10 Reasons Why Hiking Is Better Than the Gym

Going to the gym is perhaps one of the healthiest decisions an individual can make. Without having the option to go to a gym, some people would opt to go home, lay on their couch, and enjoy their favorite snacks while watching TV. There are some people who can only exercise in a gym-like environment—filled with people, workout classes, and a healthy dose of competition to motivate them to work out. Stair-steppers, treadmills, ellipticals, and aerobic classes all yield significant results when weight training and a healthy diet are also incorporated yet there is a different form of activity I tend to gravitate towards: hiking.

One of the best calorie-burning, all-around conditioning activities that anyone can engage in is hiking. The best part of hiking is there aren’t monthly memberships, small and crowded spaces, and long waits for machines. Instead you can breath in the fresh air of the great outdoors, participate in a hike for a small price—gas to get there and maybe a trail conservation fee. Yes going to the gym is encouraged, in fact I try to go myself 4-5 days a week on top of hiking. Yet, the gym simply can’t compete with Mother Nature. Here are 10 reasons I’d choose hiking over the gym any day of the week:

1. Better Inclines

Treadmills and elliptical machines have adequate incline and decline features that make you feel as though you are walking uphill. However, nothing beats actually experiencing this in the great outdoors. For experiencing true uphill and downhill jaunt, nothing beats going hiking. Not only is the terrain more rugged, which will in turn help you burn more fat, it also isn’t limiting. There may be portions of the trail where you find yourself literally having to grab hold of rocks to get yourself uphill. This same feat can’t be mimicked at the gym.

2. Take a Walk in the Wilderness

Things you’ll find in the gym: sweaty humans, piles of equipment, numerous machines. Things you’ll find in nature: sweeping mountain views, unique rock formations, furry creatures frolicking in fields, breathtaking bodies of water. You get picture. Taking a walk in the wilderness is something that can’t be replicated at the gym. You’ll have the opportunity to take in some truly captivating views as opposed to the throngs of people in a packed gym or the television hanging overhead.

3. Save Money

Forget overpriced monthly gym memberships. Taking a walk in nature rarely comes at a price—aside from investing in a good pair of hiking boots, maybe some trekking poles, and possibly a conservation or state park fee. If you hike with friends, you can make this activity even more affordable by splitting parking/entrance fees. If you are interested in saving money, hiking is the activity for you.

4. Increase Your Endurance

At the gym, it is easy to give up when something gets too difficult or you feel too tired. You can always come back tomorrow to get those extra reps or sets in. When you go hiking, this isn’t the case. If you don’t get to the top of the peak, you will have to make a lot of effort to get in the car, pack your backpack, and head back to the same trail at a different date. Hiking increases your endurance and forces you to push yourself to your limits. Just the anticipation of viewpoints and unique formations alone can be a significant motivator towards pushing yourself further and reaching your conditioning goals.

5. Ease Depression

Feeling a little blue? A nature hike with a friend or partner can help improve your mood. According to a study from the University of Michigan, group nature walks are linked to enhanced mental health and positivity, as well as significantly lower levels of depression and reduced stress. In the same study, people who recently experienced stressful life events like marital separation, unemployment, serious illness, or death of a loved one saw a mood boost after an outdoor walk.

6. Strengthen Your Immunity

At the gym you are at risk for contracting numerous germs. Wiping down a machine can eliminate this but often people forget to do so. In nature, not only do you not have to worry about coming in contact with pieces of equipment that hundreds of people have touched you are also being exposed to natural immunity boosters—such as vitamin D from sunlight. Researchers at Tokyo’s Nippon Medical School found that women who spent six hours in the woods over the course of two days had an increase in virus tumor fighting white blood cells, and the boost lasted for seven days after.

7. Breathe Fresh Air

Sense of smell is closely linked to the parts of the brain responsible for processing emotion. The scents we inhale have an immediate and profound impact, especially when outside. Trees and plants emit phytoncides—a volatile organic compound and wood essential oil. Inhaling phytoncides slows down breathing and reduces anxiety according to Forest Holidays. This is something that can’t be experienced in a gym-like environment.

8. Promotes Healthy Aging

Who knew going on a hike could promote healthy aging. The connection between less time outdoors and the acceleration of dementia is considerable according to the multiple authors of an Open University research paper entitled The impact of early dementia on outdoor life: A ‘shrinking world’? The paper claims that “maintaining outdoor activity is likely to be an effective preventative measure in extending the period of good quality living.”

9. No Wait

Unlike the gym, there is no wait to go hiking. You don’t need to pace back and forth, waiting for the person using the same dumbbells you were about to reach out for before they beat you to it. Once you hit the trail, there is no waiting for a piece of machinery or equipment.

10. Diversify Your Routine

Not all gyms are created equal, however they are mostly all the same. They have the same pieces of equipment, funky stenches, cardio machines, and naked guy in the sauna. Hiking in the wilderness offers much more diversity. Depending on where you live, there are often numerous nature trails you can walk along to switch up the scenery. Even if you do walk along the same hiking trail often, there’s a good chance that there will be some aspect of that trail that is different each time.