I was lucky to meet with Leslie Rubero well know travel blogger and took this opportunity to ask her if hiking can get me in shape. Here is her long, insightful answer.
Personal trainers often find themselves faced with clients that say that they would love to lose weight and get in shape but that getting fit is impossible because they don’t have exercise equipment at home and they can’t afford a gym membership.
Those excuses might seem valid at first – but they are simply excuses. There’s no need to pay for that gym membership after all, when the biggest playground in the world is available for free. Hiking gives you access to vast open terrain, with more varied programmes and challenges than any treadmill, and it’s open all day, every day, for no charge.
Most people live within walking or public transport distance of some form of a park, woodland or hiking trail, so it should be easy to go for a nice hike, and you don’t need to pay for a monthly gym membership or buy much in the way of specialist equipment. You would need walking shoes and warm clothes, but if you can’t afford those right now, then you still have options. Cut one fast food meal per week, go for a walk around the block for exercise, wearing whatever shoes you normally walk in, and then when you’ve saved up enough for some shoes you can tackle the more exciting trails.
Walking is a great form of exercise – it offers cardiovascular benefits, and it gets you moving which can help to improve your balance and mobility, loosen tight hips, and improve your posture compared to sitting in a computer chair all day.
It is common for people to lose strength, mobility and bone density as they get older. Doing weight-bearing exercises can improve bone density, but you still need to be strong and limber, and have good balance. Falls, and complications related to the injuries caused by the falls, are a leading cause of death in older people. What better way to improve your balance and avoid a fall than to spend your spare time walking on uneven terrain, using the muscles and the nerve endings associated with balance?
Walking can help to improve your cardiovascular fitness too. It’s not as efficient per time compared to running, but it is something that is accessible to anyone, including those who do not think of themselves as fit. If you’re hiking carrying a pack and maintaining a brisk pace as you work towards a summit, then you will be improving your lung capacity, lowering your resting heart rate, and helping your body to be supplied with oxygen-rich blood. Your whole cardiovascular system will get fitter, and your body will be supplied with blood, even to the extremities that may not always get good circulation.
Hiking is something that anyone can do – when you’re out there burning calories and drinking water, you are doing the best possible things for your health. Country air is better than city pollution for your lungs, and drinking water is more healthful than drinking a Starbucks!
Many people enjoy hiking as a social activity, and this indirectly helps you to get in shape. When you’re walking with friends, you’re more likely to turn up even if you’d rather be on the sofa watching Stranger Things. The social element provides motivation, and helps you to keep going when there are other distractions. Since consistency is a vital part of getting in shape, anything that will get you turning up week after week will help.
Another challenge that people face is that of scaling their exercise. When you’re not used to moving, even walking to work instead of taking the bus or driving is a challenge. When you’re fit, that’s just a part of your daily routine and to stay very fit you need to do so much more. The good thing about hiking is that you can start with a trail that takes you around the sights of the city park and that most people might think of as a ‘nature walk’ rather than a hike, then progress to some nice hills, and work your way up to the mountains in the national parks. There are challenges for everyone, from those who have bad knees and desk jobs to dedicated athletes who compete in other sports.
Hiking can be as challenging or as relaxing as you want to make it. Carry a heavy pack, and even a short trip becomes a workout. Split a long trail over a couple of days, and it becomes a holiday that involves spending very little money at all. Whatever you want to do, you can get it from this activity.
Try to stick to marked out hiking trails that are recommended by your local authority when you’re a beginner because that will help you to get started in a safe and fun way. If you’re going camping, remember that it gets cold at night, even in the summer, because the lack of cloud cover in the sky means that the sun’s heat will dissipate quickly. For this reason, you should pack some extra layers of clothing and a warm sleeping bag. Take plenty of food and water, and have a fully charged mobile phone (assuming you’re not going so far afield that you won’t have cell coverage). Tell your friends and family where you are going as well, and how often you expect to be able to check in with them.
For the most part, hiking is low risk, and what it does to your body and brain is amazing. People talk about the runner’s high, but there is a hiker’s high as well. When you’re out there in the wilderness, seeing views that very few other living people have seen, you’re connected with nature in a way that is truly special, and you’ll have a sense of wellbeing that you don’t get when you’re in the gym on a treadmill. Why not join a hiking club and go for a walk this weekend, to see what you’ve been missing out on?
If you would like to know more about Leslie, you can check her website or connect with her through her social profiels here: