Researchers at the London School of Economics in England have concluded that, surprise!, walking is better for you than going to the gym. Here are our reasons why:
1. The smell
Gyms stink. Forests smell heavenly.
2. No fashion shows
Hikers, for the most part, are modest folk – they’d rather swathe themselves in merino and down than fashion fitness attire.
4. Forget that monthly payment
You know the scenario – you sign up to the gym on January 1st, pump weights religiously for two weeks, make the odd visit under sufferance for the next month and then avoid the place like sin for the rest of the year.
5. No people
One of the huge pros of hiking in my book – it’s often just you, the solitude and a few squirrels. Nobody will be judging what you’re wearing, trying to sell you protein products or driving you nuts with the rap music blaring out of their earphones.
6. You don’t realise you’re exercising
Weird how it takes bags of will power to keep pushing yourself on a treadmill for ten minutes and yet almost none to reach a 3,000-foot summit. Clock watching is my favourite in-gym activity – out on the trails, there are better things to rest the eye on. And that brings us to…
7. Mirrors, mirrors everywhere
What would you rather look at for a half-hour workout – your own spare tire wobbling away in the mirror or an incredible panorama of forests and streams?
8. The ultimate challenge
Okay, so I can sort of see how beating your personal best on the rowing machine or seeing your resting heart rate drop a couple of beats per minute might be satisfying. But compare it to reaching Machu Picchu or completing the Bruce Trail, though, and all that other stuff just seems like pointless numbers.
9. The wonder and the marvel
This one’s a bit tricky to explain, but it’s at the heart of what it is to be a hiker. It comes down to those elusive moments of awe and amazement that make you feel truly in love with life – when you walk alongside a sparkling stream, when you’re clambering along a high ridge with a golden eagle hovering overhead. Once you’ve experienced The Thrill, you’ll never look at a treadmill in the same way again. And that’s because the only real point of gyms, in this hiker’s humble opinion, is to get you to the summit faster.