Can Hiking Help You Lose Weight? A Comprehensive Guide

Hiking is a popular outdoor activity that people engage in for various reasons. Some do it for the love of nature, while others see it as a way to stay fit and healthy. But one question that often comes up is whether hiking is an effective way to lose weight. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the answer to this question and examine the benefits and drawbacks of using hiking as a weight loss strategy. We will also provide practical tips on how to incorporate hiking into your weight loss plan and make the most of this wonderful outdoor activity. So, whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just starting out, read on to discover whether hiking can help you shed those extra pounds.

Benefits of Hiking for Weight Loss

Burning Calories

Hiking is a great way to burn calories and lose weight. The number of calories burned during a hike depends on several factors, including the distance and intensity of the hike, the elevation gain, and the individual’s body composition.

Distance and Intensity of Hike

The distance and intensity of a hike play a significant role in how many calories are burned. Longer and more strenuous hikes will burn more calories than shorter, easier hikes. A person weighing 150 pounds can burn anywhere from 300 to 600 calories during a two-hour, moderately intense hike. However, the exact number of calories burned will vary depending on the individual’s weight, fitness level, and the terrain of the hike.

Elevation Gain

The elevation gain of a hike also affects the number of calories burned. Hiking uphill requires more energy and burns more calories than hiking on flat terrain. For example, a person weighing 150 pounds can burn up to 200 more calories during a one-hour hike with a 1,000-foot elevation gain compared to a hike with no elevation gain.

Body Composition

Body composition also plays a role in how many calories are burned during a hike. People with more muscle mass tend to burn more calories during exercise than those with less muscle mass. Hiking can help build muscle mass, which can increase the number of calories burned during future hikes.

Overall, hiking is a great way to burn calories and lose weight. The distance, intensity, and elevation gain of a hike, as well as an individual’s body composition, all play a role in how many calories are burned. By incorporating hiking into their fitness routine, individuals can achieve their weight loss goals and improve their overall health and fitness.

Cardiovascular Health

Hiking is a great way to improve cardiovascular health, which is essential for weight loss. The following are some of the benefits of hiking for cardiovascular health:

Improving heart health

Hiking can help improve heart health by strengthening the heart muscle and increasing blood flow. This is because hiking is a form of aerobic exercise, which means it gets the heart pumping and increases the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles. Regular hiking can also help lower resting heart rate, which is a sign of improved cardiovascular fitness.

Increasing endurance

Hiking can also increase endurance by pushing the body to work harder and longer. This is because hiking involves walking uphill, which requires more effort and energy than walking on flat terrain. By pushing yourself to hike uphill, you can increase your endurance and improve your overall fitness level.

Reducing risk of heart disease

Hiking can also reduce the risk of heart disease by strengthening the heart and improving overall cardiovascular health. Regular physical activity, such as hiking, can help lower blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and inflammation, all of which are risk factors for heart disease. Additionally, hiking can help reduce stress, which is another risk factor for heart disease.

Overall, hiking is a great way to improve cardiovascular health, which is essential for weight loss. By improving heart health, increasing endurance, and reducing the risk of heart disease, hiking can help you lose weight and improve your overall health and well-being.

Mental Health

Hiking has numerous mental health benefits that can help support weight loss efforts.

Reducing stress and anxiety

Physical activity like hiking can help reduce stress and anxiety by releasing endorphins, which are natural mood-boosters. The act of being in nature and disconnecting from daily life can also help promote a sense of calm and relaxation.

Boosting mood

Exercise is a natural mood-booster, and hiking is no exception. The combination of physical activity and being in nature can help improve overall mood and reduce feelings of sadness or depression.

Improving cognitive function

Hiking can also improve cognitive function by increasing blood flow to the brain and promoting the growth of new brain cells. This can help improve memory, focus, and overall brain function, which can in turn support weight loss efforts.

Preparing for a Hiking Weight Loss Journey

Key takeaway: Hiking can be an effective way to lose weight and improve cardiovascular health, mental health, and overall well-being. To achieve successful weight loss through hiking, it is important to set realistic goals, create a plan that incorporates strength training, building endurance, and a healthy diet, gear up with proper footwear, hydration, and clothing, and stay motivated by joining a hiking group, setting small goals, and tracking progress. It is also important to avoid common mistakes such as overexertion, dehydration, poor nutrition, and neglecting rest and recovery.

Setting Goals

Setting realistic and achievable goals is crucial for a successful hiking weight loss journey. Before embarking on your adventure, it’s important to set a specific weight loss target. This target should be based on your current weight, your fitness level, and your overall health goals. It’s also important to set a timeframe for achieving your weight loss target. This will help you stay motivated and track your progress.

