Does Hiking Downhill Burn Calories?

Hiking is an excellent cardiovascular workout, and when you are trudging up steep mountainous inclines, you know you are burning a large number of calories. But what about when you head back down the mountain? Does hiking downhill burn calories too? We researched this to help you determine what, if any, caloric impact hiking downhill might have.

Hiking downhill can burn a substantial amount of calories, just not as many as hiking uphill. The number of calories you burn is determined by the hill's length and the incline of the slope. 

Tracking the number of calories that you burn while hiking is easier than you think! Keep reading as we dig into the details and explore the difference between walking and hiking in regards to caloric burn and the optimal number of miles you should hike in a day!

A man hiking downhill carrying his backpack, Does Hiking Downhill Burn Calories?

Hiking as a Method of Weight Loss

If the gym's monotony makes you feel like a hamster on a wheel, but you need to add cardio to your fitness regime to meet your weight loss goals, hiking might be the answer for you! Hiking allows you to get your exercise while enjoying the peace and serenity of the great outdoors, resulting in lower stress levels.

It is considered a low impact exercise, which means that it is easier on your joints than some other eistockxercise forms that burn similar amounts of calories.

Difference between Hiking Uphill vs. Downhill

Hiking uphill can be very strenuous, causing your heart to increase in rate and your breathing to deepen. These are sure signs that your caloric output is increasing. But what about going downhill?

When you crest over a mountaintop, likely, you will take a few minutes to catch your breath and take in the view before heading on the downslope. You made it through the tough part, right?

Hiking downhill can still burn calories, but the overall number burned is determined by the downslope's length and grade. As anyone who has powered down a long, steep escarpment knows, it is not as easy as it might seem! Hiking downhill for a short distance is pretty easy and burns fewer calories than walking on a flat surface due to the lack of resistance and gravity helping you out. But the longer you go, and the steeper the terrain, the more strength, and energy it takes to actually hold back and descend safely. Hence more caloric burn.

How Many Calories Can You Burn While Hiking?

Hiking can burn a substantial number of calories. This is critical information, especially for long-distance and thru-hikers, who need to be sure to pack enough food to meet their elevated caloric needs. On average, a person will burn between 300-500 calories per hour. This can decrease or increase due to a variety of factors, including:

  • Hiker's weight, including backpack if applicable
  • Grade of the slope
  • Hiking Speed

There are many great calorie calculators that you can find online, but this one from allows you to choose a grade range, as well as uphill, downhill, or both, depending on just how accurate you need your calculations to be.

Is walking just as good as hiking for weight loss?

While both exercises are great for weight loss, hiking holds the title as the best exercise for weight loss in terms of calories used. Hiking burns a considerable amount of calories, with a four-hour excursion to the woods potentially burning as many as 2000 calories if the terrain is difficult. Since one pound of fat is equal to 3500 calories, this is enough calories to potentially lose 1/2 a pound of fat!

Walking clocks in between 200 and 300 calories per hour, depending on the walker's weight and speed.

That being said, walking has one thing going for it that hiking does not. You can do it pretty much anywhere, while hiking, especially high-intensity hikes, might require a special trip to the location of your choosing. This is especially important for those who are just beginning a weight loss journey. Regular exercise is critical to burning calories and building the strength need to get to the next fitness level, which might be a strenuous hike through the countryside!

As always, those looking to lose weight should consult their family doctor before starting any diet or exercise program to determine what is right for their specific circumstance.

Regardless of whether you choose walking, hiking, or both, a gadget that tracks your distance and workout intensity like the Samsung Active 2 watch can be a great tool to help you meet your goals.

Click here to see this on Amazon. 

How Many Miles Should I Hike in a Day?

Several factors determine the number of miles that you should hike in a day. Thru-hikers or those on multi-day hikes hike usually hike anywhere from 10 to 16 miles per day, depending on terrain, fitness level, and the number of breaks taken. These hikers are typically more experienced, with higher levels of fitness, though.

If you are day hiking for fitness, you may want to start slow by choosing shorter, easier trails and building up to longer, more difficult ones. It can be dangerous to take on more difficult hikes than your fitness level allows. This can result in injury, just like any other type of exercise outside your fitness level. Most parks have maps that show the difficulty rating of their trails, or you can also check out any number of hiking websites and forums for additional information.

To learn more about how you can determine what is best for you, check out our post, "How Far Should I Hike in a Day?"

Our post "How to Hike Without Getting Tired" is full of tips to help you make the most of your hiking trip as well!

Hiking is Great Exercise

Regardless of whether you go hiking on a series of short, easy trails or extreme, miles-long treks, you are sure to burn a substantial number of calories. You will also get to enjoy the stress-reducing benefits of a day in the fresh air, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday living! Give it a try, and you may find yourself becoming the next hiking addict!

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