Both tick the boxes that allow you to be active outdoors, a low-risk activity during the pandemic. But are these two forms of exercise really that different? And if so, which is better for you?
Walking is generally an exercise that you do outside in an urban or suburban setting, or indoors in a running or treadmill gym. In contrast, hiking is walking done outdoors and along natural terrain. You will often experience elevation changes when hiking, but not necessarily when walking.
Both activities are low-impact cardiovascular exercises that can help you control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. They’re also great for your heart, says cardiologist Fahmi Farah, founder and medical director of Bentley Heart Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas. “Walking is one of the best cardiovascular exercises for all ages, including those with heart problems and conditions,” she says. “Hiking is also good for the heart and burns more calories in less time.” According to Farah, there is no better form of exercise than another.
“Both are great at improving heart and lung function, and both hiking and walking can help you,” says Darryl Higgins, fitness expert and founder of Athlete Desk. weight loss.
Which exercise is best for you depends on your physical goals and personal preferences. Here are four top considerations to help you determine whether to go for a walk or hike.
Important note: Before starting any new exercise program, consult your doctor. Stop immediately if you have pain.
You want to burn the most calories: Hiking
The number of calories you can burn hiking versus walking largely depends on your weight, the type of trail, and how much weight you’re carrying on your back. Other factors include the weather, your age and gender, and the roughness of the terrain.
You want the least expensive option: Go for a walk
Hiking often involves driving to the trailhead, which can be several hours away, and incurs a usage fee. And while you can go hiking in the same clothes you use for hiking, you’re better off wearing hiking-specific underwear, such as trail shoes, hiking pants and breathable layers. You’ll also need at least some special equipment, such as a backpack, walking poles, and a water bottle or bladder. And if you’re backpacking, be prepared to spend hundreds of dollars on extra supplies like tents, sleeping bags, and camping stoves.
Want to be more active: Go for a walk
Although hiking is not a dangerous activity, it does carry risks. “Hiking can be very strenuous,” says Higgins. “It may not be ideal for beginners who aren’t used to uneven terrain.”
Walk and fall on a rocky, tree-rooted path, and you could sprain your ankle or break a bone. And there are many different types of insects and creatures in the forest, from nasty mosquitoes to potentially life-threatening snakes, bears or cougars. Cellular service is also often little or non-existent on the trail, so if you run into problems, it can be difficult to call for help.
In contrast, walking is much safer. Sure, you can still sprain your ankle when you step off the curb. But if you do, help is nearby. What if the weather turns nasty? You can call a friend for a ride or hail a taxi. Perhaps the biggest concern comes with walking after dark. If this is your priority time, be sure to wear reflective clothing and be mindful of your surroundings. And don’t go out alone in the middle of the morning.
You want to relieve stress: Hiking
If you can’t go hiking but can take a big dose to stay calm, a walk outside of town or in a local park is still better than a walk in the gym. But if you can roam the woods, do it.