Once the preserve of middle-aged couples in matching waterproofs, hiking has gone all hipster on us. Thanks to the LA celebs who hike in the Hollywood Hills, it's now the activity of choice for the young and instagrammable, and there are a whole host of reasons why.
1. It’s an A-list health trend that actually works
From kale smoothies to yogalites, we can always trust the famous folk of LA to road test new health trends for us, so we don’t get sucked into, say, vaginal steaming (thanks Gwyneth). Follow Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Amanda Seyfried, Jake Gyllenhaal, Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel and take a hike.
2. Hiking gives you shapely, lean legs
"This long duration low-intensity exercise gently tones lean muscle in your legs so making them appear longer," says performance coach Dalton Wong, owner of boutique gym Twenty Two Training. While hiking can’t actually make your legs longer – come on, cut this sport some slack – it will make you want to wear shorts at every occasion.
3. Everyone can hike. Yup, even you
Whether your trainers are filled with cobwebs or you’re a marathon runner, hiking can be adjusted for your fitness level. It doesn’t require much in the way of flexibility, strength or co-ordination; you just keep moving one foot in front of the other. Adds Wong: "If you’re puffed out and your legs ache, sit down for a break. If you’re really fit, hiking is a great active recovery to maintain stamina on rest days."
4. Hiking is as easy as interval training gets
You climb uphill, fat-burning like crazy, then you ease onto a nice downward path
You climb uphill, fat-burning like crazy, then you ease onto a nice downward path. The changing terrain means you’re constantly challenging your body then rewarding it with a restful patch, without having to think about it.
5. It could even support your breakdancing ambitions
Walking on an uneven surface coaches your feet, ankles and hips to be more stable. So when you hit the dancefloor at your cousin’s wedding, you’ve got a better chance of pulling off that breakdancing routine without your feet slipping out from under you.
6. Hiking is your passport to a flatter tummy
"Your abs contract each time you lift a leg and step it forwards," says Wong. For turbo-charged tummy toning, identify your transverse abdominal muscle: placing your hands flat across your stomach as you stand, inhale and relax your belly. Exhale and press your naval towards your spine – you should feel your belly firm under your hand. Hold this muscle in as you walk and your abs will thank you for it.
7. You can do it with friends
As well as safety in numbers, and the pleasure of hanging out with your mates beyond the beer garden, working out with a friend is scientifically proven to help you lose weight.
8. Or just your dog
Boris won’t complain about his sore feet or judge you for ignoring the map in favour of the scenic route. All he wants is to enthusiastically sniff every inch of the trail.
9. Hiking is a great stress reliever
Though hiking is basically walking on a path, it’s also a great way to clear your head. Scientists put it down to the binaural beats of birdsong, which relax our brain waves. And let’s face it, it’s hard to hold a grudge when you’re admiring the view from the top of a big-ass hill and the sun is shining.
Spending time in nature can have a positive effect on parts of the brain associated with problem-solving and multitasking
10. And hiking can actually make you more intelligent
Though we rely on 4G to solve life’s most pressing problems – where shall we go for dinner? Who won X Factor in 2012? – being without it can get our brains back into gear. According to scientists at the University of Michigan, US, spending time in nature can have a positive effect on parts of the brain associated with problem-solving and multitasking.
11. You don’t have to embrace the wilderness
Urban hiking may call to mind an extensive shopping trip or a gruelling game of pub golf, but it is officially 'A Thing'. The view you stop to admire may be a metropolitan skyline and the greenery/graffiti ratio may be off the charts, but urban hiking shares the same spirit of exploration as its woodsy ancestor. The best thing about urban hiking is you can do it direct from your front door, and it’s totally okay to set your finish line at the pub.
12. Your new hobby is an excellent excuse to treat yourself to new kit
No flammable looking jackets and clunky brown boots here, hiking gear has moved on and now looks just as good on the street as it does on the trails.
North Face retro-look rucksack, £95, North Face
Water-resistant Penfield jacket, £95, Penfield
Nike Air Wildwood, £75, End.