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Every week I go on a conditioning hike. As a senior hiker, I know how important it is to keep my muscles in top shape, for numerous reasons. But, as I see and feel my muscles getting stronger, it got me to thinking about what muscle groups we work when hiking. And, does the terrain of a trail develop different muscle groups.
There are numerous benefits to hiking and backpacking. For instance, not only physically but mentally too. Let me walk you through the rewards hiking gives your different muscle groups.
Hiking Is An Aerobic Activity
First, hiking is an aerobic activity that benefits the circulatory system. Engaging in hiking activities strengthens our hearts. Most importantly it helps us prevent possible cardiac pathologies and keeps your blood pressure at optimal values.
My doctor is amazed at my blood pressure every time I go in for my annual physical. For an old geezer like me to have the blood pressure of a twenty-year-old is not common. I contribute it all to hiking and backpacking.
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What Muscle Groups Are Used In Just Walking
In this paragraph let’s look at the simple act of walking forward. It takes 200 muscles to take one step forward.
One of the movements you do is move your thighs and hips. This movement involves the buttock muscles in the back and several key hamstring muscles located in the back of the thighs. These muscle groups include the semitendinosus, the semimembranosus, and the biceps femoris.
Walking forward also involves another small muscle, the adductor magnus, located in the upper part of the inner thigh. In addition to the muscle groups I just mentioned, walking forward involves moving the entire leg forward. This action uses all the main muscle groups of the thigh, including the quadriceps.
These groups of muscles are located in the front of your thighs. This is where you are working on another major muscle, the sartorius. This is the longest muscle in the body and extends from the upper part of the thigh, curving inside it and ending at the inside of the knee.
Will Hiking Strengthen My Hips
Hiking also strengthens the point where the hips and thighs meet. A set of five muscles, the iliopsoas, tensorial fasciae latae, pectineal, and adductors longus and brevis combine to facilitate movement in the joint.
As your feet hit the ground, usually with a heel to toe movement, the calves interact with the ankles to allow each foot to be pushed forward.
This part of your walk compromises your gastrocnemius, soleus,
plantaris and posterior and anterior tibialis muscles. The thin muscles that help you move your toes, posterior hallucis and flexor digitorum longus flexor, are also exercised. The extensor digitorum longus and hallucis longus muscles move the feet and ankles.
They extend from the knee to the front of the shin. Have you ever had shin splints? The pain runs along the inside edge of the bone or tibia. Because of increased stress on the tibia. These are the groups of muscles that need to be exercised, they act as shock absorbers. Shine splints are partly due to these muscles not being strong.
The Side to Side Movement Develops These Muscle Groups
Hiking moves you from side to side as you change your weight from one leg to the other. This action involves the hips, abdominals, waist, and muscles that support the back and the general area of the spine. The oblique muscles on the side of your body handle the way the trunk is twisted and flexed.
Lumbar square muscles and multifidic muscle groups support the lower back. The abs and the large group of muscles, the erect spines, located on both sides of the spine are involved as well.
The Development Of Muscle Mass And Toning When Hiking
Strength training is an essential component of exercise programs to increase overall strength and muscle size. Increases in muscle size occur when muscle fibers are overloaded and decomposed. This is only achieved with consistent weight training.
However, hiking is a cardiovascular activity in which people of all levels can participate physically. Hence it is an excellent activity for all age groups. Hiking is especially beneficial for older adults. It effectively increases heart rate, burns calories, and strengthens muscles. Thus it promotes cardiovascular health and provides positive changes to body composition.
Above all, easy hiking on level terrain does not provide enough stimulation to build or tone your muscles because you never overload the muscle fibers.
Does Hiking Increase Muscle Mass Or Just Tone
Building muscle mass and toning are increases in muscle size, and training is similar for both. The difference is in the volume of training.
Much more work is needed to significantly increase muscle mass. The benefits of hiking are many for health, but it will not cause significant changes in muscle mass unless you schedule consistent strenuous hikes.
