How is Hiking Different from Walking?

The first time I went hiking, I thought it would be like a walk, but with some uphill climbing. I quickly learned that wearing tennis shoes and bringing a single water bottle was insufficient as it is for a regular walk around the neighborhood.

As a general rule, walking generally happens on flat paths, while hiking often occurs along nature trails with elevation changes. You usually go for a walk in your neighborhood or nearby park. Hiking is a type of walking that involves more effort. It typically requires longer distances and more challenging terrain than walking. Hiking can include hills and mountains, with many nature trails located in state parks and national parks.

woman holding hiking backpack while hiking along Mount Shasta

What is Hiking?

Hiking is a vigorous walk over a long distance, often on footpaths and nature trails. The earliest recorded use of the term hiking was in 14th-century Europe, describing the activity as walking for recreation.

In the 21st century, we generally use hiking when referring to anything more than a paved trail and typically requires more gear like a backpack, water bottles, and poles.

Differences Between Hiking and Walking

How is hiking different from walking? Hiking and walking are practical exercises that allow you to enjoy the outdoors and get some much-needed sunshine. Both activities can improve your cardio and strengthen your leg muscles.

Walking tends to be associated with taking steps along a paved trail. It’s usually an activity like taking your dogs or a baby in a stroller around the neighborhood. It can also be window shopping or checking out tourist destinations in big cities. Many people like to go on walks during their lunch breaks or in the evening after work.


In general, walking occurs at much shorter distances (unless you’re on vacation at Disney World). The walk around your neighborhood is probably less than 1-mile roundtrip.

Hiking is more than likely going to be between 2 and 5 miles roundtrip. It can take a couple of hours to complete a nature trail.

Endurance and Preparation

Hiking is typically an activity that requires more endurance and preparation. Nature trails tend to be a couple of miles long and out in the sun, so I will prepare with essential items like hiking boots, sunscreen, a hat, and plenty of water.

Energy and Effort

Hiking requires a lot more effort than walking. Not only are you trekking long distances, but you’re also carrying weight on your back while navigating inclines and declines.

Walking is a great way to move your body, get some exercise, and burn calories. However, hiking takes it up a notch because you’re using your moving your body up inclines. This can be more challenging and fun!

Benefits of Hiking

Hiking is a great way to get some exercise, see new places, and have some fun. It turns out that hiking is also good for your health, and it’s a great workout for people of all ages and fitness levels.

Improves Heart Health

Hiking is good for your mind and body because it helps improve balance, coordination, and strength. It’s also a fun, recreational activity because you can get a workout while enjoying the natural beauty of the outdoors.

Hiking is an aerobic exercise that helps increase your heart rate, which can lower your risk for heart disease and improve your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Builds Muscle Strength

Different muscle groups are targeted by different inclines, with quads benefiting most from inclines that slope downwards, while hamstrings, glutes, and calves can benefit from inclines that rise. If you’re carrying a backpack on your back while hiking, the added weight will also work your shoulders, arms, and back muscles.

Improves Sleep Quality

There is evidence that hiking can help improve sleep. According to Dr. Karen Carlson, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, exercise helps increase necessary sleep hormones like melatonin.

Additionally, exposure to bright light from the morning sun helps to regulate our circadian rhythms (our 24-hour sleep-wake cycle). So getting up for that morning hike is definitely a good idea!

Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Hiking is a form of movement that encourages the body to release endorphins, also known as “happiness hormones.” These hormones help you feel relaxed and less stressed.

Boosts Your Immunity

A healthy amount of sun exposure is good for your immune system because it increases your Vitamin D levels. Being in the sun has also been shown to be good for your mental health too.

Disconnect from Technology

Spending time outdoors is the best way to disconnect from your Wifi, streaming services, and social media. Hiking is so much fun and it can easily take up your entire day. The world is a beautiful place that deserves to be explored so be sure to go on a hike as often as you can!


I quickly learned that hiking is a whole different ball game. Hiking involves more strenuous physical activity and requires more gear than just walking. But it’s absolutely worth the extra effort because it’s so rewarding to reach the top of a mountain or see a beautiful waterfall!

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