Hiking is a great activity for maintaining physical fitness, but if you wonder how often you should hike, this post is for you.
Hiking is one of those physical activities that most outdoorsy people enjoy, and if you live close to the mountain, you can do it as often as you want. That being said, we recommend hiking frequency for you so you can maintain your fitness and enjoy your favorite activity.
While there is no harm in hiking every day, you should start with 1 or 2 hikes per week if you are a beginner. As you build endurance, you can increase the frequency to 2-3 times a week. However, how often you hike depends on your hiking goals, such as weight loss and muscle strength.
Many hikers go for a hike because they prefer being in nature. However, other hikers consider the activity an excellent cardio that also aids in losing weight. If you are looking forward to losing weight through hiking, you can increase the frequency of hikes from 2-3 times per week to daily. So whether you hike because you enjoy the activity or want to lose weight, or are training for an important trip, how often you should hike changes.
As professional hikers, we have put together this article to answer a common question our fellow hikers often ask: how often should I hike? We will walk you through everything you need to know about how often you should hike. So, let's dive in! Below I have broken out some of your common hiking goals to help you know what is best for you.
Can You Hike Every Day?
One of the most common questions that beginner-level hikers often ask is whether they can hike every day. Some very experienced hikers can hike every day because they have developed stamina and gained muscle strength. However, if you are new to hiking, then you shouldn't opt for hiking every day until you have developed the strength and skills it requires for daily hiking.
Here are a few things that you should ask yourself to decide whether hiking every day is a good idea for you or not.
- Can you comfortably talk while hiking without losing your breath? Hiking is a rigorous physical activity that enhances your body's need for oxygen for burning fat. It is common for hikers to lose their breath, especially if they are new to hiking. If you can talk while you are hiking, it indicates that your body is ready to take the difficulty to the next level, and it is time to increase the frequency (to more than once per week) or the intensity of hiking.
- How long does your body take to recover from the hike? If it takes more than one day for your body to recover following a hike, you may not be ready for hiking every day. However, if you can fully recover following a hike, it may be an indication that your body is ready for hiking every day.
- What is the duration of your hike? If you intend to hike for a shorter duration, for example, 30 minutes, your body may be prepared to handle the strain than if you plan to hike for longer such as 2-3 hours.
- What is your objective of hiking every day? There can be several reasons why you may want to hike daily. If your objective is to spend time in nature, then hiking once a week may seem enough for you; however, if your goal is to lose weight, then you need to hike less frequently, such as 2-3 times a week. Moreover, if your objective is to strengthen or build your muscles (which doesn't mean losing weight only; instead, it means losing fat and replacing it with muscles for a toned body), then you may need to hike more frequently, such as 4-7 times per week.
How Often Should You Hike to Lose Weight?
Hiking is a great cardio workout that helps reduce the risk of heart diseases, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol levels, and even some cancers. Moreover, since it is a walking exercise, it boosts your bone density and lowers your risk of developing weaker bones and a condition of bones known as osteoporosis. And since it requires your heart to work harder, it burns calories which can contribute to weight loss if you take care of your diet and provide your body with enough hydration.
A 2-hour hike at a normal pace for an average weight of 175 lbs. will help burn around 580 calories. And if you complete the hike while carrying a backpack with an average weight of 30 lbs., you can burn up to 1,100 calories.
Is Hiking Better Than Going to the Gym?
Hiking is a complete body workout that aids in burning significantly more calories compared to spending time at the gym. It is especially true if you are new to the fitness world and do not have the stamina you need for a full-body workout at the gym.
Can Hiking Give You Abs?
While hiking 2-3 times a week is enough to lose weight, it is often not enough to get abs. Hiking primarily engages your leg muscles, including your hamstring, calves, glutes, pelvic muscles, and muscles at the side of your abdomen; however, hiking does not engage the muscles in your abdomen, which is why you cannot get abs by hiking 2-3 times a week.
