Hiking is a kind of exercise that is frequently disregarded in our modern, tech-obsessed society. Most guys would rather go for a run in their neighborhood, go to the gym for cardio and weights, or play tennis or basketball with a friend than go to the gym. Hiking, on the other hand, provides a pleasant reprieve from the rush and bustle of modern life, immersing you in Mother Nature’s tranquil natural soundscape and removing your eyes and ears from screens, programming, and manufactured stimulus. It’s also a legitimate type of cardiovascular and muscular training, allowing you to burn calories and rev up your metabolism in the same way that other exercises do.
If you’re aiming to lose weight, maintain your weight, or gain bulk, knowing how many calories you burn while hiking can assist. Your energy expenditure during physical activity accounts for half of the ever-important “calories in versus calories out” truism of bodyweight management. It also assists in determining your feeding requirements, so you can hit the trails with plenty of hiking food to get you up and down all the peaks you want to climb without bonking from low blood sugar when deep in the woods.
Unfortunately, estimating how many calories you burn when hiking isn’t as straightforward as reading the caloric readout on an elliptical machine at the end of your workout; instead, a lot of factors influence your energy expenditure while hiking. However, as stated below, it is feasible to calculate the number of calories burned when hiking, so keep reading to learn how hiking fits into your fitness and weight-loss goals, as well as what factors influence how many calories you burn while hiking.
Factors Affecting the Number of Calories Burned While Hiking
The number of calories burned during a hike is determined by a variety of factors, including the following:
1) Body Mass Index
The number of calories burned during hiking is mostly dependent on your body weight, as it is with all forms of exercise. Simply, the more you weigh, the more calories you burn during a trek. A man weighing 160 pounds, for example, will burn between 425 and 450 calories per hour hiking, while a man weighing 200 pounds will burn closer to 550 calories per hour on the same hike.
2) Composition of the Body
Your body composition, or the proportional ratio of lean body mass and body fat, is less important than total body weight as a factor in calorie expenditure, but it is still important. Muscle tissue is considerably more metabolically active than adipose tissue (fat) during activity, thus if you have a better-sculpted physique, you’ll burn more calories per hour hiking than someone having the same body weight but a larger percentage of body fat.
The more quickly you hike, the more intense your workout will be. The distance you hike in an hour is determined by your pace, which in turn impacts how many calories you burn. Furthermore, similar to the technique used in high-intensity interval training (HIIT) exercises, hiking at a rigorous enough intensity will stoke your metabolism to the point where you’ll have an elevated metabolic rate, or burn additional calories, even after your hiking boots are removed. Trekking poles can help you burn more calories by increasing the speed, intensity, and muscle demand of your hike.
The terrain you cross on the bike is one of the unique aspects impacting the number of calories burned hiking, which is missing in regulated types of exercise such as cardio equipment like rowers, ellipticals, and spin bikes. The topography in terms of uphills and downhills, as well as the footing on the ground, is referred to as terrain. Hikes on difficult and varied terrains, such as those with long or steep inclines or a lot of rocky sections, burn more calories than flat hikes on even, smooth walking trails because the muscular work is required to power up hills or stabilize when dealing with unpredictable footing burns more calories. If you’re trying to burn some serious calories, this is the place to be. Instead of the level garden walk that meanders around a tiny brook, take on the mountain peak you’ve been admiring.
5) Weight of the Pack
Carrying a day pack or backpacking with a hefty pack burns more calories, which should come as no surprise. A heavier load can raise your energy expenditure by 50-100 calories per hour while hiking, whereas a large pack can increase your calorie expenditure by up to 300 per hour.
6) Level of Fitness
If you’ve ever hit a weight-loss stall while sticking to your diet and exercising regularly, it’s possible that your body has adapted to the workout and become more efficient. Unfortunately, as much as it’s a relief when what was once a punishing workout becomes completely bearable over time, this decrease in the required effort is evidence of your body’s improvement and fitness adaptations to the same exercise stimulus. To put it another way, if you haven’t been exercising and then decide to run five miles one day, your body will struggle to keep up.
If you run the same five-mile course at the same pace for the next six weeks, though, it will get easier and easier. Your muscles become more efficient at removing oxygen from the blood, your neuromuscular connections get more coordinated, and your heart, lungs, and muscles grow stronger. These modifications enhance your running economy, which means you burn fewer calories in the same amount of time. Hiking follows the same principles. The fewer calories you burn on a hike, the fitter you are and the more used you are to the obstacles of trekking. That so, the difference isn’t all that significant, and it shouldn’t prevent you from frequenting the trails.
How many calories does hiking burn?
So, with all of that said, calculating the number of calories you burn on a trek isn’t always straightforward. Wearing a heart rate activity monitor will give you the best estimate. This will determine the intensity of your workout as well as the accompanying metabolic expenditure. If you don’t have a fitness tracker or an app on your phone, you can use the metabolic equivalent (MET) method to predict how many calories you’ll burn hiking:
MET = Calories Burned (6) * time * weight (kg) (hrs)
The MET number refers to how much oxygen is consumed during a specific exercise. For trekking, the temperature is usually between 6-7 degrees. The greater the number, the more difficult the hike will be (steep, rapid).
For example, if you’re a 180-pound (82-kg) man hiking for an hour, you’ll burn roughly 492 calories (6*82*1=492) on a mild hike and around 574 calories (7*82*1=574) on a harder hike. Of course, if you’re carrying a pack, you’ll need to factor in the weight of the pack.
Though one of the benefits of a challenging hike is the ability to burn calories, even if you’re just out for some fresh air and to move your body at a leisurely pace, you’ll reap plenty of benefits from any hike, whether it leaves you breathless from exertion or breathless simply from the beauty of the natural surroundings.
Why Is Knowing How Many Calories You Burn on a Hike Important?
Knowing how many calories you’ll expend on a trek will help you figure out how much food you’ll need to bring to stay properly nourished and energized on your hike. It’s also helpful for anyone who wants to create a thorough workout routine and keep track of their caloric intake and expenditure.
OutsideOnline.com features a backpacking calorie calculator that takes into account your body weight, pack weight, hiking speed, and terrain slope.