Wilderness boost: Why hiking does wonders for your mind and body

  If you’ve ever had to catch your breath on an uphill stretch of trail or if your legs have felt sore after a hike, you know that hiking is a workout. You’ve also likely experienced some of the health benefits of hiking: improved cardiovascular performance, more endurance, stronger muscles and a better mood.

While many people hike simply for the enjoyment of it, there is no denying how beneficial a walk through the woods can be for your physical health.

In an age of trendy fitness studios, high-tech workout trackers and expensive personal trainers, it can be easy to forget that the simple act of hiking is an exercise powerhouse. However, scientific research and health professionals alike agree that hitting the trails is advantageous for all aspects of physical fitness.

For many people, the idea of burning calories is one of the first things that comes to mind when they think about working out. Our bodies use stored energy (calories) to support normal body functions and to fuel us during physical activity. While any type of physical movement will result in the body using its stored energy, the unique nature of hiking can result in greater calorie burn than other forms of exercise.

In fact, research from the University of Florida concluded that walking on uneven terrain, like that of hiking trails, causes the body to use 28 percent more energy than walking on flat, even ground due to the subtle shifts in the way your leg muscles must lengthen or shorten while hiking.

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