How Hiking Can Tone Your Different Groups of Muscles
The incorporation of longer hikes and changes in terrain, with elevation gain increases, is more beneficial to toning the different muscle groups. As is the case with athletes who perform intermittent high-intensity exercise, this provides you with a temporary muscle overload stimulus that fosters muscle development.
Hence, muscle size is likely to increase rapidly because your muscles will adapt to stress after a short period of time.
Moreover, if you want to continue to increase your muscle mass you will need to choose even more difficult trails for your hikes.
What Is Trekking? Do You Work The Same Muscle Groups
Trekking is usually done on unpaved four-wheel-drive roads and trails without signs. It is often in places where roads do not even exist. Therefore, trekking is normally exercised with relatively higher degrees of difficulty.
The Geez would recommend you not go trekking through the woods until you have conditioned your muscle groups for this type of hike. Because there are other physical challenges that can become a safety concern for older hikers if not properly trained for this type of hiking.
Trekking is a type of mountaineering that implies greater physical effort. The trails and routes which you hike are sometimes unmarked. I call it bushwhacking, as it is the trekking hikers or animals that create the trails or find them.
Both trekking and hiking are done in all types of terrain – from mountains, forests, jungles, coasts, canyons, rivers, caverns, etc. Trekking usually involves hiking or walking for more than one day. These are ideal activities to enhance your well-being. Your body and mind benefit from being outdoors.
Trekking works for the same muscle groups as hiking. However, the results obtained are not the same. A logical reason for this lies in the fact that with trekking there is more stress involved in the activity. Therefore, making your workout more physically challenging.
Overall Health Benefits Of A Hiking Workout
Hiking terrain incorporates different surface types. For instance slopes, ruts, rocks, uneven ground, tree roots, etc. that must be navigated around or avoided. This not only conditions muscle groups but improves bone density.
Each muscle group and even your bones benefit from hiking activities.
In the case of muscles, the ones that work the most are those of the lower body with a special focus on the quadriceps and buttocks. This is especially true if we include trails with different degrees of difficulty in our hikes.
Bones are likewise strengthened and show increased bone density over time. This is especially important in the case of women and older adults in order to prevent osteoporosis.
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Hiking is an excellent cardio workout and enhances balance. Balance is especially important for older adults. The Geez knows this first hand. I always use hiking poles when I hike. They help prevent falling or stumbling on the trail. Trekking poles are essential for crossing swollen creeks when wading through them.
As an outdoor activity that is usually done in the countryside or in the mountains, hiking allows us to breathe much purer air than in the city.
We can avoid the many daily obligations and frustrations of the urban environment. Hiking provides a physical and mental break from the world that surrounds us.
If you are a beginner or have not been out hiking for a while, celebrate the good weather with a day hike. First, let your body know you are going to be pushing it beyond your afternoon stroll around the neighborhood. Then, just get out and do it!
Is A Hiking Workout Better For Your Health
The Geez thinks that hiking is one of the best overall workouts and highly recommends that you give hiking a serious try before you renew that gym membership. Your health will thank you!
In summary, many people find nature walks one of the quietest and most relaxing activities that can be done. They provide a way to escape the noise and the various tensions and stress related to living in an urban environment.
It is also a great way to achieve total body fitness. Because hiking exercises groups of muscles used ascending slopes, as well as a very different set of muscles used to descend. Not only the leg muscles are exercised, but also the muscles of the upper body when carrying a daypack or backpack. And the muscles of the base of the trunk are used while maintaining balance.
Distance and difficulty will depend on you and your current level of fitness. Hiking is an exercise suitable for all ages. In addition, there are literally hundreds of trails to explore in all parts of the world. There are wonderful locations and adventures awaiting you with various degrees of difficulty.
Hiking is especially beneficial for older adults. It effectively increases heart rate, burns calories, and strengthens muscles. Thus it promotes cardiovascular health and provides positive changes to body composition.
So, grab your water bottle, your hiking shoes, and a hat, and let’s get fit together!
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