Hiking is a fantastic way to give yourself double benefits- on one hand you get a complete workout which tones you from the inside out and secondly, you allow your senses to enjoy ample time with Mother Nature. But, if you’re considering taking up hiking for the sole purpose of burning as many calories as possible in the shortest possible time, then there are plenty of factors you need to consider first.
So, is hiking really the best workout for burning maximum calories? Let’s take a closer look.
Factors That Affect The Calories Burned
Every body type is different and there are many hidden factors that have a direct impact on the number of calories you burn while hiking:
The fitter a body is, the higher its metabolism will be. People with higher metabolism will be able to assimilate nutrients better in the body and most importantly, will also more calories during exercise. The diet that one follows has a huge impact on body weight, metabolism and general health.
It’s a given that younger people are more likely to cover long distances on foot than seniors. However, if a senior is fit for his or her age, has a healthy BMI and no other diseases or illnesses, there’s no reason why he or she won’t enjoy a long hike and burn enough calories to stay fit too. A senior’s diet may need to include extra nutrients that improve bone density and health like Vitamin D and calcium.
The more the weight of the backpack, the slower a hiker will be in covering long distances and that has a direct impact on the number of calories burned also. A fully packed backpack should ideally not weigh more than 20% of one’s body weight. Overloading can also cause physical distress such as muscle pain, sprains and general fatigue, therefore slowing down a hiker’s natural speed.
The weather you choose to hike in plays an important role in determining how much you will enjoy your hike. Hiking in hot weather puts hikers at high risk of sun stroke, dehydration and in some cases even overhydration. The optimal temperature for a hike is 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit although it is important to be prepared for sudden changes in weather too.
The Trail Grade
The trail grade is a system that has been developed to describe the terrain and elevation of the hiking terrain and trails are graded from ‘Easiest’ to ‘Very Strenuous’. The easiest hiking trails are usually graded < 50, moderately difficult trails are graded between 50-100 whereas the most strenuous hikes are graded between 150- 200. The most strenuous hiking trails also have the highest elevation and take longer to complete.
Some of the most beautiful hiking trails in the world are also the most dangerous! The best hiking trails combine a number of terrains, pass through slippery rocks, calm meadows, real forests, stream crossings, dangerous rockfalls and old bridges. As you encounter tougher terrain, it’s possible that your speed will decrease but the intensity of the workout will increase, as well.
Hikes that can be completed in one day are called day hikes. Many hiking trails can be completed in just a few days whereas others may take weeks together. Some hikers may choose to extend their hike by a few days so that they get to enjoy the surroundings more whereas others may strive to push their limits and complete it in the shortest possible time.
How to Calculate Calories Burned
Here’s a fun way to check how many calories you’re burning on your hike. By entering the correct data, you’ll be in a better position to understand if you are on track to burning as many calories as you intended, on your hike. We recommend using this online calculator daily at least twice.
Other Calorie Calculators To Consider
There are plenty of great calorie calculators out there. Here are 3 others which I recommend-
- CaloriesburnedHq is a great calculator which takes into account the kind of surface you will encounter, into consideration. So, in case, you want to plan a hike and have an idea about the number of calories you are likely to burn on the hike, use this calculator.
- Omnicalculator is another good option to look at especially if you plan to cycle halfway on the trip. The site has around 60 sports calorie calculators and is great for those who play other sports or run marathons. You’ll get a good idea as to how many calories one burns as per the sport played.
- Nwhiker has a decent calorie burn calculator which I would recommend for easy hikes and newbies.
How To Burn More Calories While Hiking
You are guaranteed to burn enough calories while hiking, but if you would like to mix things up a bit and get better results, here are four suggestions that you could try out:
Alternate Your Speed
Believe it or not, but you don’t do your body any favors by sticking to just one speed irrespective of the incline. To get max benefits, go downhill slowly and walk at a faster pace while going uphill. It’ll give your body a more intense workout.
Add A Few Pushups
Hiking gives your lower body a great workout so toned legs is definitely a given. But how about giving your upper body small workouts in between too? You can do that just by doing pushups whenever you rest to take a break. If doing pushups on the ground isn’t possible, look for a bench or even a flat rock.
Want a better workout than just walking uphill at a fast pace? Then include a full minute of running or jogging in between your walks. Another good way to boost calorie burn is by running for a full 3 minutes and then walking fast for another 2 minutes. I suggest starting out slowly and then increasing the frequency as per your comfort level.
Stationery exercises like lunges and squats are fantastic for increasing muscle strength and especially for lower body toning. I recommend doing a few of these whenever you feel like stretching or warming up before your hike. Both lunges and squats give your abdomen a good workout too.
Fun Facts About Hiking You Probably Didn’t Know About
Helps To Lower Depression
Stanford Researchers found that people who live in cities have a 40% greater risk of developing mood based mental disorders. On the other hand, walking in natural surroundings and spending more time with nature has been proven to be a great mood booster and could help reduce depression levels too. In that regard, hiking is definitely recommended! You can read more about the study here.
Hiking is Better Than Working Out Indoors
In an interesting study conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information in 2016, 42 otherwise healthy participants were put through outdoor mountain climbing and indoor treadmill workouts to gauge whether outdoor workouts benefitted the body more. The positive impact on the mind and body of working out in the outdoors were so evident that it was recommended that physicians suggest outdoor mountain hiking as a form of exercise for improved health.
Hiking vs Running
Which cardio activity is better for weight loss- hiking or running? This is an age-old question that almost everyone will have a different answer to. Running, no doubt, helps to spike up one’s heart rate faster and simply running for one hour can help burn more than 1500 calories. On the other hand, running also tends to wear out the lower back and leg joints faster, especially if one already has certain aches and pains. In that regard, hiking appears to be the safer choice.
Hiking Isn’t Expensive
Considering that there are plenty of expensive sports out there for which people tend to buy expensive gear, hiking is much simpler in comparison. If you’re just starting out, all you really need are comfortable footwear, minimum food, water, a hat and a mini backpack. Depending upon your comfort level, you can decide upon what other accessories you want to invest in, to make your hike more enjoyable. I recommend hiking in a group so that you have a better enjoyable experience.