Aside from being a great recreational outdoor activity, hiking is also a fun and surprisingly effective way to stay in shape. Though nothing beats a traditional workout such as road running or lifting weights, they are often less effective than other, more indirect fitness activities in the long run. How could this be? It’s simple: they’re boring – and it’s hard to keep up with an activity that you genuinely dislike. Luckily, outdoor lovers have a multitude of options for getting in shape – and one of the best of them is hitting the trail. Use the following tips to turn the hikes that you already love into calorie burners and energy boosters.
The Methodology of Hiking For Fitness
If you really want to get in good shape solely through hiking, leisurely strolls through the woods aren’t going to cut it. To use hiking as a means of exercise, there’s two things you have to remember. First and foremost is your heart rate. With any exercise activity, there is a “target heart rate”, or number of times your heart beats per minute, that is optimal for improving cardiovascular strength and burning calories. This target is pretty variable depending on your age and physical fitness, but the average person between 30 and 50 years old should be going for around 90 beats per minute on the low end and 145 beats per minute on the high end. As long as you’re in this range, you’re hiking hard enough to consider it effective exercise.
Measure Your Progress
The second important aspect of hiking for fitness is accurately measuring your progress. Every type of exercise has one common problem that gets in the way of physical development – it’s called a “plateau”. If your hikes begin to stagnate in intensity, your fitness level will stagnate along with them. The most effective way to combat this plateau problem is to measure the distance of your hikes and the time it takes to cover that distance. If your goal is cardiovascular endurance, increase the distance as your fitness level increases. Those hiking for weight loss, meanwhile, will effectively increase the intensity of their exercise by shortening the amount of time allotted to cover a given distance.
Keeping Your Hikes From Becoming a Chore
Of course, the main reason an outdoor lover might consider hiking for fitness is that it’s inherently more enjoyable than going to the gym. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that it won’t ever get tiresome. One good recommendation for preventing trail weariness is to vary the places you hike as much as possible. Look at it as an opportunity to get to know local trails and parks, as well as a chance to explore new areas.
If all else fails, one of the best motivational tools to get you off the couch is a companion on the trail. Try finding a friend who might be willing to undertake the hiking for fitness endeavor with you. When another person knows your goals and holds you to them, you’re much more likely to put in the work necessary to achieve them. And if none of your human friends is willing – man’s best friend is another great option. After all, they need to go for walks whether you particularly want to or not.