Hiking for Weight Loss: How to Lose Weight by Hiking

Hiking for weight loss

Hiking is not just a walk, it is also an exercise yah hiking for weight loss. Not only does it burn calories, but it also builds metabolism-boosting muscle, suppresses appetite, reduces stress, and more. This complete guide will teach you everything you need to know to successfully lose weight with hiking.

Hiking offers many weight loss benefits compared to lower-intensity types of exercise. Unlike walking on flat ground, hiking involves climbing up steep hills and uneven terrain which burns far more calories and fat. Just one hour of moderate hiking can torch over 500 calories.

Plus, the challenging nature of navigating trails engages more muscle groups. This lean muscle boosts resting metabolism so you burn extra calories and fat even at rest. Hiking is also a powerful appetite suppressant due to hormonal changes caused by exertion.

With all these advantages working together, hitting the trails just a few times per week is an extremely effective approach for dropping pounds sustainably.

Hiking for weight loss
Hiking for Weight Loss: How to Lose Weight by Hiking 1

Benefits of Hiking for Losing Weight

  • Burns high numbers of calories and body fat
  • Builds metabolism-boosting calorie-burning muscle
  • Suppresses appetite after exercise
  • Triggers beneficial hormone changes
  • Reduces belly fat and lowers the risk of disease
  • Elevates heart rate for a prolonged cardio workout

How Hiking Helps You Lose Weight

Hiking leads to weight loss through several mechanisms including burning calories, building muscle, appetite suppression and beneficial changes in weight-regulating hormones.

Burns Calories and Fat

The challenging nature of hiking trails means your body has to work hard to stabilize on uneven terrain, navigate obstacles, and climb inclines. This intensity level burns significant calories with estimates between 400-650 per hour depending on speed and pack weight.

Much of this fuel burned comes directly from stored fat reserves rather than short term carbohydrate stores used in lower intensity exercise. As visceral and subcutaneous fat deposits shrink, overall body weight decreases.

Builds Metabolism-Boosting Muscle

Hiking engages the major muscle groups in your legs, glutes and core required for climbing over rocks and logs or scaling steep pitches. As these muscle fibers rebuild stronger over time, your resting metabolic rate ramps up.

Having more calorie-burning lean muscle results in easier long-term weight loss success compared to only doing cardio exercise. Just a few pounds of extra muscle can burn an additional 100 calories daily at rest.

Suppresses Appetite

Rigorous exercise causes hormones changes which suppress appetite for hours after hiking. Levels of the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin decrease while leptin which induces feelings of fullness rises.

This leads to eating fewer calories naturally without feelings of restriction. Suppressed appetite also lowers cravings for sugary treats and comfort foods which aids fat loss efforts.

Reduces Stress Hormones

Hiking outdoors in nature is a powerful stress reliever. It triggers release of endorphins and lowered levels of cortisol – the primary stress hormone. Chronically high cortisol causes increased belly fat storage and overeating.

Lowering cortisol allows your body to more easily access fat stores for energy use and lose abdominal fat over time.

Getting Started with Hiking

If you’re new to hiking, take things slow by choosing easier routes without major elevation changes to start. This allows your muscles, joints and cardiovascular fitness to adapt safely.

Assess Your Fitness Level

Determine an appropriate starting point based on your current activity levels. If mostly sedentary, begin with short 30-minute nature walks on flat, paved trails a few times a week.

For those with good endurance, you can start with longer 60 minute hikes that include some inclines. As your fitness improves, ramp up hike distance, duration and difficulty.

Choose Location and Terrain

Look for hiking routes best suited to your abilities. Start with flat wooded parks with dirt paths or gentle slopes. As your strength builds, seek out trails with longer climbs.

Terrain can range from groomed paths to rocky technical singletrack. Save extremely steep routes for when you have established fitness. Search trail websites filtered by difficulty ratings.

Pick the Right Gear

Using proper hiking shoes, clothing layers, trekking poles and safety essentials enhances comfort and prevents injury as your exercise levels increase.

Invest in waterproof hiking boots with ankle support and deep aggressive tread to prevent rolled ankles and slips. Merino wool socks also prevent painful blisters. Stay visible with bright colors.

Find a Hiking Buddy

Having an experienced hiking partner provides guidance on route finding, proper preparation and form corrections. Group hikes offer camaraderie and peer motivation to push yourself faster and farther.

Look for local group hikes centered around weight loss for like-minded individuals. You’ll inspire each other to show up consistently and train for more demanding challenges.

Choosing the Best Hikes for Weight Loss

Seeking out trails with plenty of elevation change, distance and technical terrain maximizes calories burned, builds strength and accelerates fat loss.

