Whether you’re looking to lose weight, reduce stress, or simply clear your head and get out into nature, hiking delivers almost immediate rewards.
It’s also a sport that doesn’t tolerate procrastination or excuses for very long. Assuming you haven’t been leading a totally sedentary life, you can follow a few basic steps and begin hiking right away.
And if you’re looking for some motivation to get off the couch and onto the trail, consider these reasons to start hiking.
It’s Healthy. Is it ever! While there is a growing amount of hiking-specific research, studies of the benefits of walking are equally applicable to hiking.
According to the American Hiking Society, hiking delivers a remarkable range of health benefits with comparatively few risks. By using hiking as a way to stay physically active, you can potentially lose weight, reduce heart disease, decrease hypertension, and slow the aging process. It also offers mental health benefits by reducing stress and anxiety.
It’s Simple. As you hike more frequently, you’ll begin to develop additional stamina, skills, and comfort on the trail. But let’s face it, what activity is more fundamentally human than walking upright on two feet?
The beauty of hiking is that unlike, say, land luge, it's an extension of something we all do naturally and every day. You will improve over time but the initial learning curve is almost non-existent. It’s easy to stick with hiking because the frustration level for beginners is low and you can control the intensity of your workout and find the pace that works for you.
It’s Cheap. Compared to just about any other sport, your upfront spending for hiking essentials is minimal.
Good boots, a few pieces of the proper clothing, a comfortable pack, and you’re pretty much ready to go. Overall, it’s not a sport for gearheads—nor do you have to worry about paying $275 for a tee time.
As you get more into hiking, maybe you will decide to try a hiking vacation halfway around the world. But most of us have easy access to parks and natural areas with trails, so you don’t have to spend a lot of money (or time) to head out on a hike.
It’s Real. We all spend too much time on computers and indoors under fluorescent lights. Or texting and watching TV (often texting while watching TV). Hiking encourages you to step away from your desk and step back out into nature.
It’s a chance to experience the world directly and without a filter, and to rediscover the rhythms of the day and the seasons. Hiking is an unscripted experience where spontaneity is the rule. Even a trail hiked many times before will deliver surprises that keep boredom at bay.
I just got back from a hike on one of my favorite trails in Malibu. I spotted a baby rattlesnake, probably 50 lizards, brown pelicans, hawks, spring wildflowers, rabbits, and dolphins riding the surf. All in less than an hour.
What can I say? Reality beats reality TV any day.
It’s Forever. As much as hiking is a great way to introduce kids to the world of the outdoors, it’s also a sport that they’ll be able to enjoy their whole lives. So can you.
A lot of activities and sports have limited life spans for participants, either because of injuries or logistical challenges (when was the last time you got 18 people together at the last minute for a softball game?). But because hiking is low impact and you can anticipate and control the intensity and duration of your workout, it’s something that you can keep doing long after your rugby days are finished.
As you get older, you may not get up a mountain as quickly. Or cover 20 miles in a day. But in many ways, you’ll be a better hiker. Your understanding of the environment will improve and you’ll pick up more details and nuance along the trail.