There's an equation for weight loss: Move more and eat less. Because ultimately, you want to burn more calories than you consume. Cardio exercises get your body in motion and heart pumping and help with weight loss; yet not all cardio is created equal. Walking flat terrain is a joint-friendly exercise that burns 245 calories an hour. If you walk hills, however, you'll burn 58 percent more calories at a 17-mile-per-hour pace. Hill walking is a metabolism-boosting cardio exercise that slims and tones your thighs and glutes.
Use supportive, well-fitted athletic shoes designed for off-road walking. Select a pair with adequate traction for trekking on hills with loose, muddy soil or rocky areas. Choose a snug-fitting pair of shoes to avoid uncomfortable chafing and painful blistering. Purchase shoes meant for all-terrain wear, or stay off hills after it's rained.
Select a hilly area with a visible path. Avoid muddy or overgrown areas. Preferably, pick a hiking spot with pre-mapped or man-made trails. You'll be less likely to run into poison ivy or poison oak!
Stretch your lower body -- calves, glutes, hamstrings and quads -- for five to 10 minutes, or until your heart rate's elevated. Focus on dynamic stretches that mimic regular walking, like straight leg marches or scorpions.
Walk the hills for 15 minutes. Trek up the hill at a fast pace and walk down at a regular pace. Continue this pattern, increasing your uphill pace as much as possible. Recover your heart rate each time you go down the hill so that by the time you get back to the bottom, you can talk comfortably without gasping for air.
If you're ready for a tougher workout, do 15-minute interval sets where you keep a quick and steady pace so your heart rate remains elevated as you trek both up and down the hill.
Try to do at least 30 minutes of hill walking a day to help you burn more calories and shed excess weight. Add strength training -- two to three sessions a week -- and stick to a healthy eating plan to help you reach your weight-loss goals. Remember, you have to burn more calories than you eat to lose fat, so add up the numbers for what you eat and what you're burning while hill walking.
Stand tall and resist the urge to slump or hunch over as you walk hills. Slouching and slumping places strain on your lower back. Keep your steps close together and your footing light. Stomping puts undue pressure on your joints.
- American Council on Exercise: Take Your Workout off the Beaten Path
- Walking and Jogging for Health and Wellness; Frank Rosato
- Fitness: How Many Calories Are You Really Burning?
- MayoClinic.com: Metabolism and Weight Loss: How You Burn Calories
- American Council on Exercise: Is It Better To Stretch Before or After My Workout?
- New York Times: Stretching: The Truth
- Walking with a partner can encourage you to stick with stick with a fitness routine and make walking hills fun. Challenge your friend in interval races or just enjoy the scenery.
- Carry water and a travel first-aid kit in a backpack or waist satchel, for possible scuffs and scrapes.
- Talk with your doctor before adding serious hill walking to your normal walking route.
- Stop and rest if you feel any pain while walking. If the pain doesn't subside, see your doctor.
Having studied at two top Midwestern universities, Catherine Field holds degrees in professional writing and patient safety. Writing since 2000, Field has worked with regional newspapers while publishing fiction online. She conducts medical communication research at a Midwestern medical institution and is slated to write a book based on her research findings.