Nature has a way of energizing everything from your mood to your daily routine. Since exercise is meant to do the same, it only makes sense to combine the two. Day hiking is a great way to do just that. But before you lace up your shoes and head out, learn more about how day hiking differs from other outdoor activities, and how it can help you lose weight.

Day Hiking vs. Backpacking

The biggest difference between day hiking and backpacking is intensity: how long you plan on going and, as a result, how much you’re going to carry. The point of hiking is to travel lightly and at your desired pace, whether for sightseeing or (in the case of most FitStays) calorie burn. So you probably won’t be bringing much more than a light pack with water and some healthy snacks to get you through the trek.

Backpacking, however, takes more time and baggage. These trips usually last at least overnight—often for a few days or even weeks. You’ll therefore be carrying everything you need on your back, like a sleeping bag, tent, provisions, and clothing. The extended timeframe makes backpacking a great way to immerse yourself in nature, but it takes more preparation and planning than a casual day hike.

How Hiking Burns Calories

A “casual” day hike doesn’t mean it’s easy. Since this activity often takes place on uneven or steep terrain, hiking is a more efficient exercise than walking. Navigating this rougher terrain requires more work from your muscles and increases your heart rate more quickly than using a flat surface.

If you’re familiar with a treadmill, think of the way that changing the incline impacts the amount of effort you have to give. In other words, the steeper the hike, the greater the burn—helping you lose more weight in the same amount of time (or less).

Types of Day Hikes

Hiking is one of the best fitness hobbies in that you can start at any time and fitness level. You can personalize your hike based on your fitness goals, and then find a trail that meets your needs. Apps like AllTrails can help you research trails near your location and tell you about the terrain, length, difficulty, and more. You can also read other hikers’ reviews and view photos before you go, which will help you prepare accordingly for your trip.

You’ll get more out of a workout you enjoy, so the biggest thing to remember is to choose what’s right for you. To help you decide, we’ve defined the following three types of day hikes (listed from least to most strenuous).

Nature Walks

A great way to focus more on your surroundings and less on the burn is with a nature walk. That’s not to say these aren’t exercise—you’ll still burn plenty of calories—but nature walks are more leisurely than other types of hikes. Trails are usually paved, gravel, or well-manicured paths that take you through nature areas such as parks. That said, they’re a great way to explore your natural surroundings and let your mind wander while still getting in a good workout.

Road Hiking

The next level on your hiking hierarchy is road hiking. Some nature areas will designate hiking paths alongside a road for cars; you’ve probably seen these on roads going through state parks or along beaches. Thanks to a relatively even terrain, these trails can be easier on your joints than steeper hikes. You’ll still be surrounded by nature, but you’ll also be closer to traffic than with other types of hikes. Therefore, be mindful of vehicles and be sure to watch the road.

Trail Hiking

The most intense type of hike is trail hiking. These are similar to nature hikes in that you’ll be taken through parks or forests; however, the terrain is meant to be rougher and/or less even. You’ll still have trails to follow, but they’re typically worn down more by previous hikers than intentional maintenance. Be prepared for a larger elevation change, too; you’ll want sturdy hiking boots in case the trail gets steep, as well as water to stay hydrated.

Hiking at Weight Loss Resorts

Thanks to all the weight loss benefits of hiking, fitness resorts and health resorts frequently make this activity part of their programs. They also plan for all fitness levels and offer various intensities—from nature walks and road hikes to advanced trail hiking.

Movara Fitness Resort, for example, uses the natural terrain of southern Utah to build a hiking-focused weight loss program. Similarly, the New Life Hiking Spa in Vermont offers a comprehensive program of guided hikes, wellness education, and more. For an intense hiking experience, try something like The Ashram California’s daily eight- to 10-mile hikes.

No matter where you go, these health and fitness resorts are designed to help you experience the energizing effects of nature and exercise. If you can’t wait to lose weight with day hiking, then it’s time to hit the trail!

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