wonderful state to visit. There is a lot to hiking that people forget, especially the mental side. Since you mentioned you were a beginner, I would encourage you to check out my article on Hiking Basics for Beginners. It will cover any concerns you have. I hope this helps you.

      Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

    1. That is wonderful to hear Amanda. There are quite a lot of health benefits to hiking. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  6. I love hiking! And you point out some great health benefits that I hadn’t really though of before. Problem solving skills is something I never really thought to be associated with hiking.

    Unfortunately, I have had problems with my hiking boots, and it often stresses me out rather than relaxing me because my feet always hurt!

    Do you happen to have a suggestion for good hiking boots? Cost is less important than functionality and comfort!

    1. Hey Isaya, people usually do not think of increased problem solving skills as a benefit of hiking, but it does help with that.

      I am sorry to hear about your issues with hiking boots. It is a common problem. When it comes hiking boots, you are probably going to want a pair for day hikes. I would encourage you to check these ones out from REI. They can be on expensive side though, but they will work well and last a long time. When buying online, go with a brand you know because they are consistent about the size. I do not have a particular brand in mind, so I would encourage you to read the reviews. The ones listed there are all high quality. I hope this helps you.

      Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  7. This is awesome. I ride bikes and I have to say that it is a direct connection to bike riding and hiking. You get to see nice scenery and you are getting fit as you are doing it. Now I must admit, for me, I would most definitely have to have someone with me. Most hiking trips are in areas where I would have to consider wildlife. I am from the city so I know nothing about it at all. Would you recommend going on a guided hike for a beginner?

    1. You are right Ronnie. Biking is a lot like hiking. Both offer splendid scenery and help your health.

      More than likely, if you are doing a day hike, you will not encounter wildlife. Dawn or dusk hikes are where you are more likely to encounter wildlife. That is when they are most active. Since you are a beginner though, I would encourage you to go on a guided hike. You can learn from experienced veterans and see what works for you.

      Thank you for your question and I hope you make it a great day!

  8. Hi, you will probably not believe me, but I have never gone hiking, but I have honestly considered it, but only once in my life. When I travelled to the Yosemite National Park in California and saw then many hikers and the beautiful weather, and those amazing woods, that was the first time ever I thought to go hiking with my whole family, but I have not done it so far.

    Your enthusiasm about it and the benefits for doing it sound great! Living in “perfect harmony” with nature sure helps us release stress levels, and other things that are bothering us. The fresh air and the exercise you get, surely are magnificent.

    I think one of my next vacations when my kids grow a little more, is going to be one of those trips. And going into Africas woods, what an amazing experience. Also the South-American Andes would be great place to go. Have you been there?

    Thanks for sharing,
    Oscar

    1. Hey Oscar, it is never too late to go hiking. There is always time. If you are concerned about how you will do it, I would encourage you to check out my article on hiking basics. Even though I am an expert, I still need to refresh my knowledge.

      When you go on a hike, time fades away and the present comes into focus. All that matters is now. It is a wonderful feeling.

      Unfortunately, I have not been to the South-American Andes, but I would enjoy mountaineering in that area. It sounds incredible. I have, though, been to Africa. I have traveled to South Africa and Kenya. Both are wonderful places to visit if you ever get the time.

      Thank you for sharing Oscar and I hope you make it a great day!

  9. Hi Alex. My wife and I are fulltime RVers. One of the things we love to do is hike. You include many good tips in this article. We are in an area for about six months and during that time we look for hiking trails nearby the campground we are staying at. We look for local and state parks, as well as national parks and forests.

    We are currently in northern FL and we found a local park, Alligator Lake Park. They have 9 trails, and we have hiked all of them. The longest trail is 3 miles. They would be considered beginner trails, which works for us now. We are looking to find more challenging trails where we could put your tips to good use. Do you have a favorite place you like to hike?…Dennis

    1. Hey Dennis, it is wonderful to hear that you are a full time RVer with your wife. It must be quite nice to fully immerse yourself in an area for 6 months or so.

      Florida sounds nice. There are a lot of swamps there with plenty of wildlife. Alligator Lake Park sounds interesting. Those trails are definitely for beginners.

      My own personal favorite is near my hometown in Los Gatos. There is a nice loop there around Lexington Reservoir. At the top of the hill, you get a beautiful view of Silicon Valley. Thank you for asking and sharing. I hope you make it a great day!

  10. Hello Alex,

    Very great article and I cannot agree more about mental health benefits that hiking provides. I know myself that every single time I am a bit down from day to day life, I just need to take a break in nature and I am full of energy again and ready to deal with all the problems. Also really like the fact that you have mentioned all the gear that I will need for successful hiking.

    Regards,
    Eugen

    1. It is good to know that you found this article helpful Eugen. If you are ever down, hiking definitely helps. It offers a much needed therapeutic break. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

  11. Hi Alex, I found your article on Hiking brought back so many of the lovely feelings of walking along a bush path in Zimbabwe. The smells, the unexpected sightings of army ants in formation travelling along in the grass. Seeing snakes basking in the sun on the path.(given a wide berth). Such a wonderful, free childhood. Then the amazing hikes on Table Mountain now that I live in Cape Town. We hiked every Saturday for many years. What a wonderful life. Am sure you will have many more happy years of enjoying the outdoors. Thank you.

    1. Zimbabwe must be a magical place. If you read my about me page, you will see that I have been to Kenya and South Africa (only Johannesburg and Kruger national park). Both are really spectacular. I would imagine Zimbabwe has a lot to offer. Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

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