How Much Hiking Is Equivalent To Running? (Explained)

How Much Hiking Is Equivalent to Running

Hiking and running are great cardio activities that improve heart and lung conditions. In addition, both exercises help lose weight and maintain the body’s well-being.

While running is a more tedious activity, hiking comes off as a low-impact practice. Therefore how much is hiking equivalent to running? 

Hiking twice or more hours of running will give you the equivalent of running for those hours. It is, however, dependent on the weight of the individual. For example, it will take 2hours or more of hiking to burn the number of calories you will burn in an hour while running.

In this article, I will talk about hiking and its effects on individuals compared to running.

You will be able to discern the little differences and similarities between both activities at the end of this article. 

How Much Hiking Has the Same Results As Running?

How Much Hiking Is Equivalent to Running

Hiking is a low-impact workout that can be carried out by all categories of people regardless of gender or age bracket.

Depending on the topography, hiking appears to be less vigorous than running. However, certain terrains, such as hills, could render hiking more vigorous than running.

Both hiking and running enhance cardiovascular, respiratory, and general weight loss. 

However, the overall outcome depends on factors such as the individual’s weight, route difficulty, and the hours spent.

Generally, running is more intense and affects the cardiovascular system and the burning of calories than hiking, especially when you hike on a plane route.

On the other side, hikers need to hike twice the time a runner uses to attain the same effects on the heart and calorie loss.

Although, that is only the case when you consider hikers who use more tough terrains when hiking.

Also, since runners tend to get tired faster, hikers convert more ground, consequently leveling up with the amount of work done by the runner. 

For example, if a 79.4kg man runs 10miles each hour, he is likely to burn at least 840 or more calories. 

On the other hand, since hiking is less stressful, the same individual will most likely hike for two hours and end up burning at least 1008 or more calories.

However, you must be willing to challenge yourself to make the best out of hiking to reach the equivalent of running.

Can Hiking Replace Running?

Yes, hiking can replace running when it comes to exercising. Both hiking and running have the same effects on the cardiovascular system reinforcing heart and lung activities.

On a more bright side, hiking is more open to every individual since there are no special requirements to become a hiker. 

As such, every person can indulge in hiking, and the results will be the same as running. However, it depends on factors such as your body weight and hiking terrain.

Therefore, hiking is an excellent alternative to running since you are sure to get the same results at the end of the day, if not more.

Hiking is an activity deemed to be a total lower-body activity. Therefore, invariably you stand a chance to build your lower body muscles and maintain a healthy cardiovascular system. 

Hiking helps build endurance and balance, improving muscles such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, and glutes.

One can never overemphasize the overall benefits of hiking on the health and build-up of an individual.

Runners should generally incorporate hiking into their running routine to enhance productivity. Some of the reasons include the following.

  • Hiking increases the span of your long-distance running routine.
  • Hiking enhances your leg’s stability and performance level.
  •  Hiking creates room for your muscles to rest.

Although hiking and running seem similar, some differences exist between the two activities. 

The table below contains some of the differences.

Hiking Running 
Hiking has a low injury risk.Running has a high injury risk.
Hiking is accessible to all individuals.Running excludes overweight individuals or people dealing with heart disorders.
Hiking requires more time.Running takes less time.
Hiking generally has a low effect on knees. Running has a high effect on the knees.

Does Hiking Build More Muscle Than Running?

Hiking and running are crucial in enhancing both the legs and abdominal muscles. However, hiking affects the muscles differently than running does.

Hiking boosts the strength level of your muscles, bringing about better muscle definition and invariably curbing muscle loss. 

For instance, hiking considerably affects your hamstrings more than running. During running, you propel your body forth as if you are in a jumping movement.

When in that position, your hamstrings are not extended, which is not the case when you are hiking and have your feet planted on the surface.  

Hiking indulges your gluteal muscles, causing them to work harder to support your and your pack’s weight. The effect of running on gluteal muscles is less.

Also, the effect of hiking on your calf muscles is utterly dependent on the topography of hiking.

Generally, running or hiking uphill stretches the calf muscles more. Abdominal muscles, on the other hand, are affected more by running. 

It is best to know that only some kinds of hikes build muscles. If you are looking at building your muscles through hiking, then you must consider the challenging terrains.

Generally, the more challenging the activity, the more chances are that your muscles will grow better.

So if your reason for hiking is for muscle growth, you must be willing to leave your comfort zone and give in your all to climbing the most demanding terrains.

It would help to know that hiking affects muscles differently depending on whether you climb up the hill or descend.

When climbing up a hill, the muscles mainly involved are the calves, hamstrings, and gluteal muscles.

While descending a hill, the quadriceps primarily fight against gravity and provide stability.

Also, you need more than just hiking alone for complete muscle building. For example, you must stretch as soon as you return from a hike.

And then, you must complement the activity with good food and a decent rest at the end of the day.

It would be best if you ate correctly. Proteinous meals are bodybuilding foods and must be adequately balanced with carbs and fats. 

Is Hiking Better Cardio Than Running?

Running is better for cardio than hiking because it is more vigorous. However, when you hike in mountainous and rugged terrains, both will be said to have the same effects on cardio.

The American Heart Association suggests that individuals get 2 hours and 30 minutes of mild vigor aerobic exercise weekly or a 1hour and 15 minutes of strenuous exercise weekly.

You may choose to combine both activities weekly. Hiking is a mild-intensity aerobic exercise, while running, on the other hand, is a strenuous aerobic exercise. 

Depending on how much time you allocate weekly for exercising, running is more vigorous and has better cardio activity.

Running has a better chance of altering your heart rate. However, excessive running is dangerous to the heart, causing heart conditions in the long run.

Exorbitant running might cause deformation by thickening the heart tissue, ultimately leading to erratic heartbeats.

Generally, extended exercise causes a build-up of free radicals, which combine with cholesterol over time to develop disks in your arteries. 

It would be best to know what works for you and consciously follow the routine to avoid immoderation. 

Another negative impact of excessive running is muscle unevenness. It will help to know that running mainly builds the lower body muscles, not the upper body.

While there are debates on which is better cardio, you must bear in mind that exercises generally affect individuals differently.

And it is only normal to go with the activity that suits your current condition. 

In the long run, this will help you avoid a possible overstretch that will cause damage to your overall well-being. 


#1. Can I Hike in My Running  Shoes?

Yes, you can wear your running shoes for hiking. However, you must bear in mind running shoes do not suit some hiking topographies.

#2. Is Hiking or Running Better for Your Knees?

Hiking is better for your knees since it is a low-impact exercise. On the other hand, running is a high-impact exercise, and people with knee pain should avoid running.

#3. Can You Get in Shape from Hiking?

Yes, hiking improves the general condition of the body, consequently getting you in shape.  Also, hiking helps your muscles and burns calories affecting your overall shape.

Final Thoughts 

Hiking and running are both tremendous aerobic activities that generally enhance the following:

  • First, they both improve your cardiovascular system.
  • They both burn down calories.
  • Finally, both hiking and running improve muscle growth and endurance.

While you can settle for both, It is best to talk with a specialist to help you select which is best for your overall lifestyle. 


Josh Matthews

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