Opt for Hilly Uneven Trails

Prioritize trail systems with long extended climbs over even ground. Ascending demands tremendous energy expenditure and engages the lower body muscle groups.

Navigating rolling uneven terrain also requires balance, sideways movement and stabilization constantly working the core and accessory muscle groups for better calorie burn.

Go For Longer Duration Hikes

The longer you can sustain aerobic activity and muscle exertion, the greater the caloric expenditure both during and after exercise. Work towards outings of 2-hours or 10+ mile distances.

Start conservatively to avoid overexertion injuries then extend duration weekly as your body adapts. Use a smart watch or hiking app to precisely track mileage and pace.

Increase Intensity Over Time

Hiking intensity is a measure of effort based on heart rate elevations, pace and terrain navigated. Just as with duration, progressively increase intensity through hill climbing or added weight loads.

Monitor intensity levels with heart rate zones – staying mostly in Zone 2-3 for fat burning. If new to exercise, maintain easier efforts until cardiovascular and muscular fitness improves.

Hiking Techniques and Tips

Proper hiking form and strategies allow you to hike comfortably, efficiently and avoid injury on the trail. Master these methods for the most effective workouts.

Use Trekking Poles

Trekking poles provide balance, take pressure off knees during descents and engage your upper body muscles more for extra calorie burn. They also improve pace through rhythm and increased power transfer.

Shorten pole length so your elbows bend at 90 degrees. Plant the poles opposite your footsteps and avoid gripping tightly to reduce arm tension on long hikes.

Maintain Proper Posture and Pace

Sit tall looking ahead with shoulders down and focus on powerful strides behind you that engage the glutes and hamstrings. Land mid-foot then quickly roll through to the toes.

Uphill hiking form involves shorter fast steps while descending requires larger steps for braking. Cadence should remain steady not overly fast to avoid rapid fatigue.

Take Breaks

Schedule short trailside breaks every 45-60 minutes to rest, refuel and rehydrate. Recovery periods allow your heart rate to lower before climbing intensity resumes. Use this time to stretch any tight muscles.

Stay alert on technical trails and don’t push beyond exhaustion levels that compromise form and increase injury risk. Know your limits and hike again the next day.

Hiking for weight loss
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What to Eat When Hiking for Weight Loss

Fueling appropriately before, during and after hikes optimizes energy levels for peak workout performance and quicker recovery.

High Protein Snacks

Protein-rich foods like jerky, nuts or an epic bar digest slower keeping you energized longer during exercise. Protein also supresses appetite hormones better than carbs alone.

Good pre-hike protein sources include eggs, nut butter on whole grain toast or a smoothie with protein powder and berries. Yogurt and fruit packs well for on-trail snacking too.

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Produce like apples, oranges and carrots offer hydration and key electrolytes like potassium and magnesium depleted while sweating. They digest fast and the fiber prevents blood sugar spikes.

Dried fruits work well on the go but pack extra water to offset their dehydrating effects. Avoid heavy chocolate and salty junk food that can cause stomach upset during rigorous hiking.

Hydrating Foods and Drinks

Stay vigilant getting ample fluids before, during and after hiking to replace what’s lost through sweat. Carry water bottles and filter water along the way if sources exist.

Coconut water has excellent hydrating electrolytes. Limit sugary sports drinks which can cause energy crashes. Caffeinated coffee and tea pre hike improve alertness and endurance.

Recovery After Hiking

Replenishing nutrients depleted by exercise, stretching strained muscles and consistent rest days all facilitate quicker recovery for the next challenging hike while accelerating fat loss during rest.

Stretch Tight Muscles

Post hike stretching helps muscles relax, restore range of motion, enhance flexibility and reduce next day soreness so you recover faster.

Focus on opening hips, hamstrings, calves and quadriceps. Hold static stretches for 30 seconds and repeat twice for each muscle group. Yoga also loosens tightness.

Refuel With Quality Calories

Post workout nutrition should combine lean proteins for muscle rebuilding, anti-inflammatory fats and high fiber carbs to restore muscle glycogen.

A homemade burrito bowl with chicken, brown rice, black beans, avocado and salsa makes the perfect recovery meal combination of macronutrients.

Take an Ice Bath

Exposing sore muscles to cold water immersion constricts blood vessels then flushes fresh nutrient-rich blood actively reducing inflammation when flushed. This quickens recovery between challenging long distance hikes.

Sit in 50-60 degree water up to your hips for 10-15 minutes. Contrast bathing between cold and hot water provides additional benefits. Limit cold exposure if you have certain health conditions.

