Hike Stronger, Hike Longer: 7 Easy Exercises for Hiking Health

hiker on trail

Are you ready to take your hiking game to the next level? Then for you, we have the ultimate guide to exercises for hiking that will help you become a better and stronger hiker in no time.

We asked an expert in sports and fitness, Andrew Gutman from BarBend, to create an exercise guide that supports the unique physical demands of hiking. We all know hiking is good for your health. But if you are anything like me, you also know the best hikes will take a toll on your body. Achy back or sore knees anyone?

So it is critical to prepare your body to take on the distances and terrains. Andrew gave us seven specific exercises for hiking if we want to feel healthier after a day of backpacking. These exercises will boost your body’s resistance to injury and help you carry your equipment with ease.

The Goal of These Exercises for Hikers:

  • Improve overall endurance on the trail so you are ready for those long hikes.
  • Strengthen your back so you can easily carry your gear without pain.
  • Develop strong leg muscles to reduce fatigue.
  • Improve your balance to avoid injuries on the trail.

These exercises can be done with very little equipment and require very little fitness exercise experience! They are perfect for all ages and skill sets.

Best 7 Exercises for Hiking

In each hiking exercise training group below, you’ll find several suggestions that meet the same goal. You don’t need to do them all, instead pick and choose from the list those exercises that best meet your body’s abilities and needs. Before beginning any extensive training plan, check in with your doctor or certified training professional.

#1 Endurance and Stamina Exercises

Why Endurance and Stamina are Important for Hiking

To build up your heart rate for hiking, you’ll need to bolster your body with exercises that will increase your stamina and endurance. You’re going to need your muscles for a long time.

3 photos showing exercises for hiking to improve stamina

Stamina Building Exercises You Can Do Are:

  • Jump roping or skipping in a spacious area for 20 minutes a day will aid your endurance and stamina.
  • Swimming is a low-impact exercise that goes easy on your body’s joints and bones for just over half an hour a day, a few times a week. This is an exercise that both young and old people can do.
  • Even though an activity like hiking is already a lot of walking, taking on a cardio exercise like jogging or running on a consistent basis will help you hike with more ease.

#2 Back Strengthening Exercises for Hiking

Why Hiker’s Need to Strengthen their Back

When you hike, you often carry a lot of equipment with you. That means you need to have enough back strength so you don’t get hurt. By working on your back muscles you’ll avoid chronic back pain, especially in your lower back. And by focusing on strengthening your back you can reduce your chances of it affecting your future hiking.

3 photos, each showing an exercise to strengthen the back

Back Strengthening Exercises You Can Do Are:

  • By doing an exercise like prone press-ups, you will be able to reduce pain in your lower back and increase your flexibility. This exercise will also help you to strengthen your muscles.
  • Practice diaphragmatic breathing so that you can manage your back pains, improve your breathing, and strengthen your core muscles.
  • Perform bridge exercises to strengthen your back muscles and core as well.
  • Use lateral leg raises to strengthen your core, hips, and lower back. This exercise can also help you improve your stability.

#3 Strength Training Hiker’s Exercises

Why Hiker’s Need Overall Strength Training

Strength training exercises will be able to hike with fewer issues. You will be able to carry what you need without putting pressure on your body. A stronger body will experience less fatigue on the trail. And it’ll also help you build muscle in your body.

2 photos showing a man doing exercises for hiking for strength training

Strength Training You Can Do Are:

  • Practice weight training a few times a week so you can build muscles in your body and increase your metabolism at the same time.
  • Alternatively, you can exercise with resistance bands so that you can increase and main the muscle strength in your body.

#4 Leg Exercises for Long Hikes

Why Leg Strengthening Exercises are Critical for Hiking:

When you hike, you need to be able to take on trails for a long time. You’ll also be on trails that require climbing, walking over a variety of surfaces and sometimes rocky trails. This is why you need to include training that will focus on all your leg muscles. You’ll be able to manage the different types of terrain without straining your legs.

3 photos showing exercises to strengthen leg muscles for hiking

Leg Exercises You Can Do Are:

  • Lunges are the most effective exercise that will target all your leg muscles and strengthen them.
  • It may sound like a strange suggestion, but running or walking in the sand will build endurance in your legs. It’ll also strengthen your ankles and your foot muscles.
  • Add step-ups to your exercise to build muscles in your legs and balance out any strength imbalances you have in your legs

#5 Core Exercises for Hikers

Why Hiker’s Need to Strengthen their Back

Performing core exercises will help you with your posture and prevent injuries. This will also be good for your back and your stability as well.

3 photos showing core strengthening exercises for hikers

Back Strengthening Exercises You Can Do Are:

  • Do about 20 push-ups a day. If regular push-ups are hard for you, use alternatives in their place. These kinds of exercises will help you build and maintain strength in your upper body. It’ll also help with your lower back and core strength.
  • Practice the dead bug exercise to align your spine and stabilize your muscles.
  • Side planks are great for core muscles and your obliques.

#6 Flexibility Exercises for Hiking

Why Flexibility is Important When Hiking

Including flexibility exercises will help you be more aware of the spaces around you and how to navigate them. It’ll also help you improve your performance on the trail.

2 photos of exercises hikers can do to improve flexibility

Flexibility Exercises You Can Do Are:

  • Practice Yoga as often as you can so that you can become more flexible and improve your balance.
  • Do pre-hike stretches as a warm-up before you leave so that you can loosen up your muscles and raise your heart rate.
  • Practice cool-down stretches after your hike so that you’re you can relax and recover and bring your heart rate down.

#7 Hiking Balance and Coordination Exercises

Why Hiker’s Need to Improve their Balance and Coordination

You need to have balance and coordination skills so that you can easily maneuver hiking trails without falling or getting injured.

2 photos of hiking exercises to improve balance

Balance and Coordination Exercises You Can Do Are:

Some exercises that you can do to help you maintain stability include the rock the boat, weight shifting, and marching in place.

In addition to exercise, try using a stick or pole to help you walk on the trails.

Recovery After Hiking

While hiking is a fun and adventurous activity, it can also take a toll on the body. This is why you need to make sure that you properly rest afterward. Start your recovery process by cooling down and drinking some water. After this, you should do some stretches to bring your heart rate down. If you feel any soreness give yourself a massage to reduce aches and pains.

Things to Consider Before Going on a Hike

Take precautionary measures by checking the weather ahead of time. Hiking in the rain or hiking in hot weather require a few extra precautions such as wearing clothes that will protect you from the elements. Even if the weather shows up as cloudy, be sure to wear sunscreen as there is still a chance that you can get sunburned during your hike.

Hiking is a long and tiring walk. Remember to carry along water so that you don’t get dehydrated on your route. Also, be prepared for when you feel hungry by carrying a meal replacement – which is a healthy option that is also easy to carry along with you.

Hike with a group of people so you can provide help if someone gets hurt, and communicate for help if you need external assistance.

Hiking is a fun activity that requires physical exercise to fully enjoy. With these exercises for hiking, you’ll be able to build up your strength to take on the trails.

Now that you are in shape… check out some of our favorite National Park Hikes:


  • Andrew Gutman

    Andrew Gutman is a former associate editor at Muscle and Fitness and has contributed to Men’s Journal, Men’s Health, Gear Patrol, and Spartan Race.