Hiking is a popular outdoor recreational activity that is more vigorous than walking, and typically involves going longer distances, over rougher, more inaccessible, or remote terrain.

Hiking is inexpensive, easy to get started on, provides multiple bodies, heart and mind benefits, and is a progressive exercise you can do solo or in groups.

How Did Hiking Start?

While historians cannot pinpoint when hiking originated, it is believed that Iceman climbed the Alps some 5,000 years ago. The first record of hiking trek was in the year 125 when Roman Emperor Hadrian hiked to Etna. The Incans made religious treks to the Andes between 1400 and 1500. The current concept of hiking – as part of mountaineering – likely occurred with more recent mountaineering milestones between 1874 and 1985.

Type of Exercise

Hiking is a total body and cardiovascular exercise. The major body parts hiking targets include the quadriceps, biceps, abs, forearms, glutes, groin, hamstrings, chest and calves.

Hiking Preparations

You don’t just get out on a trail and go hiking. Preparation is key. The more difficult or longer a trail you’re attempting, the more extensive your hiking preparations need to be.

Physical Prep

Start preparing your body for hiking one or two months before the hike. Best exercises to get in good hiking physical shape include:

  • Hiking up/down trails, hills, mountains to build muscles
  • Running sprints, about 20-30 seconds, on flat ground/hills
  • Stepdown
  • Lunges
  • Belgian split quads
  • Kettle swings to work the hips, glutes and hamstrings

What to Take on a Hike

Whether it’s a day hike or a long-distance hike, what to take on a hike is paramount. Include the following in your pack:

  • Bandanna or buff
  • Sunglasses
  • Phone
  • Snacks
  • Water
  • Extra gear
  • Water filter
  • Trekking poles
  • Good camera
  • Rain or wind jacket
  • Liner socks
  • Leukotape for blisters

How to Hike

Choose your trail. Prepare your gear. Get out on the trail or route and begin hiking. Be sure to pace yourself, drink plenty of water, and guard against fatigue. It’s also important to know when to stop and rest.

Benefits of Hiking

Not yet an endurance athlete? Some of the immediate benefits of hiking include:

  • Weight Loss – The exercise does encourage weight loss. Day hiking can burn upwards of 5,000 calories, although more modest caloric burns are also beneficial.
  • Toning Whole Body – Hiking is perhaps one of the easiest ways to tone the whole body.
  • Builds Stamina – As form of aerobic exercise, hiking boosts flexibility and strength, increases stamina and tempers fatigue.
  • Bone Strengthening – By slowing calcium loss, hiking strengthens bone density and strength. The exercise also helps prevent bone diseases, such as osteoporosis and arthritis.
  • Stress Relief – Hiking is a natural stress reliever, since being in nature rapidly dissipates stress levels.

Other hiking benefits include core strengthening, improved balance, lowered heart and blood pressure rates.

Different Types of Hikes

Here’s an overview of the different types of hikes:

  • Day Hiking – A day hike is one you can do in one day, without carrying an overwhelming amount of gear. It’s best for beginners.
  • Base Hiking – Starting and ending in a base camp, you spend more time outdoors and don’t have to haul as much gear as more difficult or longer hikes.
  • Section Hiking – Once you’ve been hiking for a few years, you’ll probably want to spend more time on various sections of longer trails.
  • Thru-Hiking – With thru-hiking, you complete longer trails in one stretch. Thru-hiking trails include Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and Appalachian Trail.

Variants include backpacking hiking, overnight hiking, nature or scenic hiking, rope-guided hiking, and more.

The Grand Canyon’s Bright Angel Trail is a good scenic day hiking example.