Tracking Your Progress

Monitoring workout statistics along with body measurements motivates you to analyze progress and push harder while allowing sufficient rest and recovery between challenging hikes.

Record Route Details

Hiking GPS watches and fitness trackers record total mileage, elevation gain, pace per mile along with heart rate intensity so you precisely quantify hike intensity to monitor improvement over time.

Jot down a few sentence about trail conditions as well that may factor into pace fluctuations – like mud, loose gravel or extreme heat spells.

Weigh Yourself Weekly

Track weight weekly following the same morning routine using the bathroom and stripping down. Remember weight naturally fluctuates day to day. So focus on the long term downhill trend over several months.

Reduce weighing frequency if it negatively affects your mental state. Use looser fitting clothing as additional feedback.

Take Monthly Body Measurements

While the scale provides guidance, body measurements often tell the real story of improving body composition. As you build calorie burning muscle and shed fat, inch loss progresses even if scale weight loss stalls.

Record chest, arm, waist, hip and thigh measurements monthly using a fabric tape measure. This provides clear evidence your hiking efforts pay dividends!

Hiking Gear and Equipment

Having properly fitting hiking gear suitable for your workout intensity and local terrain plays a major role in comfort,safety and determining how many miles you can ultimately complete.

Shoes and Socks

The footwear-sock combination protects feet from moisture, provides essential support during downhill braking and stability crossing uneven terrain. Waterproof low hiking shoes work well unless carrying substantial weight. Then taller boots stabilize ankles better.

Merino wool hiking socks wick moisture and prevent painful blisters. Carry blister bandages and reapply sports tape on hot spots before they progress to blisters.

Trekking Poles

Poles redistribute effort to the upper body when navigating hilly routes. Grips should fit the hand naturally with adjustable length based on your height. Look for lightweight poles that absorb shock well. Use the wrist straps to reduce grip strain.

Hydration Vest and Water Storage

A snug hydration vest carries large volumes of water comfortably with easy to access soft flasks upfront. Look for breathable mesh vests with stretchy pockets to store snacks, phone, jacket and emergency gear.

Hard plastic bottles also work well. Carry extra water on summer hikes over one hour and refill from natural sources with a gravity filter to reduce pack weight.

Hiking Clothes and Layers

Lightweight merino wool or synthetic base layers wick away sweat while insulating when wet or windy. Soft stretchy pants allow free movement. Have breathable rain layers and puffy jacket for sudden weather changes.

Avoid cotton shirts which stay damp. Floppy sun hats protect from heat and sun exposure on exposed alpine trails. Don’t forget the sunglasses!

Safety Precautions for Hiking

While reaping hiking related health and weight loss benefits, exercise smart by putting safety first especially when hiking solo on secluded trails.

Research Route Thoroughly

Obtain a trail map online highlighting total distance, elevation gain, estimated duration and any permit requirements. Read recent trip reports covering current conditions that may influence gear needs.

Use MapMyRun or AllTrails apps to overlay your planned route onto a map showing your location while recording statistics. Gaia GPS tracks routes without cell service.

Bring Essential Navigation Tools

Carry both a dedicated GPS device and compass for navigation in case phone batteries die in remote areas. Download offline topographic maps to guide you on and off trail.

Pack a lightweight, reflective emergency blanket, headlamp with lithium batteries and whistle for emergency warmth, light and signaling for help.

Inform Someone of Hike Details

Leave the exact trail name, entry and exit points and estimated return time with a family member or friend. Share your planned route via smartphone tracking app so others monitors progress remotely.

If running behind schedule, text status updates. Consider a satellite communication device for extended solo hiking in very remote terrain that lacks cell coverage. Don’t rely purely on cell phones.

Prepare a First Aid and Survival Kit

Hiking solo or remote trails warrants carrying first aid supplies to treat minor injuries until evacuated. Include triangular bandages, gauze pads, wound closure strips, antiseptic wipes and medications.

Paracord, fire starter, knife, signaling mirror and stormproof matches assist in emergency survival scenarios if injured far from the trailhead. Know basic land navigation!

Types of Hikes for Different Fitness Levels

There exists great hiking route diversity catering to all fitness abilities. Start easier then progressively take on more challenging terrain as your body adapts.

Nature Walks

Paved park trails and gravel paths guide you peacefully through lush forest surroundings with interpretive displays identifying plant and animal species along the way.

Mostly flat or gentle terrain makes for idyllic wildlife viewing. Great option to introduce kids and seniors to the joy of hiking.

Hill Climbs

Seek out routes traversing rolling foothills or shorter summit spur trails working the leg muscles harder on moderately steep slopes.

A series of hill repeats burns extra calories while unlike constant inclines don’t sap energy causing premature exhaustion on longer distance trails.