In addition to setting a weight loss target, it’s also important to set measurable progress goals. These goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). For example, you might set a goal to hike a certain distance or to reach a certain elevation gain by a specific date. Having measurable progress goals will help you stay on track and feel a sense of accomplishment as you reach each milestone.

It’s also important to remember that weight loss is not always linear. It’s normal to have weeks where you may not lose as much weight, or even gain a little bit. This is normal and doesn’t mean you’re not making progress. As long as you’re continuing to exercise regularly and make healthy food choices, you’re still on track to reaching your weight loss goal.

Overall, setting specific and measurable goals is key to a successful hiking weight loss journey. By setting goals, you’ll be able to track your progress, stay motivated, and feel a sense of accomplishment as you reach each milestone.

Creating a Plan

When it comes to losing weight through hiking, having a plan in place is crucial. This plan should be tailored to your individual needs and goals, and should take into account your current fitness level, the type of hiking you plan to do, and your overall health and wellness. Here are some key elements to consider when creating your plan:

Incorporating Strength Training

Incorporating strength training into your fitness routine can help you build the muscle and endurance needed for hiking. This can include exercises such as weightlifting, bodyweight exercises, and resistance band workouts. The goal is to target the muscles used in hiking, such as the glutes, quads, and core.

Building Endurance

Building endurance is a key component of any weight loss journey, and hiking is no exception. Start by setting realistic goals for yourself, such as hiking for a certain distance or time, and gradually increase your endurance over time. You can also incorporate interval training, which involves alternating periods of high-intensity exercise with periods of rest, to build endurance and burn more calories.

Incorporating a Healthy Diet

In addition to regular exercise, a healthy diet is crucial for weight loss. When creating your plan, make sure to include plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. Avoid processed foods and sugary drinks, and limit your intake of saturated and trans fats.

Overall, creating a plan that incorporates strength training, building endurance, and a healthy diet can help you lose weight through hiking. By following this plan and sticking to your goals, you can achieve the weight loss results you desire while enjoying the many benefits of hiking.

Gearing Up

Proper footwear

Choosing the right footwear is crucial when it comes to hiking, especially if you’re aiming to lose weight. Your feet will be carrying you through rough terrain, and they need to be protected from the elements. Hiking boots or shoes with ankle support are recommended. They should be sturdy, comfortable, and have a good grip on various surfaces. Make sure to break in your shoes before hitting the trails to avoid blisters and other foot problems.


Staying hydrated is vital for any physical activity, and hiking is no exception. It’s important to bring enough water or hydration fluids to last throughout your hike. A general rule of thumb is to drink at least one liter of water per hour, depending on the weather conditions and the difficulty of the trail. You can also bring electrolyte-rich drinks or energy gels to replenish lost minerals and sustain your energy levels. Don’t forget to pack a water filter or purification tablets to ensure clean drinking water.


Choosing the right clothing is essential for both comfort and safety. It’s important to dress in layers, as the temperature can vary significantly during a hike. A base layer of moisture-wicking material will help keep you dry and comfortable. A mid-layer of insulation is useful for colder weather or higher elevations. And a waterproof outer layer will protect you from rain or snow. Don’t forget to wear appropriate footwear, as mentioned earlier. Also, consider bringing extra clothing or a change of clothes in case you get too hot or sweaty. Finally, wear sunscreen and a hat to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays.

Tips for Safe and Effective Hiking for Weight Loss


Hiking can be a great way to lose weight, but it’s important to stay hydrated to avoid any health problems. Drinking enough water is essential for maintaining energy levels, regulating body temperature, and flushing out toxins.

Drinking enough water

It’s recommended to drink at least 8-10 glasses of water per day, even more if you’re hiking in hot and humid conditions. Carry a water bottle with you on the trail and take sips regularly to stay hydrated.

Bringing water on the trail

Depending on the length and intensity of your hike, you may need to bring additional water with you. For shorter hikes, you can refill your water bottle at the trailhead or along the way. For longer hikes, it’s a good idea to bring at least two liters of water with you.

Knowing the signs of dehydration

Dehydration can cause serious health problems, so it’s important to recognize the signs. Symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth, dark urine, dizziness, headache, and fatigue. If you experience any of these symptoms, stop and rest in a shaded area and drink plenty of water. If your symptoms persist, seek medical attention immediately.

Starting Slow

Gradually Increasing Intensity and Distance

One of the most effective ways to ensure that you lose weight while hiking is to start slowly. This means gradually increasing the intensity and distance of your hikes over time. It’s important to remember that hiking is a high-impact activity that can be very demanding on your body, especially if you’re not used to it.

Starting with shorter, easier hikes and gradually increasing the distance and intensity of your workouts over time will help your body adjust to the demands of hiking and reduce the risk of injury. It will also help you build the endurance and stamina you need to tackle more challenging hikes in the future.

