Ten reasons why hill walking is better than the gym

Posted by Hanna Lindon on 24/12/2015
Nice view - but why not just get out there? Photo by F Schmidt/ Shutterstock

As if you needed them….

It’s a strong contender for the most blindly obvious observation of 2015 - researchers at the London School of Economics have concluded that walking is better for you than going to the gym. People who regularly walk for more than 30 minutes at a time are apparently less likely to be porkers than those who engaged in more vigorous, gym-based activities.

Weight loss, though, is just one incentive to hit the hills (and not the best of them either). As we move into the New Year, we’ve collected ten reasons why the best resolution you can make is to cash in your gym membership and spend the loot on walking kit instead. 

1. The smell

Gyms stink of feet, testosterone and other people’s armpits. In the hills there is just a whiff of rain-soaked heather. 

2. No muscle galleries

Hill-walkers, for the most part, are modest folk - they’d rather swathe themselves in merino and down than channel the 80s in an armless vest. Okay, you might see the odd eccentric soul rambling along in the nuddy or playing piano starkers on a summit (no, I didn’t make that one up, check out this article on UKH for proof), but it’s in the spirit of freedom and larks - not gladiatorial arrogance. Nobody wants a view of somebody else’s baby-oiled bicep when they’re exercising - oh, and while we’re on the subject of uncomfortable nudity levels…

3. No traumatic group changing experiences

I don’t know what it’s like in the men’s, obviously; but in the women’s changing room, it’s perfectly acceptable to ditch your clothes and give yourself the old between-the-legs towel dry without considering the fact that you might be scarring your fellow gym-goers for life. Hill walkers will happily wear the same pair of underpants for days rather than expose others in their group to this kind of trauma.

4. Forget that pointless 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. It isn’t just you, either. Most gyms will confidently oversubscribe themselves, knowing that half of their membership have no connection with their treadmill-lined interiors beyond the monthly direct debit. Put the cash into a petrol fund and head for the hills instead - at least you’ll be getting the most out of it. 

5. No damn people

One of the huge pros of the hills in my book - it’s often just you, the views and a few inoffensive Herdwick sheep. Nobody will be judging what you’re wearing, trying to sell you dubious aloe vera-based products or driving you nuts with the 90s rap music blaring out of their earphones. Give or take a few Duke of Edinburgh Award students, our uplands are places of peace, contentment and delicious solitude.     

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 in the hills, 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 sesh - your own beer gut wobbling away in the mirror or an incredible panorama of lakes and mountains? On a more serious note it’s also been suggested that 10% of male gym bunnies may have muscle dysmorphia (the feeling that you’re punier than you actually are), whereas you can tell from all the man-leg summit shots on Twitter that even the skinniest hill-walker feels like a god when he’s conquered a mountaintop.

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. Compare it to compleeting the Munros, managing the Cuillin Ridge in a day or even struggling your way to a diminutive summit in appalling weather, though, and all that other stuff just seems like pointless numbers.   

9. The feel-good factor

You reckon ten minutes on the treadmill can do wonders for your endorphin levels? Try scrambling round the Snowdon Horseshoe or topping out on Great Gable. Nothing beats the feeling of contentment you get when you shrug off a drenched waterproof after a long day outside and curl up with a cuppa in front of the fire.    

10. The wonder and the marvel

This one’s a tad tricky to explain, but it’s at the heart of what it is to be a hill walker. It comes down to those elusive moments of awe and amazement that make you feel truly in love with life - when you crawl out of your tent at dawn to watch the sunrise, when you emerge from a sea of mist to see a cloud inversion, when you’re clambering along a high ridge with a golden eagle hovering overhead. Once you’ve experienced Hill 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 hill walker’s humble opinion, is to get you to the summit faster.      


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1) Anonymous User
09/01/2016
Excellent, a neatly argued case for hill walking.
19/02/2016
I had a few laughs while reading this. A definite win for hill walking!
3) Anonymous User
18/02/2017
1. Aww, the poor baby doesn't like the way mammals smell...
2/3/5/7. Appreciating the beauty of muscles in action is part of the reason TO go to the gym.
4. Actually, that's a pretty valid point. It is rather expensive. However:
6. The added intensity allows you to do the same amount of work in a shorter time, freeing up time for other activities. Some of us don't have all day to wander the hills. This, however does require willpower.
8/9/10. All identical points. I'd rather not hill walk in the rain, and I'd rather not have Scottish weather controlling my routine. Finally, while I like examining nature, I've never been one to enjoy "breathtaking vistas".
4) Anonymous User
24/02/2017
"I've never been one to enjoy'breathtaking vistas'"...
I think you might be on the wrong website!

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