Walking is one of the most popular forms of exercise. Having a daily walking routine is a great way to get your daily fix of exercise. Walking daily is very beneficial to not only your body, but is beneficial to your mind as well.
However, when you incorporate a few hills along the way, it is going to skyrocket these benefits.
Whether you lace up your walking shoes and are walking outside in the warmth of the sun on a nice spring evening listening to the birds chirp as they get back from down South, or walking indoors on a treadmill on a cold winters morning, adding some hills or incline to your walk is like injecting steroids into your routine.
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Once you get into a groove and have been at your walking routine for a month or two, you should aim to make sure ¼ to ½ of your walk is done uphill or on an incline.
Other than the fact you will be getting so much more out of each and every walk, lets talk about the other benefits that you will be reaping by doing this.
Top 5 Benefits of Walking Uphill or on an Incline
Of course, there are more than 5 benefits, but here is a rundown of the 5 most important benefits.
Benefit 1: Increased Calorie Burn
This is going to be the most important benefit to many of you that have a walking routine. When you are waking uphill/on an incline, on average you will be burning 50% – 100+% more calories than when you are walking on a flat surface.
That is a HUGE difference …
To put it into perspective, if you were walking on a treadmill at full incline (15% on most treadmills) for one mile, you would burn more calories than if you ran one mile on a flat treadmill. That is a pretty neat statistic and really demonstrates how effective walking uphill really is.
It is important to point out that not all hills are the same, and the high the grade, the more calories you burn. For example, for every 1% increase in grade, an average person of 150lbs will burn an extra 10 calories per mile. At a 10% – 12% grade that same person will be burning about twice as many calories as they would walking on a flat surface.
Lets say you walk for 5 miles a day. If you incorporate 2 miles worth of hills or incline into your walking routine, then you will have the potential to burn 200+% calories than if you just walked on a flat surface the whole time.
There are a lot of factors that come into play, but you get the picture. If you want to really boost up the calorie burn, then try to walk at a brisk pace while going up those hills. Even if you cannot walk at a fast pace up the entire hill, walking at a brisk pace for half of it is going to dramatically increase the amount of calories you burn.
The Bottom Line: You can increase your calorie burn by 50-100+% by adding hills to your walk. Make sure you are walking up some type of hill or incline for at least 1/4th – ½ of your walk. Walk up those hill at a brisk pace to kick the calorie burn up even more notches.
Benefit 2: Excellent for your Heart
Without a doubt, walking up a hill or on an incline is going to significantly raise your heart rate. This is a great way to get your heart rate up towards your maximum heart rate range and keep it there.
Here is a quick formula to come up with your maximum heart rate.
220 – your age = maximum heart rate
So if you are 50 years old, your maximum heart rate is around 170. Ideally you want to keep your heart rate to be maintained at about 60-80% of your maximum heart rate, and walking briskly uphill is a good way to achieve this.
Keeping your heart rate elevated like this has many benefits. One benefit is that your blood flows through your body faster, allowing it to deliver the necessary nutrients and oxygen to your muscles faster.
Another benefit is a stronger heart and lower blood pressure. Because you are working your heart out, it becomes stronger, meaning it does not need to pump or work as hard to achieve the needed blood flow throughout your body. This results in a lower blood pressure.
An elevated heart rate for a period of time also increases calorie burn.
One you figure out your maximum heart rate, you should aim to keep your rate rate between 60 and 80% of that while walking up the entire hill.
The Bottom Line: Walking uphill strengthens your heart and lowers your blood pressure by allowing your heart to work more efficiently. Keep your heart rate in the 60% – 80% range of your maximum heart rate while walking up a hill or on an incline.
Benefit 3: Increased and Tones Muscles
Walking uphill works more and different muscles as opposed to walking on a flat surface. Your legs are used to walking on flat surfaces, as we all do this everyday. However, when you walking up a hill, different muscles get worked out in a more intense fashion.
The primary muscles that become tone by walking uphill include ankles, upper thigh, lower thigh, calves, and glutes.
Walking uphill improves your slow twitch muscle fibers, which results in toning of those muscles. Don’t worry, you won’t begin looking like steroid, meat headed muscle man by doing this. The muscles fibers that result in major muscle mass are your fast twitch muscle fibers.
Engaging your slow twitch muscle fibers is what does the toning up, resulting in those sexy tight looking legs.
The longer period of time you are walking uphill the more muscle fibers you will activate, meaning the more tone your legs will become.
The Bottom Line: Walking uphill engages and activates more muscles, therefore toning the muscles in your ankles, thighs, calves, and glutes. The longer you walk uphill the more tone you will become.
Benefit 4: A Shorter Workout
This is a great benefit for those who have limited time and are on a tight schedule. Due to the effectiveness of walking uphill or on an incline, you do not need to workout for as long.
If you typically walk for an hour a day and want to cut that down, then you could simply walk for 30 minutes on an incline for the entire time and get better results as if you walked on a flat surface for an hour.
You can further reduce the amount of time you need to walk if you walk uphill AND at a fast pace.
If you are not someone who is on a tight schedule, then just know you will be getting more than twice the amount of benefits from your full walk by adding hills.
The Bottom Line: If you are tight on time, you can cut down on your exercise time by walking uphill or on an incline the entire time. Lower the amount of time even more by walking at a fast pace uphill the entire time.
Benefit 5: Increased Stamina
The last benefit we will be discussing is increased stamina. This increased stamina comes in many areas.
By walking uphill you are going to be increasing your legs stamina, your hearts stamina, your lungs stamina, and your minds stamina.
In fact those who wish to one day transform their walking routine into a jogging or running routine, walking uphill is an excellent way to transition into your running routine.
A good cycle is to start out walking on flat surfaces, then pick up your pace on flat surfaces, then add in a few small hills, then add in some larger and longer hills, then pick up your pace going up those hills, then start into your jogging routine on flat surfaces.
The walking uphill portion of the cycle above will properly build the necessary stamina to make the transition into a jogging routine pretty easy.
By walking uphill, your legs are going to become stronger, meaning they can handle a more intense workout.
Your lungs and heart are going to be strengthened due to the maintained increased heart rate while walking uphill.
Finally, your mind is going to become stronger due to the intensity of walking uphill for long periods of time. You will become more mentally aware of how far you can push yourself, allowing for more and more intensity without your mind telling you that you cannot do something.
The Bottom Line: Walking uphill builds up your stamina in many areas such as your legs, heart, lungs, and mind. This is a great way to transition into a jogging or running routine.
There you have it, 5 of the most important benefits of walking uphill or on an incline. If you are just starting your walking routine, you should consider these benefits and come up with a plan to incorporate hills into you walking routine in the near future.
If you have been at your walking routine for some time, you should start throwing some hills in as soon as possible. If you are not seeing the results you would like from your daily walking routine, you could be a couple hills a day away from a major breakthrough.
If you add some hills into your walking routine alongside a proven diet system, you should see results much much faster.
It is never too late to start adding hills, so adjust your walking course or treadmill so that you can begin your uphill journey today.