Hiking For Weight Loss

By mattv


Hiking is a fantastic way to lose weight if that is your goal. The number of calories burned hiking is quite high especially when large elevation gains are involved. You can burn more calories on a hike compared to a regular walk. And, as a bonus, you get to enjoy nature and hiking views at the same time. Hiking is good for the body and mind. A win-win scenario! If you haven’t tried it, and you’re packing a few extra pounds that you don’t want, hiking for weight loss is something you might want to consider. I know hiking works to lose weight quickly because I have lost 3o+ pounds twice in a matter of months by hitting the trails. Once in my twenties, and again in my thirties. It’s unbelievable how effective hiking can be to get in pretty awesome shape and quickly.

It is super difficult to ingest the high number of calories that you burn during a full day of rigorous hiking. This has been proven by thru-hiking. Thru-hikers struggle to consume more calories than they burn each day on the trails. Eventually, they must scale up their daily caloric intake.

On average, to maintain body weight, women should consume about 2000 calories per day, while men should consume 2500 calories per day.

On a full-day hike, you can expect to burn between 2000-5000 calories. The final count will depend on the intensity of the hike. Easier, flatter hikes will land closer to 2000 calories. A more difficult hike with challenging terrain and big elevation gains will burn over 3500 calories.

If you do the math, you can see how effective hiking can be to lose weight. Especially if you get out on the trails regularly. To shed weight rapidly it is recommended to hike 3 days or more per week and for at least 2 hours per hike.

hiking for weight loss

Top 15 Hiking For Weight Loss Tips

Hiking will definitely help you lose weight if you are consistent. However, there are a few things that you can do while hiking that will accelerate weight loss. These are our top hiking for weight loss tips.

1) Count your calories

To start, make sure you are not consuming too many calories.

Only eat what you need based on your age and activity level.

Then, the calories burned hiking will have the most impact.

Check out these rough guidelines for a starting point.

2) Go easy on post-hike celebrations (food + drink)

After a big hike, it’s tempting to throw back some beers or eat some unhealthy food. Especially, if you hike with a group. Celebrating is fun to do on occasion. But, be careful. Avoid using food and alcohol as a reward for completing a big hike. You can quickly fall into a habit of simply burning and consuming more calories. If you want to lose weight by hiking the goal should be to have a slight caloric deficit after each hike. Then you will gradually lose weight in a safe way over time.

3) Power hike

Challenge yourself with difficult hikes. Of course, keep it within reason based on your current age and fitness level.

You will burn more calories and lose more weight if you do hikes that have rigorous terrain and elevation gains.

As you get stronger, try more difficult hikes. The more difficult the hikes, the more calories burned hiking.

4) Move fast uphill

Power up hills and elevation gains. Run or walk more quickly to burn more calories. The calories burned while hiking will increase quite a bit if you move fast.

5) Move slow downhill

On the downslope, slow your pace down. This will force you to work your muscles harder and increase the caloric burn. It will also be easier on your joints.

6) Use trekking poles (move your arms)

If you move your whole body while hiking you will burn more calories. Focus on using your legs and your arms as you go.

One way to accomplish this is to use trekking poles. If you hike with trekking poles you will be sure to move both your legs and arms and thus your whole body. Trekking poles can also help you to prevent injury.

7) Don’t starve yourself

Hiking is super hard work.

You need protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats to keep you going.

Fuel your body with adequate food and water before, during and after your hikes.

Eat snacks and sip water frequently as you go. You need the energy provided by food and water to keep your body moving efficiently over a full day of hiking. Hiking hungry or thirsty is never fun.

There’s a saying in business, ” you need money to make money”. And, for hiking, “you need calories to burn calories”. Haha. Simple, right?

8) Take extra water (and gear)

If you take extra water you will be carrying extra weight. This will make you work harder and burn more calories over the day.

Also, you will probably need it. Many beginner hikers do not take enough water. I never return from a hike with leftover water even when I take a little extra in my hiking daypack.

The other thing you can do that will help you lose weight hiking is carry more gear. That sounds kind of funny, doesn’t it? Especially to ultralight gear fanatics, I am sure. Most hikers, primarily newcomers and beginners don’t bring the gear they really need to be safe and to be comfortable on hikes.

Take a look at our hiking gear checklist and our hiking clothing checklist. Also, review our ten essentials of hiking article. Do you carry much (or any) of the recommended gear? Depending on your hiking style, there is a collection of gear to bring along. Dial into your ultimate list. Taking the gear you may need will add extra weight to your pack. If you are consistently carrying more weight you will get into shape much more quickly.

It’s amazing how much difficult a hike can become by adding just 1 or 2 pounds to your pack. I can notice the difference between bringing my “real camera” vs. just my mobile phone to take pictures on my hike. If I take my camera and an extra lens, I slow down. However, I am working harder. So, think about taking a few extras next time you are out on the hiking trails.

9) Track your progress

Use apps (Hiking Project or AllTrails) to track your progress.

As you see your miles, elevation gains and the calories you burn add up over time you will feel compelled to do even more. As your speed or pace increases, you will feel driven to make improvements and work harder and faster. Go for it!

10) Hike more

Hike more, and get in better shape. I find that as my body gets into better shape I want to improve even more whether that is to get stronger, faster, or conquer more difficult hikes. Over time, I crave more physical fitness. Eventually, you have lost all the weight you wanted to and are now in great shape. Goal accomplished.

Hiking is good for your mental health too. The more you hike, the happier you will become over time. I always feel totally exhilarated after a big hike. Nothing but smiles.

If you hike more often, you will likely find that unhealthy habits (eating, drinking, general lack of exercise) decline or disappear from your life entirely.

11) Hike in the Winter

Winter hiking, is much more difficult. Plowing through the snow takes more effort. Thus, it is easier to lose weight while hiking in Winter. The deeper the snow the more calories burned while hiking. Plus, Winter hiking gives you the opportunity to experience your favorite trails in a completely different way. Snowy.

Get yourself some Winter hiking gear, Winter hiking boots or snowshoes and hike all year round!

12) Incorporate strength training with your hikes

If you want to step it up a notch, do other exercises during your hike.

This will help you isolate important muscles, burn more calories, and become a more powerful hiker.

You can easily switch gears by doing some:

  • Push-ups
  • Sit-ups
  • Lunges
  • Squats
  • Planks

13) Hike up greater elevation gains

Hiking uphill burns calories faster. The steeper the grade means that you don’t have to hike as far to see results. Or, just hike steep and far for maximum results. Hiking down from the high elevations also is more difficult than flat terrain, thus you will burn more calories on the downslope too. Bonus.

14) Travel…and hike

Beautiful places draw you in, and they give you extra energy.

Consider mixing up your vacations with places that you can also hike. You will burn way more calories hiking while you travel compared to relaxing on a beach.

15) Focus on the experience (and less on weight loss)

If you hike 3 times per week or more and eat (and drink) healthy you will definitely lose weight. If you are consistent, it can happen in a matter of months.

Keep your focus on the experience of being in the outdoors and appreciating nature and scenery. Do some research, and pick out the best scenic hikes. Once you get started you won’t stop.

That concludes our story on hiking for weight loss.

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