Listening to Your Body

Another important aspect of starting slow when hiking for weight loss is listening to your body. It’s important to pay attention to how your body feels during and after your hikes, and to adjust your training accordingly. If you experience pain or discomfort, it’s important to stop and rest.

Listening to your body will also help you avoid overtraining, which can lead to injury and slow down your progress. It’s important to give your body time to recover between hikes, and to make sure you’re getting enough rest and sleep to support your training.

Not Overdoing It

Finally, it’s important to remember not to overdo it when hiking for weight loss. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new workout routine and want to push yourself too hard, but this can lead to injury and setbacks.

Make sure you’re starting with hikes that are within your fitness level and gradually increasing the difficulty over time. Don’t try to hike too far or too fast too soon, and be sure to take breaks and hydrate regularly during your hikes.

By starting slow, listening to your body, and not overdoing it, you can ensure that you’re on the right track to losing weight through hiking. Remember, consistency is key, and taking the time to build up your endurance and stamina will pay off in the long run.

Adding Variety

Hiking is a great way to burn calories and lose weight, but it’s important to add variety to your workouts to keep things interesting and avoid hitting a plateau. Here are some tips for adding variety to your hiking routine:

Exploring new trails

Try exploring new trails in different locations to keep your workouts fresh and challenging. You can find trails online or in hiking guidebooks, and you can also ask other hikers for recommendations. Hiking in different locations can also help you see new sights and get some exercise at the same time.

Mixing up hiking with other activities

Mixing up your workouts by incorporating other activities can help you burn more calories and build more muscle. For example, you can try hiking with a backpack to add an element of strength training to your workout. You can also try hiking with a weighted vest or dumbbells to challenge your muscles and burn more calories.

Incorporating strength training

Incorporating strength training into your hiking routine can help you build muscle and increase your calorie burn. You can do strength training exercises before or after your hikes, or you can try incorporating strength training exercises into your hikes by using rocks, logs, and other natural obstacles as weights. For example, you can do squats and lunges by using rocks as weights, or you can do pull-ups on tree branches.

Adding variety to your hiking routine can help you keep your workouts interesting and challenging, and it can also help you burn more calories and build more muscle. Whether you’re exploring new trails, mixing up your workouts with other activities, or incorporating strength training, there are many ways to add variety to your hiking routine and help you reach your weight loss goals.

Staying Motivated

  • Joining a hiking group

One way to stay motivated while hiking for weight loss is to join a hiking group. By joining a group, you will have the opportunity to meet like-minded individuals who share the same goal of losing weight through hiking. This will not only provide you with a sense of community and support, but it will also hold you accountable for your progress. You can find hiking groups in your local area through online forums, social media groups, or even at your local outdoor store.

  • Setting small goals

Another effective way to stay motivated while hiking for weight loss is to set small goals for yourself. Instead of focusing on losing a large amount of weight in a short amount of time, set small, achievable goals that you can accomplish in the short-term. This will help you stay motivated and give you a sense of accomplishment as you reach each goal. For example, you could set a goal to hike a certain distance or to reach a certain elevation.

  • Tracking progress

Tracking your progress is a crucial aspect of staying motivated while hiking for weight loss. By keeping track of your progress, you will be able to see how far you have come and how much you have accomplished. This will help you stay motivated and will give you a sense of accomplishment as you see the results of your hard work. You can track your progress by keeping a journal, using a fitness tracker, or by taking measurements of your body.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Hiking for Weight Loss


While hiking can be an effective way to lose weight, it’s important to avoid overexertion. This can lead to injury and may even discourage you from continuing your hiking routine. Here are some common mistakes to avoid when hiking for weight loss:

  • Not listening to your body: It’s important to pay attention to your body’s signals and not push yourself too hard. If you’re feeling tired or in pain, it’s okay to slow down or take a break.
  • Pushing too hard: It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of hiking and push yourself too hard. However, this can lead to injury and setbacks in your weight loss journey. It’s important to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity of your hikes over time.
  • Ignoring pain or discomfort: If you’re experiencing pain or discomfort while hiking, it’s important to listen to your body and stop. Ignoring these signals can lead to injury and may even cause long-term damage. It’s important to take care of your body and avoid overexertion.


Dehydration is a common issue that hikers face when trying to lose weight. It is essential to stay hydrated while hiking, as dehydration can cause serious health problems. The following are some common mistakes that hikers make when it comes to hydration:

  • Not drinking enough water: It is crucial to drink enough water during hikes to maintain hydration levels. However, many hikers do not drink enough water, which can lead to dehydration.
  • Not bringing enough water: Hikers should always carry enough water with them to avoid dehydration. Not having enough water can lead to serious health problems, such as heat stroke.
  • Ignoring the signs of dehydration: Dehydration can cause various symptoms, such as dizziness, headaches, and fatigue. Hikers should be aware of these symptoms and take action to prevent dehydration from occurring.

