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Is Hiking a Sport? How Competition is Invading the Hobby

Whether you're flipping through a newspaper or an online magazine, you may notice that hiking is one of those activities that editors can't seem to decide on. Though most people claim that sports are classified as simply "physical activity," others disagree and are insistent on making the category a little stricter than that. Thus, these […]
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Whether you're flipping through a newspaper or an online magazine, you may notice that hiking is one of those activities that editors can't seem to decide on. Though most people claim that sports are classified as simply "physical activity," others disagree and are insistent on making the category a little stricter than that.

Thus, these printings will put hiking in "travel" sections, or in "lifestyle," instead of "sport." This confusion begs the question, what qualifies as a sport and is hiking a sport?

The simple answer is no; hiking is not a sport. According to most definitions of the word "sport," there needs to be a competition level to be considered a sport. Though some hiking events do see the competitors racing up the mountains and through trails, those are often considered separate from the regular intentions of a hike.

According to both the Webster and the Oxford Language Dictionary, a sport is "an activity involving physical exertion and skill that sees individuals or teams competing against each other."

Whether this competition is for entertainment or simply for its competition isn't specified, as there are plenty of junior leagues that don't play live shows for audiences.

Hiking does fall into some of the definitions, as hiking is physically exerting, and requires skill, but it lacks the competition that would label it as a sport by most definitions.

As such, it would be likely to see opposition if a newspaper or a magazine were to put hiking under the "sport" category in its print.

Though some people dispute that the definition of sport should be so strict, as the rise of ESports has contested the "physical exertion" part, the "competition" part is pretty set in stone in terms of definition.

How Does Hiking Fair Against the Definition?

There are a few key reasons people mistake hiking for a sport: the skill required to hike more intensive trails, and because of the physical exertion that is performed throughout the hike.

Skill

Though it's argued that part of the "skill" required in a sport that makes it a sport is related to the rules, and that hiking doesn't have rules quite like other sports, hiking still requires skill.

To take on steep mountains, either up or down, requires precision and balance, depending on the trail. A good, skilled hiker, would find it easy to take trails that beginners start with, which is already a good tell that there is a lot of skill involved in how good someone is at hiking.

Physical Exertion

There is no argument that hiking takes intense physical training and exertion during the hike, and throughout the training before starting the hike.

It takes training, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle to take on multi-day trails and be more intense. Much like most sports, hiking still requires some physical training and is quite exerting on the body.

Entertainment

Entertainment is the first area that hiking doesn't quite fit the qualifications of the definition of "sports." Hiking is not something that is frequently watched as entertainment unless it is an extreme survival show.

However, even in those shows, the hike is not the part that people find the most entertaining, and it is rarely broadcasted for people to watch. By contrast, hockey, soccer, and even ESports are broadcasted and bring in huge crowds to watch as entertainment.

Competition

The biggest disqualification for hiking to be considered a sport is that hiking is not a competitive sport. Though here are races up mountains, those races are rarely considered traditional hiking to begin with.

Instead, a race up a mountain is often just considered running, which is a sport. Thus, this is where most people point to disqualify hiking as a sport.

However, some people do stipulate that sports also need two other requirements, both of which hiking does not qualify under,

  • Rules and regulations by a governing body
    • Think about the rules of a soccer game and how a player can get suspended for breaking the most sports rules. If it is possible to cheat in the physical activity, chances are it is a sport.
  • Competitive events
    • Superbowl, Olympics, and even more local games/qualifiers would fall under "competitive events."

This being said; however, it can still be argued that there is some level of competition to hiking. For example, there are record speeds that people have beaten on certain trails.

"Fastest time hiking the Appalachian trail" is one of those records that people point to when trying to argue that hiking can be competitive. The difference here, and the reason it is still not counted as competition, is that this is more of a record and not a competition to be won.

There are records in sports as well, such as "fastest man" for racing and "most scores" in other sports, but those records often have little to do with individual trials. These are individual records won in what is more often than not, team games.

Additionally, there are records for many non-sport related events. "Highest grossing film" and "world's fastest electric ice cream van" are both types of records that are certainly not related to sports.

Trail running, adventure racing, and geocaching

When arguing whether hiking is a sport, these three sports are often brought up as examples of hiking support. Events of these sports are sometimes shown on TV and can be mistaken for hiking, but they are not hiking by nature.

Hiking is not a competitive activity and is more about getting away from bust city and into nature to see the world in an entirely new and unique way.

For many people, hiking is more about health, stress relief, and view. It has been proven that looking at trees can help reduce stress, and seeing as most hikes are through wooded or mountainous areas, hiking is perfect to be surrounded by the stress relief offered by trees.

Additionally, in general, any form of physical activity and exercise is good for both physical and mental health; this is why hiking has been considered such a great physical activity.

What are the Benefits of Hiking?

Though hiking isn't considered a sport and isn't a competition for anything, there are many incredible hiking benefits. It's such a well-adored activity for many people that it is associated with reduced anxiety, improved memory, improved happiness, and even improved sleep quality in individuals who enjoy a hike.

There are many proven benefits to the activity that make it so popular as a travel activity, aside from just the incredible views.

Hiking is considered one of the best workouts, both for your body and your mind. Many active hikers find it easier to clear their minds out, think better, remember better, and find better productivity when they actively hike.

If you have ever gone for a long walk down a trail, the effects of being around nature, out of the city's crowded and busy bustle, the effects are clear.

Whether you hike alone or with friends, the ability to enjoy nature and the world around you at the moment is a valuable one.

Final Thoughts on Is Hiking a Sport

In conclusion, no, hiking is not a sport. However, there are many incredible things that hiking can do for your mind and body that cannot be achieved through most sports.

The clarity of mind reduced anxiety, and the connection with nature is unique to the activity. There is a good reason that hiking is also such a popular workout activity.

It also leads you to some breathtaking sights and helps you improve your overall happiness.

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