When I was last out hiking – with my legs aching, calves burning and hamstrings throbbing – I thought to myself why is hiking such a complete lower body workout? Obviously, I was walking so that’s half the reason….I’m actually using my legs. But I wanted to discover a more in-depth answer as to why each section of my body was feeling the way it was. After some research, I have my answer. Read on to find out more about how to get the most out of your hiking workout.
Why Is Hiking Such A Complete Lower Body Workout?
It Works On All Your Lower Leg Muscles
It is more of an obvious reason as to why you should try out hiking as a workout, but hiking up hills, along flat grounds or rising bumpy terrain, your legs certainly take the brunt of everything. They propel you forwards; stop you flying backwards and make sure that your as sturdy as possible. Here is a list of which leg muscles are used:
Quadriceps: The primary muscle that is used whilst your hiking up terrain is your quads. They are found at the front of your thighs. It’s the group of muscles that pull and contract to help you walk forwards, as there is more force required when walking up hills, it works this muscle more. The straightening and extension of the knee is caused by your quads.
Hamstrings: The hamstrings are tendons at the back of the thighs that attach the large thigh muscle to the bone. The hamstring consists of 3 muscles that run along the back of your thigh, from your hip to just below your knee. If you’ve ever felt an ache at the back of your thigh, its probably your hamstrings. These work with your quads to bend and flex the knee. They help pull your quads back as the body moves forwards.
Calves: The calves are the muscles found at the back of your lower leg. The big flabby muscle behind your shins. You’ve often massaged it after aches and pains. Your lower legs are constantly being used to move forwards and support your thighs whilst hiking.
Glutes: The glutes are muscles which help to support the torso (the trunk of the body). When out on the trail, glutes are needed to support both your bodyweight and that of your equipment (including tents, backpacks etc). The glutes are given a tough workout when hiking uphill compared to a flat surface which boost muscle gain and builds endurance.
Hip muscles: The hips work to help carry the weight of whatever you’re carrying. Not just body weight, but also your hiking backpack – often when our shoulders get tired our hips work harder to endure the weight.
It Boosts Your Endurance
First and foremost, hiking increases your heartbeat and applies stress. Essentially, it is a workout for your heart. Essentially, it has to pump blood faster to get oxygen to your muscles so that they can work. If you continuously stress your heart, it will be able to pump more blood with each beat – therefore your heartbeat can be lower and pumping the same amount of blood as you used to before you started hiking.
Hiking also helps at higher altitudes. It is almost the same thing. There is less oxygen the higher up you go. Surely that’s a bad thing? Quite the opposite!
Consider hiking as a sport and the participants as athletes. The higher up they go, the more red blood cells they need to carry oxygen to the muscles. Altitude trains your body to produce more red blood cells over a prolonged period of time. It strengthens your heart and so the next time you go, your heart will be strong enough to pump more red-blood cells to your body.
It Helps with Cross-Training
Hiking works as an activity that can work out pretty much the whole body. If you use hiking poles you can use your arms to help propel you. The steeper you go, the more it works out both your legs and your heart.
Think of it like this. Are you ever tired of going to the gym and having to work out your legs on one day, arms on another and then back the next? It just takes so long. Which is why hiking is so great.
You don’t need to keep going back everyday to work a different muscle out. It does it all. It stops any imbalances, so don’t worry about one arm being bigger than another or skipping leg day.
For even better whole-body performances, you can add weights to your backpack. Not only does that help strengthen your lower back and shoulders, but it helps work the hips and increase the pressure on the thighs when walking. They in turn have to produce more force to propel your forwards giving you a greater workout.
Its perfect for the whole-body experience.
More Amazing Benefits
Experiencing climbs in picturesque locations and quiet environments can really improve stress and mental health. There is a certain calmness and meditation that is involved.
- Reduced stress levels, better mood, and enhanced mental wellbeing
- A better quality of life with enhanced relationships with friends and family
Because you’re working out your heart it helps with:
- A reduced risk for heart disease
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower cholesterol levels
As you’re burning calories it helps:
- Improve control over healthy weight
- Lower body fat
You’re not just working out your muscles – your bones take some impact too. Weight-bearing and resistance exercises are the best for your bones forcing you to work against gravity:
- Improved bone density
- Improved osteoarthritis outcomes
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