Summit Treks

For seasoned enthusiasts physically prepared for the challenge, peak bagging trips employing steep maintained trails reward hard efforts with amazing mountaintop panoramas.

Navigating uneven rocky footing, scrambling up eroded channels and gaining thousands of feet of elevation provides world class calorie burn and quintessential hiking experiences!

Tips for Continued Hiking Weight Loss Success

Challenge yourself with fresh objectives, dial in your nutrition, recruit helpful partners and monitor data to stay motivated shedding extra pounds on the trail..

Train For Harder Route Objectives

Choose an iconic thru hike or commit achieving a certain weekly mileage target to constantly progress beyond your comfort zone while getting fitter.

Break the bigger objective down into intermediary training milestones and benchmark tune up hikes. Completing your bucket list trek brings major satisfaction!

Join a Hiking Group

Having a social group to hike with brings accountability, safety, route advice and motivation when you lack enthusiasm solo. Changing partners exposes you to new trails keeping fitness gains consistent.

Set New Fitness Goals

Sign up for a hiking related challenge like completing a half marathon distance trail run or backpacking a scenic section of the Appalachian Trail over several days.

Quantifiable goals boost motivation and serve as milestones of improving endurance you can celebrate and generate momentum towards grander adventures!

Common Hiking Injuries and How to Prevent Them

While tremendously beneficial, poor preparation and overexertion on trails can lead to annoying setbacks. Practice prevention strategies and build rest days into your weekly schedule.


Among the most common nuisance injuries, blisters stem from too much friction on the skin causing hotspots leading to painful fluid-filled pockets.

Wear properly fitting hiking boots and moisture-wicking socks. Address hot spots quickly with sports tape or soft bandages to prevent further rubbing. Carry blister bandage packs while on the trail.


Ankle joints endure tremendous strain on uneven ground which can lead to stretches or tears of stabilizing ligaments from rolling them walking across rocks or holes. Hiking poles improve balance while boots stabilize better than shoes.

Strengthen your ankles in the gym and know your limits descending steep pitches. Serious knee ligament sprains occur when falling while your legs get trapped awkwardly underneath you.


Inadequate fluid intake leads to dehydration which reduces physical and mental performance. Headache, nausea, and cramping make hiking miserable.

Sip frequently from hydration bladders and hydration vest front bottles. Drink 16 oz per hour minimum and supplement electrolytes on over 90 degrees F days.


Where skin contacts skin, the constant friction during repetitive hip and leg motion causes a reddened rash-like discomfort where thighs or armpits rub together.

Apply anti-chafe balms to problem zones before hiking. Choose performance apparel that wicks moisture and permits maximum ventilation and air flow to the skin.

FAQs on Hiking and Losing Weight

What beginning exercises help train for hiking?

Start strength training your lower body at least twice a week by doing bodyweight squats, lunges and calf raises. Go for regular brisk walks outside incorporating some hill repeats. Use the stair machine at the gym for high repetition climb training.

Does hiking help you lose belly fat?

Yes, hiking’s combination of calorie burn, muscle building and hormone changes effectively reduces dangerous visceral belly fat. The lower body compound exercises combined with a sustained aerobic heart rate also diminishes belly fat.

How much weight can you lose hiking 5 miles daily?

Based on a 185 lb person, hiking 5 miles daily burns around 650 calories. Maintaining a moderate 500 calorie daily deficit leads to about 1-2 lbs of fat loss per week or 8-10 lbs per month. Greater weekly mileage and restricting calories further increases loss rates.

Should beginners hike every day?

No, rest days are crucial as a beginner hiker for full recovery to prevent painful overuse injuries like stress fractures, tendonitis or joint pain. Allow at least one day off between hikes for tissues to rebuild stronger. Light walking is ok on off days.

What should I eat after a long hike?

Homemade turkey chili with sweet potatoes provides an excellent nutrient-dense meal after hiking. Chili combines lean protein from turkey, complex carbs from sweet potatoes, fiber, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Have a glass of chocolate milk too forfluid recovery.


Hiking offers an extremely effective exercise method for losing weight sustainably. The challenging nature of unpredictable trail terrain burns calories through increased heart rate, enhanced lower body muscle activation and hormone changes suppressing appetite.

Start slowly on easier routes as you build fitness, then progressively increase hiking distance and intensity. Monitor performance metrics like heart rate, pace and total mileage to track improvement. Proper hiking gear and fueling strategy also boosts progress.

Stick with a regular hiking schedule to shed unwanted fat while exploring scenic locations and making new active friends. Hiking delivers compound benefits extending well beyond the trail that will keep you fit and healthy for life!

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