However, it is still a great way to stay fit and lose weight.
Can Hiking Aid in Burning Belly Fat?
Hiking is considered one of the best physical exercises to burn body fat and tone the muscles. While hiking aids in burning belly fat, you cannot notice the transition overnight, and you have to be persistent with hiking to notice the reduction in belly fat once you start hitting the trails.
Like most other cardio exercises, hiking strengthens your heart and body and can aid in weight loss if you hike 2-3 times per week for at least an hour. That being said, you also need to ensure that you provide your body with appropriate nutrients and enough hydration that can help your body sustain weight loss while supporting your body for rigorous activity.
However, it is also important to note that human bodies can quickly adjust to the exercise, and you may soon notice that there is no further reduction in your weight even when you are hiking 2-3 times a week. In that case, it is always a good idea to adjust your hiking regimen to increase the duration, frequency, or intensity of the hike. Some of the ideas to help you lose weight through hiking include the following.
Hike for Longer – You can gradually increase your hike's duration to support weight loss. If you have been hiking for 30 minutes, you can gradually increase your duration to 45 minutes and up to an hour or more.
Hike Faster – If you have developed enough stamina and find it enjoyable to cover longer distances on the trail, you can push yourself further by hiking faster. Aim at beating a certain distance in a specified time, so your body can work harder, which will help you lose weight faster.
Hike on More Rigorous Trails – Another possible way to challenge your body so you can lose weight is to hike on steeper or more rigorous trails. The incline of your hike can significantly change the number of calories your body burns, so if you are currently hiking on a trail with a 10-degree incline, changing it to a 30-degree incline can help you burn more calories and lose weight faster.
Adding Weight – Adding weight to your hike is one of the possible alternatives to losing weight. While it can be dangerous for beginners and can lead to injury, if you are a seasoned hiker, adding weight to your backpack or opting for a weight vest can significantly change the number of calories you burn and the amount of weight you have lost while hiking.
Adding Exercise to Your Hiking – To lose weight while hiking 2-3 times a week, you can stop while hiking and add some exercises such as lunges, jumping jacks, and squats and then resume your hike. Doing so every one or two miles can help your body burn more calories and lose more weight.
Is Hiking Once per Week Enough?
Hiking is a great way to get outside and enjoy nature, so you are better prepared to handle the rest of the week. So if your goal is to see nature and get some physical benefits of exercising, then hiking once a week is enough to bring you the benefits of being in nature.
However, if your goal is to lose weight or to train and strengthen your muscles, you cannot accomplish these goals by hiking once a week. To effectively lose weight, you need to increase hiking frequency to 2-3 times a week. Moreover, you can also incorporate the strategies as mentioned above for better weight loss while hiking 2-3 times per week.
Furthermore, if your goal is to strengthen your muscles and build muscle mass, you will need to hike more frequently, and hiking 4-7 times a week will help you accomplish your goal.
How Often Should You Hike to Train for Longer Distances?
When it comes to training your body for longer distances, persistence is the key. While there is no set frequency of how often you should hike, it's best to hike for more than two times a week, so your body is used to the physical activity. Moreover, if you intend to cover longer distances and spread your hiking trip over a few days, then it's best to train your body for longer hiking trips by hiking 2-3 days per week and covering the intended distance during this time.
It is also a good idea to prepare your backpack in advance and gradually add weight to your backpack, so your body gets used to handling weight, and you can hike comfortably and not suffer from an injury when it's actually the time for the trip.
About THE AUTHOR
I’m a hiker, backpacker, and general outdoor enthusiast. I started hiking out of college while working for the National Forest Service, and have been hiking ever since. I’ve been solo hiking and leading hiking groups for two decades and have completed hundreds of small hikes and some majorones such as the Appalachian Train and the Pacific Crest Trail, and hiked on four continents. I’d love to share some of my insight with you.Read More About Peter Brooks