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Wendy Bumgardner

How Many More Calories Do You Burn Walking Uphill?

By April 13, 2011

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Uphill WalkingIt certainly feels like you are burning more calories when you walk uphill or add incline to your treadmill workout. But how many more calories are you burning by walking uphill?

The answer comes from two sources. For our walking calorie calculators, I use the MET measurements conducted by Barbara A. Ainsworth. They measured the actual calories expended by people walking uphill at a brisk 3.5 miles per hour with those walking on flat, firm ground at the same speed. The difference was an increase of calories burned by 60% or by an additional 48 calories per mile for a 150 pound person. On the flats, that person would burn 80 calories per mile.

But unless you are on a treadmill, what goes up must come down. Do you lose all of that extra calorie burn because you were going downhill for part of your walk?

No, when going downhill you only burn 6.6% fewer calories per mile than walking on the flats. That means burning 5 fewer calories per mile for our 150 pound person. Overall, by adding a one mile uphill followed by a one mile downhill, that person burned 43 more calories than they would have walking a flat two miles.

But incline also makes a big difference. Not all hills are alike, they have different inclines (percentage grades). On a treadmill, you can accurately set your incline by 1%, 2%, etc. When walking outdoors, you need to use a tool such as MapMyWalk.com to map out your walks and see what the incline really is.

I can tell you from experience, that a 5% incline is a real huffer-puffer.

Using the equations from the American College Of Sports Medicine's Resource Manual for Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription (courtesy of Wold Fitness Notebook) I find that:

  • for every 1% of grade, you increase your calories burned by about 12% or about 10 more calories per mile for a 150 pound person.
  • By the time you are at 10% grade, you are burning over twice as many calories per mile.

This is why hiking is often listed in calorie calculators as burning many more calories per mile than walking.

Go ahead, add some hills to your walking workout!

Source: AINSWORTH BE, Haskell WL, Whitt MC, Irwin ML, Swartz AM, Strath SJ, O'Brien WL, Bassett DR Jr, Schmitz KH, Emplaincourt PO, Jacobs DR Jr, Leon AS. "Compendium of Physical Activities: An update of activity codes and MET intensities." Med Sci Sports Exerc 2000;32 (Suppl):S498-S516.

Photo Wendy Bumgardner

February 7, 2012 at 5:54 pm
(1) rene says:

Thx a million ! I’ve hit a plateau and am going to add hill walking to c if I can break thru it!

February 29, 2012 at 2:38 pm
(2) Kurt says:

great article as including hill work in your training means you can push yourself harder without going faster
so its a great way as the article says to burn more calories and also build strength . hills build strength in your legs !
also if you use the incline button on your treadmill for hill work you can control the incline for longer periods of time
as its hard to find longer type hills that go for 15-20 minutes

July 26, 2012 at 8:20 am
(3) Eva says:

Hi, why do you want to ‘break’ the plateau? It’s a complatley natural and normal thing. Progress is never linear and the sonner we understand it the better for our weight loss:)

November 11, 2013 at 10:27 pm
(4) Bill says:

Walking hills, you are converting body energy to overcome potential energy, so E=mgz. Elevation difference is what is counted. Recall, too, that the body is not 100% efficient.

During ordinary walking, a 5 kg weight vest would add 5% for a 100 kg person. Problem is, trying to find a weight vest that will fit someone with a mass of 100 kg; I/e, a person likely to need the help.

January 22, 2014 at 9:16 am
(5) Ellen O' Sullivan says:

This is a very reassuring article. I prefer hill walking to walking on roads. I was unsure if my efforts were in vain. I do an hour once a day. Is this enough? I really want to tone up and lose weight at last.

February 17, 2014 at 7:26 pm
(6) Tez says:

Bill, the larger size person can add to their work out weight by wearing a rucksack/backpack. You can put rocks in the bag or sand.

You will be shedding those kilograms in no time!

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