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7 Good Reasons to Try a Trail Workout

By , SparkPeople Blogger
One thing I love about spring weather is the opportunity to spend more time outdoors. While I run and walk my dog outside in rain, snow and even ice, it sure is a lot more pleasant when the temperature is moderate, the sun is shining, the flowers and trees are blooming, and other people (not just the equally crazy runner you occasionally see at 6 a.m. in the winter) are out and about, too.

Perhaps one of the best ways to enjoy the spring weather and scenery is to hit the trails and take a hike. My dog loves heading to our nearby park with an elaborate trail system. She gets a chance of scenery, meets many other four-legged friends (cautiously and only when on-leash, I'll add!), and gives her nose a workout, too. I love the trails because they get me away from the traffic and pavement I normally exercise on, but also provide a great workout.

If you haven't taken up hiking (or trail running, another of my favorites) yet, here are seven good reasons to put on your trail shoes and get closer to nature this weekend.

Burn More Calories
Whenever you change up your workout routine, you will challenge your muscles in new ways and burn more calories. This is especially true if you're accustomed to walking or running on a treadmill or a paved surface. The changes in terrain of a trail will cause you to recruit more muscle fibers to balance and find your footing. Hopefully your trail will have a few inclines, too. And many are embedded with steps, bridges, stones, downed tree trunks, puddles, creeks—all sorts of obstacles you need to navigate, which means you'll burn 10% more calories than walking or running on a flat surface.

Protect Your Joints
One good thing about walking or running on a hard surface is that it can help encourage the development of strong bones. But for anyone with existing joint problems or previous joint injuries, all that pounding on a hard surface can really give your body a beating. That's why trails are a great alternative. Grass and dirt are far softer than cement and blacktop, making walking or running on a trail much easier on your joints. Personally, I try to trail run once a week during the warm months to take advantage of that softer surface and give my bones a break. But it should be noted that while the ground is softer, there are still some risks to trail running, specifically, in that the uneven terrain can be difficult to maintain your balance on. Start with walking or hiking and gradually move up to running to decrease your risk of falls or tripping.

Stay Cool
As the mercury rises, sometimes it is just too hot and sunny to work out comfortably when you're outside. Instead of letting the heat stop me, I hit the trail. It's noticeably cooler in the shady environment surrounded by towering trees that provide cover from the intense sun.

Breathe Easier
Even if you can't always see it, there is pollution all around us, and you breathe it in when you walk or run next to a road traveled by vehicles. Not cool. One study found that exercising too close to traffic can actually increase your risk of cardiovascular disease because of the inhalation of pollution. So whenever you can, get away from high-trafficked roads. The trail is perfect for that!

Beat Boredom
Tired of the same old route? The same houses and office buildings? Add a little excitement to your next walk or run by getting away from it all. There is so much beauty and interest in the natural world that you may find the minutes fly by as you look at the trees, animals, birds, and other plants along your trail. I almost never hike or trail run without also meeting new people on the path doing the same thing. It's a great change from my usual route.

Lift Your Spirits
These days, we have very few encounters with nature. Most of the time we spend outside of a building is in a car (or bus or train), and we tend to work indoors, and spend time in cities or suburbs that don't offer much in the way of the natural world. Trouble is, more research is showing that spending time in nature isn't just fun—it's essential for our well-being. Getting away from the hustle and bustle, basking in the sun, slowing down and smelling the roses: It can help us reduce stress, ward off depression, get our daily dose of vitamin D, and generally feel healthier. I must say, I feel different after running or walking on a trail versus doing the same activity on the paved streets of my neighborhood. Don't believe me? Try it yourself and see how you feel.

Bond with Your Buds (or Your Kids)
Going for a hike is a great way to hang out with your friends and do something active. I love hiking with my best friend. We even bring our dogs and her seven-year-old along while we get a workout and catch up with each other. Trail hiking is great for kids, too. They'll have a blast exploring the plants, insects and animals they see. I mentioned above that spending time in nature is good for our health, but it's important for the development of our children, too. It's a family-friendly activity you can add to your "fun" list that gets everyone active!

