Hiking VS Walking: Which Exercise is Right for YOU?

Making the decision to get or stay fit is one of the most crucial decisions you can make if you want to live your best life. Exercise is great for you both physically and emotionally

Whether you are looking to start an exercise regime, or find your current one is becoming stale, you may be thinking about mixing things up. Hiking vs walkingwhich is right for me?

Well, that depends on a few key things, such as:

If you want to burn some calories, both activities are effective ways to do that. The only difference is that the number of calories you’ll burn by walking will differ from hiking. Hiking typically burns more calories than walking.

To help you choose the best workout, this article will discuss the benefits, pros, and cons of hiking vs. walking.

A Definition of Hiking and Walking

Hiking is an activity that involves adventure and long walks on trails , or footpaths, typically outside town. It has a natural environment with mountains, wild animals, rivers, streams, lakes and forests. You can go hiking for a day or choose multi-day hiking (backpacking) for more adventure. Hikers almost always carry a backpack containing food, water, extra clothing, a first aid kit and hiking tents (for multi-day hikers).

Most of the time, hikers walk on elevated terrain, which is an excellent exercise for cardiovascular health and losing weight. Hiking requires suitable gear for your overall comfort and safety. It’s also something that requires planning.

Walking is taking steps by lifting one foot after another at a set pace, until you reach your destination. Walking is an outdoor or indoor, low-intensity, activity that you can do on treadmills or on the side of the road. When out for a walk, most of the ground is flat. You can walk on gravel, dirt, grass, or pavement, depending on where you live.

We walk all the time from point A to B. The more you walk, the more calories you burn and the more fit you become. Walking is the most straightforward exercise with many benefits… while also serving as a gateway to more advanced activities like running or hiking.

Hiking vs. Walking: How Many Calories Do You Burn?

When choosing hiking VS walking, know that the calories you burn will not be the same.

Calories Burned During Hiking

Burning calories is one of the main benefits of hiking. The calories you burn while hiking will depend on your build, weight, age, elevation, distance, backpack weight and walking speed.

The table below estimates calories burned per hour at a 3.0 mph average speed based on weight and trail steepness.

Weight1 – 5% Incline5-10% Incline
120 Pounds281334
140 Pounds327390
160 Pounds 374446
180 Pounds421502
200 Pounds468557

Here’s an image of this table that you can save as a reference:

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Table comparing calories burned during hiking at different weights and inclines.

Backpack weight can also help you lose more calories while hiking.

Calories Burned Walking

Similar to hiking, the calories you burn during your walks will depend on your body composition, age, sex, pace and distance. 

Here is a table showing the estimated calories you burn when walking on a flat surface for 60 minutes.

Weight/Speed2.5 mph3.0 mph3.5 mph4.0 mph
120-140 Pounds170 – 200 189 – 220 217 – 253 286 – 333
141-160 Pounds201 – 229 222 – 251255 -290 336 – 381
161-180 Pounds230 – 257 253 – 283 s291 – 326 383 – 429 

Here’s an image of this table that you can save as a reference:

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Table comparing calories burned at different weights and walking speeds

As you can see, hiking burns more calories than many other exercises, including walking. This is primarily because of the difference in incline levels between hiking and walking on flat surfaces. 

You will notice an increase in the calories you lose when you adjust the incline on your treadmill. A heart rate monitor or an app can also be used to calculate calorie burn.

Hiking Pros and Cons

Hiking is an excellent exercise, especially for those with a sedentary lifestyle. It has many scenic views that are good for your body and mind.

Pros of Hiking

  • Excellent for burning calories compared to walking

When you are hiking, you use a lot of energy going uphill, which boosts your metabolism. Metabolism helps to burn calories from your body. The more active you are, the more calories you burn.

Hiking goes on for hours, and you use more energy than walking. As a result, hiking keeps you active for more extended periods, leading to significant fat loss. 

Also, moving down the hill is great for burning more fat. Make sure you move slowly, without running, and ensure you have the best shoes for the job. This speed control will help your muscles be more engaged, hence strong.

  • Boost mental and emotional health

Like any other exercise, hiking is an excellent way to boost your mental and emotional health. Hiking is among the best ways to reduce anxiety, relieve stress, improve moods, and increase energy levels.

After seeing the beautiful sights, the adrenaline release and breathing of fresh air full of natural aromas from the surroundings is a natural healer.

Take in all the scenery and enjoy every moment when you’re on top of the mountain. This will make you happy and always long for hikes whenever you feel emotionally drained.

  • Connect with nature and improve your social life

If you spend more time indoors, you socialize less. Hiking creates an excellent opportunity for making new friends and catching up with old ones. Socializing has a lot of benefits, and when topped up with hiking benefits, you get to enjoy an emotional uplift.

It’s possible to hike alone, but safety issues can arise. Also, it will be adventurous to have someone to talk to during the hike. You can also walk farther when in a group than when alone.

  • Enjoy some Vitamin D

When was the last time you enjoyed this natural vitamin? Indeed, too much sun can harm your skin, but you can choose lightweight long-sleeve shirts when hiking. 

The sun enables us to generate vitamin D, which is essential for bone, teeth, and muscle health. Vitamin D insufficiency can lead to bone pain.

Did you know that vitamin D reduces eczema symptoms? Also, by hiking, you get to enjoy the sunshine amongst its other benefits.

Cons of Hiking

  • Requires thorough planning

Hiking needs a detailed plan, especially for multi-day hikes. First, you need to select a friendly and safe place for your excursion. For example, you don’t want to visit a site full of dangerous animals.

Good planning ensures you have all the gear you need for the hike. Also, going through hiking guides can help you develop a successful plan.

Hiking has challenges, so it’s good to prepare your mind before you experience them. 

  • It’s strenuous and not suitable for some age group

Hiking is strenuous compared to walking, and the weather can be harsh. The challenging part depends on whether the trail is steep, sloppy, and the distance. It can be more difficult if its your first time hiking and your friends are experienced hikers.

  • High risk of falls, injuries, allergic reactions, and insect bites

Hiking grounds have rocks, roots, or are sloppy, which increases your chances of falling. Unfortunately, some of these falls can lead to injuries that can cut short your adventure.

Since you are in the wild, getting insect bites is not rare. So wear clothing that offers good coverage to your body. When hiking, you can also get allergic reactions, such as rashes, swelling, itchy skin, or sneezing.

Walking Pros and Cons

Walking provides excellent health benefits for people who cannot do more strenuous activities.

Pros of Walking

  • Promotes cardiovascular health and is suitable for any age group

When you walk, your heart has to work extra hard to get blood and oxygen to all body parts.

Proper circulation ensures that every organ is functioning properly. It also helps reduce and control hypotension and diabetes, as well as the reduction of heart disease.

Walking is suitable for any age group and those recovering from illnesses.

  • Good for reducing joint pain

Walking is the best exercise if you are experiencing joint pain due to arthritis, an injury, or any other cause. Walking has a low impact on your muscles and joints. In addition, it promotes blood circulation, which aids in fast healing.

Walking also boosts motion and strengthens your muscles.

  • It’s cost-effective 

You require no equipment for you to have an excellent walk. You only need a good pair of shoes with good inner soles to prevent blisters. 

Also, there’s no backpack for you to carry, unlike in hiking. This means you don’t have to buy any gear, making walking less expensive.

  • Enjoy your walks anywhere and anytime

There’s no planning for you to go for a walk. You can walk anywhere, anytime. You even get to enjoy a walk in the comfort of your home if you have a treadmill.

Walking is also fun since you can walk with your dog for company and health benefits.

Cons of Walking

  • You can easily give up the exercise

If you choose to walk on your treadmill or in your town, you may quickly become bored because there is no change in the environment. With time, you find you have covered all the areas, and there are no more places to explore in your surroundings.

  • It burns fewer calories compared to hiking

Walking burns fewer calories since it does not involve any intense activity. However, it takes time to note positive results even with regular walking. Therefore, it’s good to try different walking types to burn more fat.

  • Limited nature scenes to view

A new environment full of unique and beautiful sites will occupy your mind, hence forget your stressors. But, unfortunately, walking does not provide the same advantages since you still face the things you encounter each day.

A day far away from your home and surroundings can bring back your happiness and boost your mental health. 

To Sum Up the Pros and Cons…

Below is an infographic for a quick recap on the pros and cons of hiking VS walking.

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The infographic will help you compare the pros and cons side by side to help you choose the proper exercise.

How to Decide Between Hiking and Walking

Choosing the proper exercise depends on the outcome you want to enjoy. Also, your health, weight, and age will significantly determine which activity fits you.

Consult your doctor before beginning any workout if you have any underlying conditions.

Choose to hike if:

  • You want to burn more calories.
  • You’re in good shape and can walk on uneven terrain or climb steep, slippery hills.
  • You are an outgoing person and enjoy trying new things.
  • You’d love a break from your routine.
  • You want to keep fit and socialize.

Choose to walk if:

  • Your aim is a simple workout for your well-being.
  • Your age or weight does not allow you to go hiking.
  • You are recovering from an injury or surgery.
  • You have a health issue, and your doctor advises walking only
  • You are busy at work or have kids; you may not have time to go on hikes.

Final Thoughts on Hiking VS Walking

So, hiking vs walking. Which one is your best choice? Both are great exercises. But knowing what you want to achieve after the workout will significantly help you pick the right one. Then, of course, you can do them both to maximize performance.

Hiking is good for weight loss, socializing, and adventure lovers. Walking is suitable for those whose health does not allow them strenuous activities like climbing a steep hill. Also, it’s great for people who are recovering from injuries or surgery and those who want to improve their mobility after health problems.

You may also want to incorporate running into your hikes or walks to maximize calorie burn, but getting started can be tricky. Check out this article on tips to enjoy your running better if this peaks your interest.  

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