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Hiking is not just a way to achieve your daily step goal. It's actually a killer exercise for the mind and body. "It's the best workout -- when you start at a good, steady pace, it quickly increases your endorphins," says Michelle Lovett of Los Angeles-based coach C.S.C.S., who often goes with clients hiking. "And it awakens the senses!"
If you're considering changing your regular neighborhood walk to hiking along the trails, here are some of the benefits of hiking.
5 Benefits of Hiking
You will increase your calorie burn.
Even if you stick to your normal walking pace, you're likely to burn more calories. According to the Mayo Clinic, a 160-pound person burns 438 calories on a hike and 204 calories on foot—more than double the calories burned! "Slopes and descents, as well as uneven terrain, require more muscle activation, raising your heart rate, which increases calorie burn," says Lovett.
You will have an afterburner effect.
Even if you're not sprinting up the hill, Lovett explains, you could be hitting the EPOC, or consuming too much oxygen after exercise (the afterburn effect). If the trail you choose is hilly, and you're not used to exercising at high altitudes, your heart rate will likely stay high (for most of your hike. When you're done, your body will burn extra before rebuilding its oxygen reserves) of calories for up to 48 hours.
You will get an energy boost.
Instead of having afternoon tea on weekends, take the trail. Researchers at the University of Rochester found that fresh air can wake you up like a cup of coffee.
You will improve your mood.
You read that right - research shows that a five-minute hike in any type of green space can help improve mood and boost self-esteem. If you're really ambitious, the same study found that a full day of hiking and camping may lead to even greater progress.
You'll get a full body workout - including your brain.
As Lovett mentioned, difficult and uncertain terrain can cause you to use many different muscles in your body. "You might have to jump off a boulder, climb a trail, or balance on a fallen tree to cross a river," Lovett said. "Hiking takes the boredom out of exercise because you really Be aware of your surroundings, and sometimes a walk can give your brain a pause."