Skip to content

Hiking or Walking: What's Better for Weight Loss?

A trainer breaks down the benefits of hiking versus walking for weight loss.
FACT CHECKED BY Alexa Mellardo

If you're trying to shed a few pounds, you might wonder whether hiking or walking is the better option for weight loss. Both activities offer unique benefits and can help you reach your fitness goals, but which one is truly the best?

Imagine this: A brisk walk through your neighborhood, soaking in the sights and sounds of your local park, versus an invigorating hike up a scenic mountain trail surrounded by nature's beauty. The choice between these two forms of exercise might seem straightforward, but there's more to consider than just the scenery.

In the sections ahead, we'll dive into the unique advantages of hiking and then explore the perks of walking. Finally, we'll compare the calorie-burning potential of each to help you figure out which might be the most effective for you.

Whether you're a city dweller who loves the convenience of a nearby walking path or an adventurer at heart who thrives in the great outdoors, understanding the nuances of these activities can help you make an informed decision.

The benefits of hiking for weight loss:

woman hiking demonstrating little-known habits to shrink your leg fat

Hiking isn't just a workout; it's an adventure that takes you into the heart of nature, giving your mind and body a much-needed break from the daily grind. Picture yourself navigating uneven ground, climbing over rocks, and balancing on rugged trails. This kind of terrain engages multiple muscle groups, providing a fantastic full-body workout. Plus, being surrounded by nature and breathing in fresh air can lift your spirits and melt away stress, which is great for your overall health.

Hiking combines aerobic and anaerobic exercise, promoting fat loss and muscle building. This form of exercise typically involves longer distances and durations than your average walk, leading to a higher calorie burn. The extended time on the trail also builds endurance, boosting cardiovascular health and stamina.

One of the best-kept secrets about hiking is its natural interval-style workout. As you tackle different terrains and elevations, you go through periods of intense effort followed by easier stretches. This type of interval training revs up your metabolism, keeping it elevated even after you've finished your hike.

Needless to say, hiking could be just what you need if you're looking for an effective and enjoyable way to ramp up your weight loss.

The Top Benefits Of Going On A Hiking Trip, Science Says

The benefits of walking for weight loss:

fit woman performing outdoor 15-minute walking workout to slim down and get toned

Walking is one of the easiest and most accessible forms of exercise, perfect for people of all fitness levels. No special equipment or training is needed, and you can do it almost anywhere.

Regular walking helps improve cardiovascular health, boosts metabolism, and enhances mental well-being. It's so simple to fit into your day, whether it's a morning stroll, walking the dog, or choosing to walk instead of driving for short errands.

10 Ways To Maximize Your Walking Workout for Faster Weight Loss

For weight loss, picking up the pace to a brisk walk can really elevate your heart rate, encouraging your body to burn more calories. The best part? Walking is low-impact, reducing the risk of injury and being gentle on your joints, which makes it a sustainable long-term exercise option.

Plus, walking can be a great social activity. It's a fantastic way to catch up with friends or spend quality time with family, making it feel less like a workout and more like a fun part of your day.

To kick things up a notch, try varying your walking routine. Add some intensity with weighted walks or trekking poles, or find a route with inclines to challenge your muscles. Interval walks, where you alternate between fast and slow paces, can boost your workout. These variations can keep your routine interesting and help you burn even more calories.

Mixing things up can make your walking workouts more effective and enjoyable, leading to steady, sustained weight loss and overall health improvements.

People Are Ditching Regular Walks for 'Rucking': 'The Transformation of My Body Is Real'

Which yields a greater calorie burn: hiking or walking?

middle-aged couple hiking, signs you're in good shape at 50

When comparing the calorie-burning potential of hiking and walking, the intensity of the activity plays a crucial role. With its varied terrain and elevation changes, hiking typically burns more calories per hour than walking on a flat surface.

According to Harvard Health Publishing, a person weighing 155 pounds can burn approximately 216 calories per half-hour hiking, compared to about 133 calories per half-hour walking at a brisk pace of 3.5 mph. The increased effort required to navigate challenging trails and carry supplies like a backpack contributes to this higher calorie burn.

However, walking's accessibility and ease mean it can be performed more frequently and for longer periods, potentially leading to a greater overall calorie burn over time and helping keep you consistent in your workout efforts. Walking can be easily adjusted to fit different fitness levels and schedules, allowing for a higher total weekly activity level. Additionally, the lower intensity of walking means it can be done daily without needing significant recovery time, unlike more strenuous hiking.

Running or Incline Walking: Which Burns More Fat?

I recommend incorporating walking and hiking into your fitness routine for the best results. Walking is incredibly accessible and easy to fit into daily life, so aim for two to four walks a week. These can be brisk walks around your neighborhood, strolls in the park, or even walking your dog.

When you have the time and opportunity, head out to the trails for a more strenuous, nature-filled session with hiking. This way, you can enjoy the full-body workout and metabolic boost hiking offers alongside the consistent, low-impact benefits of walking.

By combining both activities, you'll get the best of both worlds, making your weight-loss journey more effective and enjoyable overall.

Jarrod Nobbe, MA, CSCS
Jarrod Nobbe is a USAW National Coach, Sports Performance Coach, Personal Trainer, and writer, and has been involved in health and fitness for the past 12 years. Read more about Jarrod
Filed Under
Sources referenced in this article
  1. Source:
  2. Source:
  3. Source: