Hiking is an excellent pastime for anyone seeking to connect with nature and take a break from their stressful everyday life. Although different hiking trails call for varying fitness levels, some people might wonder if hiking is considered a low impact exercise. We have researched whether hiking is indeed a low impact exercise and if it is safe for people with certain health conditions to do.
Hiking is generally considered a low impact exercise, as one foot is constantly in contact with the ground. Low impact exercises, such as hiking, are great for joint support and are more suitable for people recovering from injuries than high impact exercises, such as running or jumping.
Although hiking is considered a low impact exercise, that does not mean hiking isn’t a challenging form of exercise. There are various levels of difficulty when it comes to hiking, and you can easily make the hiking trail more difficult. This article discusses the health benefits of hiking, if hiking is good for weight loss, and making hiking more effective for weight loss training.
Table of Contents
Why Is Hiking Considered A Low Impact Exercise?
Before discussing why hiking is considered a low impact exercise, it is essential first to understand exactly what is meant by low impact exercise as there is a lot of confusion surrounding the term. Low impact does not mean easy or ineffective. Instead, low impact means that one foot is always placed on the ground during the exercise.
This allows you to have better stability and a smaller chance of injury while training. Low impact exercises are also less strenuous on your joints, as they aren’t taking as much impact as when doing high impact exercises. Low impact exercises are a fantastic option for anyone but are specifically suitable for the following groups:
- Pregnant women
- Elderly people
- People recovering from injuries
- People who have joint problems or arthritis
Note that a low impact exercise, such as hiking, can still be a high intensity exercise. High intensity exercises cause an increase in your heart rate, which helps with fat loss and endurance. Apart from helping with weight loss and improving endurance, there are many other health benefits related to hiking, such as:
- Improving balance
- Strengthening your lower body, including your glutes, hamstrings, calves, and quadriceps
- Strengthening your core
- Improve your bone density, which can help combat osteoporosis and other skeletal issues
- Lower stress and anxiety levels
- Lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels
- Reduce your chances of developing heart conditions
Furthermore, hiking is an excellent activity if you require some time spent in nature and away from technology and the stresses of modern-day life. Hiking enhances your mood by placing you in an environment with beautiful scenery.
The clean air you breathe while hiking also helps to improve your sleep and energy levels. In addition, you are also getting some much-needed vitamin D from the sun.
Even though hiking is a low impact exercise, that doesn’t mean that hiking can’t be challenging. As we have mentioned, hiking is a good form of cardio, which can help you to lose weight. However, there are various things to do that can increase the intensity of hiking.
How To Make Hiking A More Intense Low Impact Exercise
Increasing the intensity of your hikes will help to improve your endurance and fat loss percentage. However, some people need to stick to low impact exercises. This does not, however, mean that you cannot still do high intensity training.
Hiking is generally considered a moderate-intensity workout. This means that you are burning some fat and improving your endurance while hiking. However, if you seek a high intensity workout from hiking, you can follow these tips.
1. Choose A More Challenging Terrain
Hiking on a flat surface is great for beginners. However, suppose you want to improve your endurance and get a more intense workout from hiking. In that case, you must choose a terrain that is more challenging. For example, a hiking trail with hills or uneven surfaces will increase your heart rate and improve your balance and endurance.
Remember that hiking downhill is straining on your knees. Therefore, if you have joint problems, use hiking poles when hiking terrain with many hills and uneven surfaces.
2. Carry Extra Weight When Hiking
If hills aren’t quite what you had in mind, you can still increase the intensity of your hike by adding more weight. Bring a backpack loaded with water and other items, or wear ankle weights while hiking. An increase in weight means that you are pushing your body more, causing an increase in your heart rate. This will help you lose weight faster and will improve your endurance.
3. Increase Your Hiking Time And Speed
When first hiking, you should start with a short hiking trail and walk at a slow pace to ensure you don’t exert too much or get injured. However, as your fitness improves, aim for longer hikes or try to complete the trek in a shorter time. Doing so will improve your stamina and fitness.
Combining these three methods will intensify your hiking trip, leading to an improvement in endurance and better weight loss prospects. Even though hiking is a low impact exercise, it is not without dangers. When you increase the intensity of the hike, the risks also increase.
What Are The Dangers Of Hiking?
Hiking is a great activity that all can enjoy. However, as with any sport or activity, hiking has some risks. These risks increase when the trail is more difficult or you have more weight to carry around. Here are some dangers of hiking that you should look out for.
- Exposure and isolation. When hiking, you are often isolated from others and far from medical help. If you get hurt, it might be some time before someone can assist you. Therefore, take care when hiking, and bring a first-aid kit to deal with minor injuries.
- Dehydration and sunstroke. Hiking is a strenuous activity that is intensified when you hike on a hot summer’s day. It is easier to get dehydrated when hiking in hot weather, and if you are exposed to the sun, you could get sunstroke. Drink enough water when hiking and bring sun protection.
- Wildlife and the terrain. Often when hiking, you will come across some of the local wildlife. While many creatures are harmless, snakes and predators might also be lurking about. So be aware of your surroundings. Also, be mindful of falling rocks, loose or slippery terrain, and cliff drops.
Overall, you can easily ensure a safe hiking trip by being vigilant and taking the proper precautions. Hiking is generally a safe activity so long you take care and don’t endanger yourself or others.
Hiking is a low impact exercise that is great for people struggling with joint problems. Although hiking is low impact, it is not low intensity, and you can still improve your endurance and burn fat while hiking. Increasing the lengths of your hike, adding weight, and choosing a more challenging terrain are all ways to make hiking a higher intensity activity. Hiking is not without its risks, so take care and be safe.