To avoid dehydration while hiking, it is essential to drink enough water, bring enough water with you, and be aware of the signs of dehydration. By doing so, hikers can ensure that they stay hydrated and healthy while hiking for weight loss.

Poor Nutrition

When hiking for weight loss, it’s crucial to pay attention to your nutrition. Poor nutrition can lead to a lack of energy, muscle fatigue, and impaired performance during hikes. Here are some common mistakes to avoid when it comes to nutrition:

  • Not fueling properly before and after hikes
    • It’s essential to fuel up before a hike with a balanced meal that includes complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. This will provide your body with the energy it needs to power through the hike.
    • After a hike, it’s important to refuel with a meal or snack that includes carbohydrates and protein to replenish energy stores and repair muscles.
  • Ignoring the importance of a healthy diet
    • A healthy diet is essential for overall health and weight loss. It’s important to consume a variety of nutrient-dense foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats.
    • Avoid processed foods, sugary drinks, and foods high in saturated fat, as these can lead to weight gain and negatively impact your hiking performance.
  • Choosing high-calorie, low-nutrition snacks
    • Snacks can be a great source of energy during a hike, but it’s important to choose snacks that are high in nutrition and low in calories.
    • Good snack options include fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, and protein bars made with whole ingredients.
    • Avoid snacks high in sugar, such as candy or chips, as these can provide a quick energy boost but will quickly lead to a crash.

Neglecting Rest and Recovery

Not allowing enough time for rest and recovery

Hiking is a great way to burn calories and lose weight, but it’s important to give your body time to rest and recover between hikes. Failing to do so can lead to overtraining, which can have negative effects on your weight loss goals. It’s recommended to take at least one rest day for every three to four days of hiking.


Overtraining can occur when you push yourself too hard during hikes, which can lead to muscle fatigue and decreased motivation. This can lead to a decrease in the intensity and frequency of your hikes, which can ultimately hinder your weight loss progress. It’s important to listen to your body and adjust your hike intensity and duration accordingly.

Ignoring the importance of sleep and nutrition

Sleep and nutrition are crucial for weight loss, and neglecting these factors can hinder your progress. Adequate sleep is essential for recovery and weight loss, and lack of sleep can lead to decreased energy and motivation. Similarly, proper nutrition is important for providing the necessary energy and nutrients for weight loss. Neglecting these factors can lead to decreased weight loss progress and potential muscle loss. It’s important to prioritize sleep and nutrition alongside your hiking routine for optimal weight loss results.


1. What is hiking and how does it help with weight loss?

Hiking is a form of exercise that involves walking or climbing hills or mountains, often on unpaved trails. It is a low-impact activity that can help burn calories, build muscle, and improve cardiovascular health. As you hike, your body works to carry you up hills and over obstacles, burning energy and building muscle. This can help you lose weight by increasing your caloric deficit, or the amount of calories you burn compared to the number of calories you consume.

2. Is hiking an effective way to lose weight?

Hiking can be an effective way to lose weight, but it is not a magic solution. Like any form of exercise, it is most effective when combined with a healthy diet and overall healthy lifestyle. While hiking can help you burn calories and build muscle, it is important to consider your overall caloric intake and make sure you are creating a caloric deficit in order to lose weight. Additionally, the amount of weight you can lose through hiking will vary depending on your starting weight, fitness level, and the intensity and duration of your hikes.

3. How many calories can I burn while hiking?

The number of calories you burn while hiking will depend on a variety of factors, including your weight, fitness level, and the intensity and duration of your hike. In general, a person weighing 150 pounds can burn around 300-400 calories per hour while hiking at a moderate pace. However, this number can increase or decrease depending on the specifics of your hike. For example, hiking uphill or carrying a backpack can increase the number of calories you burn.

4. Is hiking a good workout for beginners?

Yes, hiking can be a great workout for beginners. It is a low-impact activity that doesn’t require any special equipment, making it accessible to people of all fitness levels. Additionally, hiking can be adjusted to suit your fitness level and goals. For example, you can start with shorter, easier hikes and gradually work your way up to longer, more challenging hikes. This gradual approach can help you build endurance and avoid injury.

5. What should I wear and bring with me when hiking?

When hiking, it is important to wear comfortable, weather-appropriate clothing and sturdy footwear. You may also want to bring water, snacks, and a map or guide of the trail. Depending on the length and difficulty of your hike, you may also want to bring additional supplies such as sunscreen, bug spray, and a first aid kit. It is always a good idea to prepare for the worst-case scenario and bring supplies that can help you stay safe and comfortable in the event of an emergency.


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