Hiking is fun. You get fresh air, get to be in nature, and occasionally see some wildlife. If you have a dog, you can also bring them along for the fun. Best of all, it beats the dullness of running on a treadmill watching re-runs of Family Guy on the TV. But, is hiking a good form of cardio?
Short Answer: Yes, Hiking is a good form of cardio.
Hiking, most certainly, is a good form of cardio.
While hiking probably won’t spike your heart rate like running would, it still counts. You are still moving around and burning calories. Especially if you are hiking on an incline and rugged surface. It takes extra energy and effort to walk over roots and rocks. Hiking also causes your entire body (upper and lower) to work overtime in order to drive your body up an incline.
Since we touched on heart rate a bit, it is also interesting to mention that hiking (just like walking on an incline on a treadmill) is great for hitting the sweet-spot for your heart-rate. This is the area where you are burning fat, but preserving lean muscle.
As with any cardio, consistency with hiking is also important. To maintain healthy body, the CDC and American College of Sports Medicine recommend performing a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio activity on a majority of the days in the week.
How to Make The Most Out of Your Hiking Cardio
While hiking is a good form of cardio, there are certain steps you can take to get even more out of it.
Incorporate a Full Body Workout
Emily, of Women’s Health Mag, wrote a great article on 6 Ways TO Get A Better Cardio Workout During Your Next Hike.
Emily suggests to incorporate the upper body and core workouts every 10 minutes during your hike. However, we think this timing can vary based on your personal physical fitness. Feel free to ramp it up to every 5 minutes, or tone it down and just do the following twice during your hike:
- 40 seconds of pushups, 20 seconds of rest
- 40 seconds of mountain climbers, 20 seconds of rest
- 1-minute plank
HIIT Up Your Hike
HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, is a popular form of cardio that is sweeping the world. If you are unfamiliar with the term or how it works, it’s pretty simple. “HIIT is a training technique in which you give it 100% effort through quick, intense bursts of exercise, followed by short, sometimes active, recovery periods”.
Structuring your hike to fit within the concept of HIIT cardio can take it to the next level.
For example: Run up an incline at full speed for 30 seconds, then slowly walk for one minute. Repeat this throughout your hike, until it is completed.
Fair warning: Running on rugged surfaces can be dangerous. There can be roots, rocks, and other objects that you can trip and fall over. It is advised to only incorporate HIIT cardio on your hikes on trails that you are familiar with and know the terrain. It is also advised to not run at full speed downhill. If you ever come across the situation where it is time for your quick bursts during HIIT cardio, and you are facing downhill terrain, settling for slow (but intense) high-knees while keeping your focus on the ground may work.