BlogMarch 2024

Discover the Health Benefits of Hiking

Discover the Health Benefits of Hiking

By Jeff Bogle

Mar 25, 2024

Discover the health benefits of hiking and learn how hiking can help with anxiety relief, improve flexibility, and strengthen muscles.

From crunching leaves underfoot during colorful forest hikes in the fall to hiking for mindfulness as the flowers bloom during the best hikes in springtime, the health benefits of hiking are numerous and are not bound to the season, the weather (you can even hike in the cold of winter!), or your location. Hiking is healthy because physical activity combined with time spent outdoors in the fresh air can help with weight loss, stress relief, and muscle building, and hiking improves sleep too. The best part is that, while they are beautiful, you don't need trails that take you along a snowy mountain range or past a series of epic waterfalls to reap the benefits of hiking! Sure those day hikes are scenic and photogenic, but you can experience the mental health benefits of hiking while hiking with your dog, venturing out on historical hikes, and even while getting sandy during a beach hiking adventure along the coastline. Even the shortest hike around your neighborhood can help you mentally, emotionally, and physically.

Now let's take a closer look at why hiking is healthy and how getting outside for a walk, even a short one, can offer anxiety relief, improve flexibility in your joints, and strengthen your muscles.

The Mental Health Benefits of Hiking


One of the greatest things about hiking is that you don't need a lot of special equipment or fancy gear to do it, nor do you need a wealth of experience with backpacking or anything extreme like glacier hiking to enjoy the many health benefits of hiking. You simply need to open the door and take that literal first step toward improved self-esteem and improved cardiovascular health. Making a fresh connection with nature stimulates creativity, offers depression relief, and fills your lungs and mind with clean air and clear thoughts, respectively.

It is a reality of modern life that stress and anxiety are unavoidable in today’s world, but one of the mental health benefits of hiking is depression relief and an improved mood thanks to a connection to nature that's peaceful, calming, and helps you focus on what matters most in life. Just a few minutes worth of outdoor exercise like hiking each day can make a person feel more confident in themselves. Hiking for mindfulness can help you feel physically and mentally stronger, boost your self-esteem, and give you an increased sense of resilience and independence so that you can handle the hectic and unpredictable world.

Physical Benefits of Hiking


Hiking Improves Balance and Coordination

Even if you're just hiking with your dog locally each morning, as progress along the trail, your leg and core muscles will be engaging with the terrain to provide stability and strengthening over time which means your balance is improving with every step too. Your mind is also participating in this scientific process because it is more awake and aware as it reacts to your movement and surroundings.

Muscle Building

Hiking is healthy for your muscles, of course! In fact, hiking is a phenomenal way to exercise almost every major muscle group in your body. For example, when you go uphill, your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves are being strengthened. Meanwhile, on the way back down, your hiking will be working your ankles, hips, joint health, and core. With the addition of hiking poles and backpacking, your arm and back muscles can get in on the action, too.

Weight Loss

If you dislike traditional exercise like running on a treadmill, hiking could be a great way to experience weight loss naturally and in peaceful surroundings, while also getting much-needed relief from the anxiety of everyday life. While the number of calories you will burn during day hikes will depend on your current weight and the intensity of your movement, every step along any trail will get you closer to your weight loss goal.

Making plans for warm weather hiking trips? Check out these essential tips for summer hiking before you hit the trails!

Jeff Bogle
Jeff Bogle
Jeff is a dad of teen daughters, avid traveler, photographer, and freelance writer. He’s penned stories on family travel, outdoor recreation, the environment, parenting, and more for Fodor’s, Reader’s Digest, Parents Magazine, Good Housekeeping, PBS, and Esquire, among other publications. Find him on his blog, and on Instagram @OWTK. Jeff is also the publisher of the quarterly literary zine, Stanchion