Take to the hills rather than the closest pub or bar (Dreamstime)
List 11 July

5 reasons group hiking is cooler than cocktail hour

Young urban professionals are packing their day-sacks and heading for the hills. Super-hiker Alex Murphy reveals why

Thanks to social networking British group hill walking is evolving into a social work out for young urban professionals in the great outdoors. Gone are the days when hiking was the exclusive domain of the grey-haired anorak brigade. They are still a thriving and admirable bunch, but now there are many walking groups aimed at those age 20-50. The old stereo-types are fading and making way for a new “cool” crowd: here's why group hiking is the new hip hangout.

1. Look and feel tip-top

Exercise for today’s successful career-focused workforce is as essential to their urban lifestyle as their laptop or BlackBerry. Hiking in the hills at a reasonable pace is most definitely a calorie burning cardio vascular form of exercise. According to LiveStrong contributor Dr T. Asmangulyan, author of Exercise and Health, an average person who weighs 70kg will burn about 480 calories during an hour of uphill walking.

Hill walking also engages core, butt and thigh muscles and aides in toning those traditional wobbly bits. A day out hill walking will burn far more calories and tone more muscles than your average spin class or gym circuit under artificial lights and recycled air.

2. Relax and let someone else do the work

Well-organised group hill walking provides an easy solution for busy successful people who don’t have time to plan where to go and learn how to navigate but want to escape the steel, concrete and confines of their office. A 9-5-er's week is all about scheduling and planning so hiking with a group leader relieves them of that burden.

3. Meet like-minded people

Socialising, networking and romancing possibilities are countless on a group hike with like-minded folk. Unlike a happy hour at an urban bar you can actually hear each other speak and you are in a natural bonding environment. Hiking is an equaliser: hedge fund managers, lawyers, techies, teachers, musicians and store managers all meet on common ground. I have seen several jobs found, best friends form and romance blossom on hikes over the past few years.

4. Get outdoors for the grub

The beautiful British countryside with its abundance in tasty food and drink found along the trails is rivalling city establishments and a good walking group will source good grub in advance, as well as providing you with the new friends to enjoy this with.

Microbreweries, English wines and locally sourced food that can only be found in rural areas are often a delicious part of a group hiking experience.

5. Keep costs down

Great value is offered in terms of entertainment, exercise, and socialising. In most cases the cost of a group-led hike will be less than the price of a cinema ticket, drinks and popcorn. The cost involved looks attractive when compared to other group exercises like some boot camps, specialised yoga classes and single gym entries.

Top tip: Try to find an established group with a trained group leader who has first aid skills and who grades their hikes according to distance, pace, terrain and gradient. There are range of groups offering everything from fast paced hikes, scenic walks, rugged hikes with creature comforts and no-frills challenging routes.

Adventure tour operator Exodus has launched their new programme of UK Day Walks and Walking Weekends with Alex Murphy. Their next two departures are a Seven Sisters West Sussex Coastal Hike on August 11th and a Dorking to Denbies Wine Walk on September 15th. For more details see: www.exodus.co.uk/walkingweekends

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