Hiking and running are types of aerobic or cardiovascular activities that increase the heart rate. Both of these physical activities are great at improving the performance of the lungs and heart, as well as helping to lose weight.
Which is the better depends on several different factors, that we will look at in more depth, starting with hiking...
Hiking is a great aerobic activity that virtually anyone can join in. Hiking in the local parks or backcountry is fairly simple and safe to get started and does not require a lot of specialized equipment to get going.
A 60-minute hike session has the potential to burn up to 650 calories – although this is impacted by several factors such as weight, intensity, pack load, and trail difficulty.
The most effective way to hike for health and weight loss is to hike uphill. Hiking is a low-impact activity and less likely to cause injuries compared to running.
Use hiking or trekking poles to help engage the muscle in the upper body and burn a lot more calories.
Running is a more vigorous cardiovascular activity and has the potential to burn a lot more calories compared to hiking.
Running for 60 minutes has the potential to burn up to 1350 calories – although the body weight and intensity will have an impact on the estimated calorie burn.
Plus, the heart rate is increased to about 70-85% of its maximum. Running for 75-90 minutes per week is useful to improve the health and well-being.
Hiking and running are types of weight-bearing activities that have a positive impact on bone density, which helps to lower the risk of developing osteoporosis in later life.
Weight-bearing exercises can involve any activity that has you upright and supporting body weight.
Out of the two exercises, running is certain to have a more negative impact on the joints which is more noticeable if preexisting conditions are already in play in the area of the lower back or leg joints.
We do advise the use of trekking poles for this very reason as they can help mitigate this risk substantially
What's better for you hiking or running when it relates to caloric expenditure? Running is the most effective at burning calories, but possibly not by as much as you think!
A 60 minute run at 5 miles per hour has the potential to burn up to 700 calories. This compares to about 525 calories for a person hiking the same length of time cross country.
The actual pace of the hiking or running activity varies considerably. Hiking is, of course, the slower of the two aerobic activities, but that does not mean it has less intensity, especially if you hike with a pack.
Hiking an elevated path with a weighted pack at a fast pace gives similar intensity to a run performed at a moderate pace.
Up The Pace
A runner who weighs in the region of 125-140-lbs has the potential to drop 240-255 calories per hour while running at 5 miles per hour for 30 minutes.
But, a faster running pace of 7.5 miles per hour for the same duration will help to burn 375-395 calories.
Running at a vigorous pace is the most effective option to burn calories and lose weight.
For instance, a runner at 205-lbs who runs at 8 miles per hour has the potential to burn 1250 calories an hour while a run at 10 miles per hour will increase this to 1500 calories.
I could not find equivalent numbers for hiking, but if you increase the pace of your hike by a similar percentage, you will almost certainly see similar levels of calorie burn increase.
The muscles activated on a hike or run are quite similar and include strengthening the anterior tibialis muscles, calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, and glutes.
For the hiker, the intensity of the activity is significantly enhanced with a heavy pack on the back. Plus, the uphill hiking or running puts more intensity and stress on the glutes and calves.
Adding in those trekking poles also helps to give you a better all-over workout too
So what is the answer
Hiking and running have differences and similarities. Both also have their pros and cons, but in reality, the most-effective physical activity is the one you like the most!
Whether the preferred physical activity is running or hiking, either of these options help to meet the recommended exercise as stated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – the suggest physical activity is 2.5 hours of aerobic exercise (moderate) or 1.15 hours of aerobic exercise (vigorous).
Doing something is better than nothing and doing something you love keeps the motivation up and keeps you doing it.