Why does Hiking Burn so many Calories? (10 Reasons)

Experts say that you burn more calories during hiking, but the question is, how does this happen? What is so special about a long walk in the woods that it aids in calorie burning?

I’ve always been a big fan of the great outdoors. My dad always took me with him to trails since I was small. Little did I know, my childhood habit gave me lots of benefits that continue to help me now in adulthood.

As an answer to the questions mentioned above, here are ten reasons why hiking makes you burn more calories.

1. Easy to Start Doing and Becomes a Continuing Habit

Hiking is a combination of exercise and recreation. You could definitely make it a hobby. However, unlike other hobbies, the beautiful thing about this activity is that it is easy to get into.

Hiking shoes

You don’t need to collect anything or buy a lot of gear to enjoy doing it — you only need nature and a good pair of shoes, and you are good to go.

Okay, maybe not just those things, but you get the point. Since it is quite easy to start, you avoid procrastinating, and once you do get into the habit of hiking, you’d end up wanting to do it over and again.


2. Provides More Satisfaction Than Other Forms of Exercise

For me, hiking is one of the most satisfying forms of exercise. Whether I do it alone or with a group, hitting the trails has always been more fun and exciting than traditional indoor workouts. Plus, I get to bring my camera to take videos and pictures to document my experience.

You get to commune with nature when hiking, and you get to see things that you do not usually see in an urban setting. Studies say that hiking activates the body’s pleasure hormones, such as the endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin.

Since hiking is enjoyable, you tend to do it longer. Thus, you burn more calories during hiking. Some people even hike and camp for days or weeks at a time. When you love the experience, you forget about time and tend to continue even if you are already tired.

3. Combines Both Cardio Workout and Strength Training

Cardio workouts allow the body to burn more calories depending on the intensity. The more you weigh, the more calories you are going to burn during cardio. It is an effective way to lose weight.

Meanwhile, strength training lets the body burn more calories daily. Lifting weights build the muscles, and a well-built muscle system intensifies the body’s metabolism even while at rest. This increase in resting metabolism makes you burn more calories accumulatively throughout the day.

I get both the benefits of cardio and weights training in hiking, and I hit almost every part of my body when walking, running, and jumping. Whether I walk through a forest or run along a wide trail uphill, my heart gets all the cardio it needs. Carrying my heavy backpack while climbing up a hill gives my muscles all the weight training they need. The result: more calories burned per hiking trip plus an increase in metabolism.    

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4. Slower Pace Allows Body to Burn More Fat, Thus Burn More Calories

Of the three macronutrients, fats have the highest calorie count for the same amount of protein or carbohydrates.

We must heat up after this trip

Burning more calories than consuming them is the secret to losing weight. You don’t have to run to make hiking enjoyable.

Walking at a slow pace, with the ability to still converse with your hiking partner, burns lots of calories as well. Actually, a slow pace makes the body stay in its fat-burning zone longer.

Strolling while enjoying the scenery around me tend to make my stamina last longer between rests. Burning more fat equals burning calories as well.

5. Climbing Assaults Boost the Body’s Calorie Burning Capacity

A satisfying hike is never complete without going up on small hills or inclines – or as what hikers refer to as assaults. According to experts, this seemingly simple joy of walking uphill helps increase the body’s calorie burning capacity.

The same is true when you hop on and off dead tree trunks or lunge into a squat to peek under large rocks or bushes. These temporary boosts in energy make you burn more calories even as you continue to walk for the next few minutes. It all adds up and so as a whole, you burn more calories during hiking than doing traditional exercises.

6. Engages Your Entire Body and Pushes It to Exert More Effort

One benefit of hiking as a form of exercise is that it engages the whole body. Unlike using a treadmill or a stationary bike, hiking is unpredictable and provides a consistent exercise. This maximizes the body’s capacity to burn calories.

I notice that every time I hike, almost all the important body parts that I want to be worked out in the gym gets sore. My core, quads, hamstrings, and calves all become sore, which indicates a good workout. The lower back, shoulders, biceps, and triceps also hurt from lifting myself off rocks and climbing trees. Everything I do in a hike challenges the body in ways that could never be replicated inside a gym.

7. Increases Metabolism to Help Burn More Calories Even While Sleeping

All the physical exertion you do when hiking contributes to the increase in your overall metabolism. According to the journal titled Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise released by the American Council for Sports Medicine, high-intensity workouts improve the body’s calorie burning capacities even after the exercise is over.

I read in a Livestrong article that a 45-minute high-intensity hiking session burns an extra 190 calories afterward. Metabolism surges and the boosted calorie burning capabilities of the body continue for the next 14.2 hours and goes on for the first three-and-a-half hours of sleep.

Hiking during autumn

8. Backpack Load Contributes to Improve Calorie Burning

The weight of your backpack causes you to burn more calories during hiking. Carrying a light pack for a one-day trip burns about 50 to 100 more calories than a hike without a load. Bringing supplies for longer trek burns even more, which is somewhere around 200 more calories every hour.

While I hike around two to three times each week, I do not always bring any load with me. Once or twice, I only bring a light day pack. I try to carry heavier loads once every two weeks just to vary the challenge.

9. Terrain Variety Makes Hiking More Challenging

Three man and woman walking along hiking trail path in forest woods during sunny day. Group of friends people summer adventure journey in mountain nature outdoors. Travel exploring Alps, Dolomites

The kind of terrain you trek also contributes a lot as to how much calories you can burn during the activity.

However, since the terrain is variable, there is no specific formula or computation on how much more calories you can burn on specific types of topography.

You cannot simply say that walking on a flat, pebbly land burns more calories than hiking on flat, grassy plains. The only thing certain is that treading uphill burns more calories than walking on flat areas.

Aside from changing backpack loads, I also try to vary the types of terrain I hike every week. For me, the variation not only adds to the fun but also makes it more unpredictable.

Unpredictability helps the muscles burn more calories than going through an exact routine every time. Moreover, as a disclaimer, consult with your healthcare provider first to make sure you are physically ready for hiking.

10. Exercising in the Cold Encourages More Calorie Burning

According to studies, the body uses more energy trying to stay warm during cold weather. Thus it burns more calories when you go out and hike. Of course, no one in their right mind would intentionally go on trails during the winter time with only light clothes on. Always make it a habit to be dressed appropriately for a hike.

Plus, the added clothing worn during hikes helps in burning calories than working out in light attire while indoors.

The bottom line is, if you want to lose weight healthily, then hiking could be the ideal exercise for you. Working out in nature not only provides an excellent whole-body workout, but it is also a fun social activity with your friends and loved ones. I hope you now better understand why you burn more calories during hiking.

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