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Running Versus Hiking

Which Activity Burns More Fat?

By Gregor Trost Published 

Weight loss is one of the most fundamental goals of exercise. Even for people who wish to bulk up, weight loss is an essential component of physical fitness. The prime reason that weight loss is considered a less fun part of fitness is that the most effective way to do it is through aerobic exercise. This means choosing a form of cardio in order to achieve the fat-burning (and muscle-building) state.


Running and hiking are some of the best ways to lose fat, but these two exercises differ in the same way that ballistic workouts differ from slow, controlled movements. They are both great exercises, but their effectiveness will differ depending on your body’s traits and characteristics. So, how do you determine which exercise would be best for your fat loss goal? You have to look at these key differences.




Pace refers to the rate at which you are able to travel a kilometer. Pacing is a critical element in endurance sports as trainers will have athletes run at varying paces to stimulate different physiological effects on the body, such as the increase of heart rate, which in turn triggers an aerobic state. As you can already surmise, hiking has a slower pace than running, which also means that running is going to trigger an aerobic state more quickly than hiking.


Total Calories Burned


Because of the slower pace, you’re going to spend more exercise time while hiking than while running. As an effect, you spend more time in exertion, which also means that you burn more calories overall with hiking. This effect is also further compounded when you opt to hike during cold weather because your body is going to burn more calories in an attempt to regulate body temperature. However, one thing to note is that you have to wear proper outdoor clothing, like the ones at to ensure that you’re safe from extreme cold.


Time To Burn Calories


On the other hand, running burns more calories in a shorter span of time. This is because of the relatively explosive, plyometric movements that you do constantly during exercise coupled with how you enter an aerobic state quicker when you run. This effect also varies in intensity depending on your pace. Essentially, the more quickly you run, the more calories you burn .


Elevation Gain


Elevation gain refers to the way that the terrain varies in steepness. Hikers tend to choose trails that have way steeper inclines and declines than those seen in running trails. A higher elevation gain causes you to use your muscles in a sustained manner and it also requires much more power and control from your muscles. If you hike with a walking stick, this can also exercise your upper body while you traverse steep inclines. Running has much tamer elevation gains.


The Verdict


As previously mentioned, the degree of effectiveness between these two disciplines depends on several factors. Those who don’t have a lot of time to spend on long treks are sure to benefit from running as it burns calories much faster. Those who are unable to maintain a quick running pace benefit more from hiking and the much more aggressive elevation gain commonly seen in hiking trails. In the end, both activities are great fat-burners. What really matters is that you’re able to take your body and your abilities into consideration.

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