Hiking is one of the best ways to unplug from everyday life, connect with nature, and get in some great exercise all at the same time.
But is hiking good for weight loss? Does hiking burn fat? How many calories does hiking burn?
In this article, we will discuss the benefits of hiking for weight loss, tips for hiking to lose weight, and a 14-day hiking for weight loss challenge for you to take on.
We will cover:
- Can You Lose Weight Hiking?
- How Many Calories Does Hiking Burn?
- Tips For Hiking For Weight Loss
Let’s dive in!
Can You Lose Weight Hiking?
So, is hiking good for weight loss, and does hiking burn fat?
The short answer is yes, hiking can be great for weight loss.
Like any form of exercise, hiking burns calories. As such, hiking can help you lose weight if you hike enough to generate a caloric deficit.
How Many Calories Does Hiking Burn?
The number of calories you burn hiking will depend on numerous factors, including how long you hike, the intensity of your hiking workouts, how strenuous the terrain is, whether you’re carrying a pack, and your body weight.
The more you weigh, the longer you hike, and the more intense your hiking workouts are, the more calories you will burn hiking.
The metabolic equivalent (MET) formula can be used to provide an estimate of how many calories you’ll burn hiking.
The Compendium of Physical Activities reports the following METs for hiking activities:
- 5.3 METs: hiking or walking at a normal pace through fields and hillsides
- 6.0 METs: hiking, cross country
- 7.0 METs: walking, backpacking
- 7.8 METs: walking, backpacking, hiking, or organized walking with a daypack
Using these METs values, you can calculate the number of calories burned walking or hiking for various body weights using the equation to determine energy expenditure:Calories Burned Per Minute = METs x 3.5 x (your body weight in kilograms) / 200
For example, if you weigh 165 pounds (75 kg) and hike on cross-country trails, which is 6.0 METs:
6 METS x 3.5 x 75 / 200 = 7.9 calories per minute.
If you hike for one hour, multiply 7.9 x 60 minutes = 474 calories per hour.
Tips For Hiking For Weight Loss
Here are some tips to increase the number of calories you burn if you are hiking for weight loss:
#1: Hike As Fast As Possible
The more intense your hiking workouts, the more calories you will burn hiking.
Thus, hiking as fast as possible is the best strategy for burning more calories when hiking for weight loss.
Try to hike with intention, moving quickly while still enjoying the scenery.
Try to take as few breaks as possible. For example, when you crest a big uphill, rather than stopping to catch your breath, try to keep moving, even if at a slow speed, if it is possible.
#2: Carry a Weighted Pack
When you carry a backpack or external load, you are effectively increasing your body weight, which means that your heart and muscles have to work harder to move your body. This is a similar concept to exercising with a weighted vest.
The heavier your hiking pack, the more calories you will burn at the same hiking speed.
However, build up gradually in terms of the weight of the pack that you use, aiming not to go above one-third of your body weight.
For example, if you weigh 180 pounds, your pack should not exceed 60 pounds, and you would certainly want to start with a lighter pack before building up to such a hefty load.
#3: Pick Your Hiking Terrain Wisely
Your hiking terrain will affect how many calories you burn hiking, but this one is a delicate balance to navigate when you are trying to hike for weight loss
It is true that you will burn more calories with challenging terrain that requires you to scramble over rocks and roots, particularly if you have to get down on all fours and use your hands as well.
However, if you have to slow down so much because the train is so technical, you may actually burn fewer calories hiking than if you are moving along at a good clip on a moderately difficult trail.
Therefore, you want to strike a balance between choosing a trail that is challenging enough that you are using lots of muscles but not so technically demanding that you can only hike a mile or so in your entire hiking adventure because you have to go so slowly.
Ultimately, your aim when hiking for weight loss is to try to keep your heart rate as elevated as possible, and this is usually best accomplished by being able to continuously move at a pretty fast hiking speed rather than getting tied up in lots of deliberate, careful steps.
#4: Choose Trails With Elevation Gain
Hiking up a mountain is a form of incline walking, which will help you burn significantly more calories than hiking on a level trail with minimal elevation gain.
When you hike uphill, your body is working against the resistance of gravity, so it is more work on your cardiovascular and muscular systems to propel each step forward.
As a result, your heart and muscles consume more energy, requiring you to breathe harder and your heart to beat faster.
This increases caloric expenditure while simultaneously providing more of a strengthening stimulus to the muscles in your posterior chain, such as the glutes, hamstrings, and calves.
Of course, what comes up, must come down, so if you hike up a mountain, you will also need to hike down.
Although from a cardiovascular standpoint, hiking downhill is not as rigorous or taxing, you will still get a good workout, and you will strengthen your quadriceps.
#5: Use Hiking Poles
Using hiking poles will help transform your basic hiking movement into even more of a total-body exercise. This will help you increase your caloric expenditure hiking.
Plant your poles firmly and pull your body towards them, contracting the muscles in your arms and core.
#6: Increase Your Distance
Depending on where you live and your proximity to good hiking trails, hiking can be a more time-intensive form of exercise than a home workout or going for a run or walk right from your door.
If you have to drive or take transportation to the hiking trails, you are quickly adding a significant amount of time to your total workout experience without increasing your workout duration.
Therefore, in order to make hiking more efficient, try to build up the distance or length of your hikes so that you can maximize your caloric expenditure without needing to hike more frequently to lose weight.
Although it is best to hike for exercise as frequently as possible when you’re trying to lose weight, you can also accelerate weight loss by hiking for a long duration. Strive to have at least one long hike per week.
Gradually build up the length of this hike to several hours if your schedule and fitness permit.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75-150 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity exercise to lose weight.
#7: Add Intervals
Just as you can engage in interval training when walking, running, cycling, or performing some other type of cardio exercise, you can also throw in intervals of fast hiking, sort of like sprinting when you are hiking to lose weight.
Just make sure that when you are hiking at a very brisk pace or sprinting along the trail you throw in these fast intervals during sections of the trail that are relatively clear of tripping hazards so that you can focus on maintaining your intensity without risking twisting an ankle or falling.
14-Day Hiking for Weight Loss Challenge
Here’s a 14-day hiking for weight loss challenge for beginners. Don’t worry about the pace! Just try to establish a consistent habit of moving every day.
|Hike or walk for 20 minutes at an easy pace||Hike for 10 minutes easy then 10 minutes as briskly as possible||Rest||Hike or walk at an incline for 20 minutes at an effort level of 8 out of 10||Hike 30 minutes easy||Walk 20-30 minutes||Hike 30-45 minutes easy|
|Hike or walk 30-45 minutes at an easy pace||Rest||Incline Walking 20-30 minutes at 3% incline||Hike 20 minutes as briskly as possible||Incline Walking 10 minutes at 3% grade, 10 minutes at 5%, and then 10 minutes at 6%||Easy 20-minute walk||HIke 45-60 minutes|
Overall, hiking can be a great form of exercise for weight loss. It allows you to enjoy the outdoors while burning calories, strengthening your heart and muscles, and challenging your body in different ways.
It can get tricky when you are trying to plan the distance for your hikes if you aren’t sure just how fast you are hiking. To help you make a good estimate for your next adventure, check out our guide: What’s An Average Hiking Speed? How To Estimate Hike Speed.