Is Hiking Good For Weight Loss?

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Hiking is not only enjoyable. It can also help you move more. Find out whether this can benefit your weight loss efforts or not.

If you want to lose weight, you need to make it so your body requires more energy than is coming in from food. At this point, you will start using up energy stores like body fat.

That means you can consider every exercise, including hiking, to be good for weight loss.

At the same time, there are still differences in effects.

There are definitely exercises that burn more calories per minute than hiking. These could be more effective if you don’t necessarily like hiking and/or only have a short amount of time to work out.

On the other hand, some of the benefits of hiking for weight loss are that many people find it enjoyable and can hike for many hours at a time.

So hiking is not necessarily the most effective exercise for losing weight. However, its unique benefits could make it a good choice for you anyway.

Can you lose weight by hiking?

The oversimplified answer is that hiking can help you lose weight. However, there are a few things to keep in mind. Hiking a lot is no guarantee for seeing fat loss results.

To lose weight, you need to make it so you need more energy to function than is coming in from food. When this happens, your body starts using up energy stores like body fat to get the difference.

Hiking helps in this process because it helps you move more intensely than usual. This requires more energy from your body.

In turn, you increase your chances to get to the point above and make the difference bigger to see more results.

At the same time, you need to keep in mind that other lifestyle habits like what you eat still influence the weight loss process too.

Additionally, just because hiking helps does not necessarily mean it is the best activity for losing body fat. Other alternatives could be more effective.

Person hiking

Calories burned hiking vs other exercises

To understand how hiking compares to other exercises for losing weight it can be helpful to look at how many calories it burns. Calories are basically a way to put energy used into a number.

Before going into these numbers, you have to know that the calorie-burning estimations are very rough. Especially in the case of hiking where your walking surface, speed, and elevation can make big differences.

So while the predictions below are definitely not perfect, they do give you some idea about how hiking compared to other activities in terms of burning calories during the workout.

A 155-pound (70 kg) person will burn more or less the following amounts of calories when doing the activities for 30 minutes (1):

  • Cross-country hiking: 220 calories
  • Water Aerobics: 149 calories
  • Stretching (Hatha Yoga): 186 calories
  • Stair Step Machine (general): 223 calories
  • Rowing, Stationary (moderate): 260 calories
  • Bicycling, Stationary (moderate): 260 calories
  • Elliptical Trainer (general): 335 calories
  • Running 5.2 mph: 335 calories

To get more precise estimations for different time intervals, distances, and body weights you can check out the article on how many calories hiking burns.

That aside, the estimations above imply hiking is not the most effective exercise for burning a lot of calories per minute.

On the flip side, you also want to keep in mind that it will be a lot easier to hike 3 hours than run at a speed of 5.2 mph for the same duration.

Additionally, you can speed up your hiking, climb steep hills, and make other modifications to increase how many calories you burn.

So what exercise the best choice is for burning overall calories will also depend on other factors. Hiking could still be the activity that aligns the most with your situation and preferences.

How Long Should You Hike To Lose Weight

Does hiking build muscle?

Another way some workouts can benefit weight loss is by helping you build muscle. This extra mass helps you burn more calories throughout the day.

That being said, hiking offers many benefits but building a lot of muscle mass is not one of them. This activity is typically not challenging enough to accomplish this.

You can still improve your muscle endurance with hiking but this point is worth mentioning. Many people overestimate the effects of hiking in this area.

Is hiking good for losing belly fat?

Many people get the impression that you can choose where you lose fat by doing certain activities or by eating certain foods.

Unfortunately, it is typically not possible to target fat loss in significant amounts. To lose belly fat, you have to lose enough weight.

Over time, your body will start using more and more body fat. Potentially from areas like your belly.

That means some of the same principles from above apply. Hiking could be good for losing belly fat at some point.

However, to get there your habits in other lifestyle areas like your diet need to be good enough. Additionally, some people will initially see more fat loss in other areas first.

How long should you hike to lose weight?

It is only natural that you want to know how long you should then hike if you want to lose weight.

Unfortunately, it is hard to give answers that apply to everyone. Partly because of reasons like that not all types of calories in food have the same effect on weight loss.

At the same time, there is a way to get somewhat of an idea of what weight loss results you can get from hiking.

Assume that there is a 185-pound (83 kg) person who currently has a routine where he/she stays at the same weight. The only change this individual makes is hiking longer.

More specifically, if this person hikes 7 hours a week, he/she will burn an extra 3668 calories per 7 days. This is about 1.05 pounds (0.46 kg) of body fat.

After completing 4 weeks like this, the same person would burn an extra 14,672 calories or about 4.2 pounds (1.8 kg) of body fat.

One thing you do want to keep in mind is that as you lose more weight, the same hiking workouts will burn fewer calories. Your body weight influences your calorie burning a lot.

How often should you hike to lose weight?

One of the benefits of hiking is that it is an activity with relatively low injury risk. Additionally, many people do not necessarily have to implement rest days in between hike sessions.

This makes it so how often you should hike to lose weight depends more on what your body can deal with, your goals, the time you have, and your other lifestyle habits like your diet.

Some people can lose weight without hiking at all.

Others may have to hike 5 days a week or more to lose weight.

You can use the calorie-burning estimations above to make a first estimation, implement the hiking routine, and adjust details if necessary.

Person resting after a long hike

Why can hikers still get fat?

There are many hikers who encounter a very confusing situation.

They do all of these long hikes, impressive climbs, walk until they get out of breath, etc. but they don’t see any weight loss results. In fact, they sometimes gain fat.

While there are exceptions where there is actually something wrong with the person, the situation above is often the result of suboptimal habits in other lifestyle areas like nutrition.

For example, there are hiking snacks that are high in calories to replace the energy you just used up.

However, there is also a way to overdo it with these snacks which could result in getting fatter.

Is hiking a good exercise for losing weight?

Hiking can be a good exercise for losing weight since it can help you burn a nice number of calories.

Some of its more unique benefits include that hiking is fun, you can do it for a long time, it helps you get more sunlight, and can help you reduce stress.

So even if hiking does not burn the most calories per minute, it can still be a great activity for weight loss.

On the flip side, it is possible that you have a busy schedule that only allows you to work out for 20 minutes a day. In that case, something like running, cycling, or swimming is likely a better choice for weight loss.

Additionally, you are rather dependent on the weather if hiking is your only form of exercise.

Lastly, no matter whether you choose hiking or another form of exercise, you want to keep in mind that your habits in lifestyle areas like nutrition still influence the weight loss process a lot.

FAQ

Can you lose weight by hiking every day?

You can lose weight by hiking every day if your body is able to deal with it and if your habits in areas like nutrition are good enough. On the other hand, hiking every day is no guarantee for weight loss.

How much weight can you lose on a hike?

Water weight differences aside, a medium-pace hike of 5 hours could help a 155-pound person burn the number of calories in 0.63 pounds (0.28 kg) of body fat. Whether these 2197 calories actually come from body fat or not depends on a variety of details.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.