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An informative article. Report
CECELW 4/14/2020
its been many years since we've gone hiking Report
EVILCECIL 2/15/2020
Hiking is great exercise. Report
DEE107 8/23/2019
thanks Report
Love the info! Report
I've always loved to hike.. southern Arizona has great trails with different difficulty levels and eye catching scenery 🏜 Report
I have never tried hiking. But who knows, maybe I will like it. Report
I love hiking! You can make it challenging if you want or keep it moderate or low key. The only downfall is I’m terrified of bears! ????
Love to hike Report
My children are all grown now, but they have children. I will try this with my grandchildren. Report
My favorite form of exercise. Report
I just love to walk! Report
it is not for me any more with a broken femur & being unsteady on my feet but thought its excellent advice for others Report
awesome I love to hike Report
I love to hike with my family! It is one of my favorite exercises! Report
Great info Report
Love the info Report
I love hiking! Report
Thank you Report
I love hiking. This is a great article on why I hike Report
last weekend the family meet up in the redwoods and hiked stout grove a beautiful day hike even with the small kids looking forward to more in my new home on the southern Oregon Coast
Change of scenery, not chance of scenery Report
The best therapy ever. Went for a hike in Northern NH yesterday and it was incredible. Report
I'm so happy the weather has improved enough to take my son to the local parks and hike the trails. It keeps us both from getting bored. Report
My hubby and I walked a portion of the Appalachian Trail for 6 weeks this past Spring. The funny part about the hike is that I got most of my blisters walking on hard pavement in town! Except for the first week, I never got them on the trail! I look forward to more weekend hiking trips this fall and returning to the A.T. next Spring for another attempt! Report
This summer I took each of my children on their first hike of a "14er". It was so hard but so amazing to be with them as they checked this amazing feat off of their "bucket list". They are 13 and 16. We got hours of uninterrupted time to just talk. It was amazing!! Report
I do "mini" hikes with my dogs in the neighborhood a couple times a day Report
Even in suburban Chicago there are trails one can hike on! Our local Izzak Walton Preserve has lots of trails, and as a member, I walk them frequently with my dog, and also bike them! It is great fun for my dog (who stays on-leash because he will run after squirrels and get lost) and good for my health! We love trails!! Report
I live on 5 acres and have set up a walking trail around the inside perimeter fence line. This article has triggered ideas of how I can make it more of a 'hike' by adding routes with varying terrain.

Oh, and I can forget taking my dog (as I did this morning) . . . he's a little Yorkie and I seem to spend more time digging burrs out of him afterwards. Report
Hiking in our CO mountains is my favorite thing to do outside. That is part of my motivation for weight loss and fitness. I live on the side of a 10,000 ft mountain and want to be able to get around on my own two legs in the woods
At my age its not always easy but it is my goal. Report
Hiking sounds like tons of fun. I love nature and fortunately the park I used to walk was full of nature scenes. I plan to start walking the walk path in the park again, now that I have returned to SP. Nature has such a calming and relaxing effect. Report
Now I want to check out my local parks and trails. Thanks! Report
I spend as much time as possible in the mountains in NH with my family. It's our favorite family activity. One year when my niece was 2 she received a little turtle backpack for Christmas and immediately she put it on and came to me. "Auntie, walk, walk, walk!" She now easily does 6-7 miles a day in the rough backcountry. If you have the time and are prepared its so worth the effort to get out and take a hike. You never know what beautiful or interesting thing might be around the corner. Report
I definitely feel more in-tune when I spend time in the woods, maybe this weekend I'll take off into the wilds. Report
I'm lucky, I live in an area where pretty much everyday is a hike. I have to walk a few blocks (downhill) to get to the trail but I'll follow that the mile or so down, then onto the beach to head home so I have an aray of surfaces to walk on. then (ugh) it's all uphill to get home. Report
I just discovered hiking this spring and I absolutely love it. I try to get out at least once a week. It is perfect for me; because I am allergic to the sun I don't get out much, but hiking in the woods shields me from the sun's damaging rays. Even though I am relatively new at athletic activities, hiking is accessible to just about anyone. I started with just one mile and now I am up to six! And it's so wonderful to get out of my own head and into the world, into nature. Report
My husband and I love to hike and we wish that we could do it more. Report
I am lucky to have a gravel trail through the woods right in my development! It runs next to a creek, and is covered in trees. My dog loves it, but it takes longer because she has to sniff every few feet and wants to chase every squirrel and chipmunk. Report
hiking just isn't my afraid of everything that I may encounter while hiking! Report
I love hiking and I wish I could do it more. It's hard to get anyone to go with me and I don't want to go into the woods alonel Report
No thank you. Don't like hiking. Report
Hiking is absolutely my favorite form of exercise and I do it frequently, every chance I get. I'm lucky enough to live right outside a forest boundary so the trails are almost endless around here! It calms my soul so much too as well as helps my body. Report
The only concern that I have with hiking out in the middle of nowhere (I watch the ID channel) is possible people with evil intent lurking out in the woods. So I would say everyone be careful. Report
I have done trail hiking for years. My son who is 15 has gone on many hikes with me and our dogs, it is great, nice article. Report
Walking the trails in the Spring and Fall are the best times - every time you hit the trail you see something different. In the Spring the trees are in bud, the ferns are coming up out of the ground and you just see different things as the scenery changes. The same with Fall when the leaves start to change color. Every day on the trail can be a totally different adventure with new things to notice. Just be sure to wear bug spray and check for ticks at the end of your walk. Report
Thanks for the reminder. I do love walking with my dog outdoors in the woods. It has been a couple of YEARS! Report
Hiking is something that both my husband and I love to do. There is always so much to see and look at that you don't really notice all the hills you climb or the steps you take. However, thanks to my trusty Fit-bit, I find at the end of the day that I've taken more steps than ever and even made my 50 flights of stairs in one day. Report
I haven't hit the trails yet this spring for a hike, but I would love to! My husband and I did quite a bit of hiking last year. It felt good to see the scenery. I could walk for hours without getting tired simply because my mind was so stimulated. Report
My husband has been taking me on hikes on the weekends. I carry a backpack with water, snacks, bug spray etc., and we walk on old log roads and through the woods where he goes hunting. It's peaceful, nobody else in sight, we see animals/birds, and I can tell the different terrain is working different muscles. I love it! Report