Hiking for Weight Loss (+ 11 Tips to Burn Extra Calories on the Trails)

Your body can burn more calories when hiking than when walking, thanks largely to rolling hills and inclines you may not get on a stroll around the neighborhood. 

Hiking is a great form of exercise too that really doesn’t feel like a traditional workout at all. Even better, hiking for weight loss can be lots of fun.

Hiking for Beginners | Hiking 101 | Hiking with a Group

Hiking can be easier on your body and joints than a high-impact exercise, like running. Hiking is also great for your mental health.

If you’re curious about whether hiking is a good addition to your exercise or weight loss program, you’ll find the answers you need here. 

Is Hiking a Good Way to Lose Weight?

Yes, hiking can be a great addition to your weight loss plan. Hiking is a form of cardio, so it helps you burn body fat just like a traditional cardio routine.

Additionally, hiking doesn’t feel like working out. It’s fun and exciting and you can do it almost anywhere, at any time and time of year.

hiking water crossing

Hiking doesn’t require any special equipment, making it a convenient and accessible activity. Some may, however, find value in hiking poles. 

Because hiking is relatively low-impact, it’s gentle on your body and joints. You can choose to hike alone, with friends or with family. It’s up to you.

Thanks to varying types and locations of hiking trails, each time you hike can be a totally different experience.

Crabtree Falls Trail-Last View Point of Falls

Hiking isn’t just great for losing weight, though. Hiking is a great hobby that can have positive effects on your mental health, too.

If you’re looking for ways to mix up your workout routine and lose weight without feeling like you’re working out, hiking is a great option.

Can You Lose Belly Fat by Hiking?

Yes, hiking can help you lose belly fat. While you can’t spot-reduce fat, you can engage in physical activity that burns fat all over your body, including your belly.

Hiking is a type of exercise that can include aerobic exercise (cardio, to strengthen heart and lungs) and anaerobic (to build muscle mass).

Hikers Hiking

Hiking gets your heart rate up, increases oxygen and blood flow to your muscles, and can also include short bursts of intense activity.

Each type of exercise has different benefits, but they can all help you lose weight. Typical workouts focus on one at a time, but hiking covers them all.

If you want to reduce belly fat, you must work to reduce body fat in general. Hiking can be a useful component of your exercise regimen for this purpose.

Can You Lose Weight Hiking Weekly?

Yes, you can lose weight by hiking once a week. However, it all depends on how your body burns calories and how long or strenuous your hike is.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week to lose weight.

Hiking Old Rag

That’s between 2.5-5 hours of sustained moderate intensity exercise. This also means 75-100 minutes a week of vigorous intensity exercise.

If you want to lose weight with one hike a week, your hikes should be of moderate length and intensity.

To help your body lose weight with only one hike a week, add in an extra day of working out to burn some more calories (e.g., biking, running).

Walking on the Yellow-Blazed Hazel Mountain Trail

Hiking should be enjoyable. As a part of a balanced fitness routine, it can help you reach your weight loss goals.

However, you might be happy to know that according to the CDC, hiking burns more calories than any other cardio activity.

According to the CDC, a 154-pound person can burn 185 calories on average for every 30 minutes of hiking.

Calorie Burning Factors

There are a lot of factors that affect how you burn fat and calories when hiking for weight loss. Things like age, gender and weight all play a part.

Here are other factors, like the intensity of the activity, your body composition and your overall amount of daily activity.

Hiking Knees

Be aware that what helps one person lose weight quickly may not work as well for you, and that’s okay.

The most important thing for anyone on a weight loss journey is the addition of physical exercise into your lifestyle and routine.

Being active shouldn’t stop when you reach your weight goals. It should be a normal part of your life. Hiking is a great way to be active and get in nature.

How to Burn Extra Calories When Hiking

woman hiking on a trail

There are ways to amp up your fat burning efforts while hiking, but you should always be realistic with yourself about what your body can handle.

Many hikers require rescue each year because they have pushed themselves beyond their physical limits on the trails.

Pushing your limits too far can cause physical exhaustion or worse: serious injury. You can still get in a good workout without choosing a very hard trail.

#1: Choose Trails With Elevation Gain

One way to help get your blood flowing and burn extra calories is to choose a trail with a few uphill sections.

If you’re hiking to lose weight, hiking uphill is a great form of cardio and strength-building exercise.

#2: Carry a Hiking Backpack

climbing steps on the trail when hiking for weight loss

Carrying a backpack with day hike essentials adds extra weight, which helps you burn more calories and gain strength.

If you plan to go hiking with weight and want to make your pack heavier, bring extra water. There’s no harm in bringing extra water to prevent dehydration.

#3: Choose Rugged Terrain

Navigating over rocks and roots, as well as scrambling rocks and help you burn calories and gain strength.

These activities are different than activities of normal daily life. They work different muscle groups on your body.

As a result, you’ll get your blood flowing, strengthen your muscles and help burn more calories.

#4: Pick Up the Pace

a woman hiking for weight loss by climbing stairs

Walking faster can burn more calories. Walking faster while hiking can burn even more calories than regular walking.

To burn more calories while hiking, pick up the pace. Especially when hiking uphill on a mountain trail.

#5: Use Hiking Poles

Using hiking poles helps get your entire body involved in the hike. Moving your entire body will get your blood flowing and calories burning.

#6: Incorporate Squats and Lunges

Cedar Run Hiking

You’re out in a beautiful setting, why not add in a couple of squats and lunges.

Incorporate some squats and lunges along your hike to help burn more calories and shape and tone your body.

#7: Try a Short Sprint

Engage in a short sprint now and then on the trail. Just be sure to watch out for roots, rocks, leaves and other tripping hazards.

#8: Try Ankle and/or Wrist Weights

If you want to add a little more weight to strengthen your arms and legs, ankle and/or wrist weights can be a fun and challenging idea.

If you get tired of them, stick them in your backpack. You’ll still have the added weight, just not on your extremities.

#9: Hike Against the Wind

Dragon's Tooth Hike

If there’s a breeze, hike against it, if you can. Wind resistance can help you burn a few extra calories, too.

#10: Baby-Wearing

Okay, so this one is only realistic for parents. But carrying a child or wearing a baby in a carrier will help you burn a ton of extra calories.

As long as your little one tolerates it, it can be a fun way to connect with them and get them interested in nature, too.

#11: Step Up on Stumps and Small Boulders

When you see a stump or small boulder along the way, step up on it. You can step up and down a few times, if you want.

This is a fun, easy way to burn a few extra calories while hiking. Just watch out for slippery moss.

Disclaimer: The words in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended as medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor with any questions regarding your health or a medical condition.