10 Reasons You Should Make Hiking a Habit This Year

The new year is here, and you’ve likely already come up with a few resolutions to strive for this year. One of those goals may have been improving your health and fitness. Getting outdoors and taking a hike is the perfect way to hit your health goals, while evading overcrowded gyms and costly fad fitness classes. Research may say it takes 21 days to make a habit, but getting yourself out on the trail is the first step, and a step you’ll likely want to repeat again and again soon after.

Still not convinced you should make hiking a habit this year? We’ve compiled ten reasons to help sway your opinion, and hopefully prompt you to step outside this weekend.

1. It’s Cardio You Won’t Hate

Ever thought “Wow, where did the time go?”. You likely weren’t running on a treadmill while thinking that. Cardio is an arduous task, something most of us have to dig deep to gather the motivation to do. Once we are done with it, it’s not something we look forward to doing again.

Perhaps one of the greatest aspects of hiking is you hardly notice how much time has passed or how far you’ve gone. You don’t find yourself consistently watching the clock tick. Rather you’re focused on the constantly changing scenery in front of you, which serves as a great distraction for the actual work you’re putting in. If you’re looking to shed a few pounds and dread the gym, a hike may not be a bad thing to try.

2. You’ll Gain a New Appreciation for the Outdoors

I’ll be the first to admit it, I used to think conservation was something only tree-hugging hippies were into. Not that there’s anything wrong with being a tree-hugging hippie, I consider myself to now be a tree-hugger and have plenty of self-proclaimed hippie friends. It was only until I found myself outdoors each weekend that I fully understood why people are so passionate about conserving the outdoors for generations to come to enjoy.

Our public lands truly are spectacular and are protected for good reason. There’s nothing like walking along a litter-free, undistributed trail and truly being able to take in all its glory. The more you spend time outside, the more you feel compelled to actually wrap your arms around a tree, and appreciate the wilderness for all it is.

3. You’ll Have Real Conversations

Have you noticed when you go out to dinner with a group of friends many of them will be tethered to their phones? In an age where the Internet and social media are more prevalent than ever, it’s nice to sometimes be forced out of our time-consuming habits. Going on a hike requires you to disconnect from technology, and spend quality one-on-one time with your hiking companions. This allows you to engage in deeper and more meaningful conversations, the kind of communication necessary to build a relationship. If you’re looking to strengthen your friendship, hiking is the perfect way to do it.

4. You’ll Diversify Your Social Media

In an era where Instagram models seem to reign supreme, stand out from the crowd. Rather than sharing pictures of yourself drinking with your friends or strategically sprawled across the beach in a bikini, post a picture of yourself on top of an impressive peak. Your following will not only likely enjoy something different in their feed, but you may also inspire someone else to make hiking a habit. Plus it will show others you have cool hobbies and enjoy doing more than just hitting the bars on the weekend.

5. It’s Something You Can Control

I often find it difficult to stay committed to instructor-lead workout classes. Not only do they sometimes go above or below a comfortable pace, I feel defeated when I can’t do a move or series of moves correctly. I then slowly begin to lose interest in the activity, causing me to seek something more natural and comfortable to me. The beauty of hiking is it can be as difficult as you want it to be. You can walk slowly or you can walk at a brisk pace. You can tackle tall peaks or walk leisurely along a lake. Hiking is what you make it, and you can control your overall experience in terms of difficulty, length, and time.

6. You’ll See More Destinations

Once you catch the hiking bug, you’ll catch it good. You’ll find yourself wanting to venture a little bit further. When I was hit with the bug, I started out just hiking in San Diego county. Then I slowly began to expand my reach a little bit further, hitting Los Angeles and Riverside. Eventually, it progressed into traveling out of state and then later out of the country to hike to new destinations.

You too, may find yourself seeing more of the world by simply making hiking a habit. Maybe you’ll find yourself at one of our country’s many astonishing national parks. Perhaps you’ll find yourself tackling a multi-day backpacking adventure to Machu Picchu or trekking in Patagonia and Tierra Del Fuego. Either way, hiking will take you to a bevy of incredible places you have to see to believe.

7. You’ll Save Some Cash

It’s a Saturday morning, what do you usually do? You might wake up and go grab brunch and coffee with friends. You might wander the streets of a farmer’s market and pick up some new goods. Or you may find yourself spending more than you’d like at your favorite department store. Before you know it, you’ve spent money you could have saved.

Hiking is essentially a free activity. The only money you really need to spend is the initial investment of equipment and the gas it takes to drive to the trail. Aside from the minimal expense it takes to transport yourself to a trail, hiking is a very affordable activity that will keep money in your pocket for other activities.

8. Your Mind Will Thank You

It’s incredible what a little fresh air will do. Researchers have long touted the mental benefits of being outdoors–in fact it’s been proven to be beneficial for those who suffer from both depression and anxiety. A little fresh air is a good mood booster for anyone. Not only will you be immersed in nature, you’ll also be disconnected from your every day life. Your major life stressors are put to the side for a few hours leaving you to focus on you and the serenity around you.

9. You’ll Feel More Productive

When I find myself with the off-weekend where I’m not hiking, I tend to sleep in and get moving around noon. By the time the day is over, I’ve accomplished nearly nothing and feel entirely unproductive. The completely opposite can be said when I get a hike in. By the time I’m done, I’ve spent the greater majority of my day immersed in nature and exploring the unknown. I feel a strong sense of accomplishment and it doesn’t feel as though my day has gone to waste. You too may experience the same feelings if you making getting outside on your days off a habit.

10. You Won’t See the Same Sights Twice

Even if you hike the same trail twice, you’ll see something new each time. Depending on the time of year you hike, the scenery will likely change, the sights will change, wildlife you encounter will change, and you may even change up your hiking companions. The beauty of nature is it is ever changing, which makes taking a hike always enjoyable because you never know what you’ll see next. By making hiking a habit, you’ll get to see your favorite trails evolve as the year goes on.

Now that the new year is in full swing, it’s time to start following through on your resolutions. Will taking a hike be one of them?