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Hiking is a natural and restorative way to include regular aerobic exercise in your weekly workout routine. From easy trails to more advanced treks, hiking efficiently burns calories and builds fitness. Even trekking on easy trails typically uses up more calories per hour than other types of low impact exercise, such as walking and some aerobic dancing, while more advanced and backpacking treks ultimately burn as many calories as those expended during demanding sports, such as racquetball or cross-country skiing, according to the Mayo Clinic3 website.
Check out various levels of hiking trails with trail finder guides like the ones found on Trails.com4 or American Trails1 and begin burning more calories with hiking. Start with shorter and easier hikes and work up to longer and more challenging treks as you push toward your personal best as an outdoor athlete. Set new goals and eventually build up to daylong and even weeklong or long-distance hikes like the Wonderland Trail, which circles Mount Rainier in Washington State, according to American Trails1. Learn the amount of calories burned during seven hours of strenuous hiking during daylong hikes as well as for shorter hikes.
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Hiking and Trails Ratings Systems
The amount of calories burned during a hike depends largely on the level of hike you take on and how much you push yourself. Various outdoor groups and organizations rate hiking trails in different ways and based on a variety of criteria. Typically hiking and trials are rated from easy to strenuous, and some are rated on a number system--usually 1 to 5, with 1 being the easiest hike. Easy trails include slight elevations and shorter distances with minimum hiking; moderate trails involve more elevation with average conditions for hiking; difficult trails usually include considerable changes in elevation and hardy conditions for hiking; and strenuous trails are known for significant changes in elevation with rough trail conditions and require ultimate hiking performance and preparedness. However, avoid relying solely on rating systems. Do your research beforehand and consider the elevation, distance, and terrain for each hike. Also take into consideration the weather and other environmental conditions.
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Easy to Moderate Hikes
If you want to become an avid hiker, always keep low-key hikes and walking on your agenda. Whether you’re used to tough hikes or not, it’s a good idea to mix easier hikes in with more strenuous ones during the week so that you give your body a break and rest days. Also, when you’re feeling under the weather, it’s important to have an option for a short walk on a trail somewhere. Calories burned on average hikes typically range from about 400 to 600 calories per hour. According to the Mayo Clinic3 exercise for weight loss chart, a person weighing:
- 160 pounds burns 438 calories for every hour hiked
- 200 pounds burns 546 calories per hour while hiking
- 240 pounds burns 654 calories during one hour of hiking.
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Difficult to Strenuous Hikes
Burn up major calories on more difficult or strenuous hikes, depending on the trail intensity level. To get a basic idea of calories burned during tougher hikes, compare the Mayo Clinic’s3 categories for using a stair treadmill and backpacking and the “weight of person and calories burned" calculations:
- 160 pound person - 511 calories/hr
- 200 pound person - 637 calories/hr
- 240 pound person - 763 calories/hr
- 160 pound person - 657 calories/hr
- 200 pound person - 819 calories/hr
- 240 pound person - 981 calories/hr
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Longer and more strenuous hikes lasting a day or more burn substantial amounts of calories and require proper nutritional planning. These types of hikes often involve intense mountaineering, such as rock or ice climbing, and require expert skill and experience levels. According to HikingUpward2, you can burn well over 2,000 calories on a daylong hike, depending on how strenuous and long it is. For instance, a 200 pound person hiking Dog Mountain at Columbia Gorge in Washington State will likely burn 2,592 calories during a 6.5 mile hike, taking approximately “5.5 hours plus a half hour for lunch" for an elevation of 2,800 feet, according to HikingUpward’s2 hiking calorie-burning calculator. Calories burned during 7 hours of strenuous hiking on longer day hikes can be as much as 3,000 per day. “The Peak - SNP, Virginia," Shenandoah National Park, a 16.8 mile hike with a 3,255 ft. elevation takes about 7.5 hours to complete and burns around 3,456 calories for a 200 pound person, according to HikingUpward2 calorie calculations.
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1. American Trails
2. HikingUpward: Washington State Parks & Forests: Dog Mountain - Columbia Gorge, Washington State
3. MayoClinic.com: Exercise for weight loss: Calories Burned in 1 Hour
5. 14ers.com: Difficulty Rating System: Hiking and Climbing