Hiking Mountains for CardioCredit: Ken Muise

One of the biggest complaints people make about doing cardio as part of their workout is how extremely boring and painful it is.  A lot of people truly hate “cardio day”.  I used to be the same way.  I’ve had a couple of knee surgeries so running is now out of the question.  I’ve had to find other ways to get my cardio on while working out.  I do the elliptical but that can get boring…fast.

I’ve found (since moving to Hawaii) that hiking is one of the best ways to get a cardio workout in.

Why is Hiking Great for Cardio:

  • Long duration of activity
  • Usually going uphill
  • It doesn’t feel like a “cardio workout” no matter how hard you breathe
  • It’s easy to add weight in back packs.
  • It doesn’t require a gym membership.
  • The trails are already mapped out for you in most cases.
  • You burn mega calories because of the time you spend doing it. 
Hiking for Cardio on TrailsCredit: Ken Muise

 According to some websites, hiking for 1 hour with a 5 to 10 pack will burn between 413 and 605 calories, depending on your weight.  BOOM!

Hiking for your cardio exercises is great.  However, you usually won’t be able to do it for every single time you need to throw a cardio day into your workout routine.  It takes time to do and the trails are often no outside your front door. Also, on the days that you’re working or have other responsibilities you may just want “get one in” and stopping by the gym or going for a run in your neighborhood will make more sense than cardio hiking.

I recommend implementing a hike during the weekends or whenever you have a day off from work.  That way you can spend the required time to do the hiking that you’ll need to get a good workout in.  But remember, it won’t feel like a workout.  Also, this hiking on the weekends is a great way to have an “active off day” in your workout routine.

How to Choose Hiking Trails for Cardio:

I have a lot of hiking trails to choose from since I’m in Hawaii.  I understand that many of you won’t have the same opportunities.  However, you can find one within an hour’s ride and schedule it for a weekend, right? 

  • Find a hiking trail within an hour ride from your home.
  • Try to ensure the hiking trail is at least 4 miles long round trip (2 miles out and 2 miles back).
  • Google the trail and find reviews, tips and strategies.  Many trail heads don’t allow parking or have had cars broken into.  That’s the type of stuff you’re looking for.
  • Call a friend and get them to hike with you.  Selling Point: You’ll buy them dinner or a beer afterward. NEVER HIKE ALONE.
  • For the best cardio hiking trails try to find one (or a few) with inclines and maybe a little easy climbing.

An easy way to find hiking trails in your area is to do an internet search of “best hikes near insert your area”

I know that some you got nervous when I said “find a trail that is 4 miles long, round trip”.  No worries.  We’re not going to do all for miles until we’re ready.

HIking for CardioCredit: Ken Muise

Items you'll need or may need for Cardio Hike Workouts:

Sunglasses:  It’s distracting to look through trees and over rocks with the sun in your eyes and you’ll save the squinting into the sun face for later.

A motivated attitude:  There may come a time where you’ll say.  “How much further, damn.”  At that point, smile to yourself and say: “He said this would happen.”  Then keep going!

Hydration Pack

Camelbak HydroBak 50 oz Hydration Pack, Black
Amazon Price: $45.00 Buy Now
(price as of Jul 19, 2015)
Hydration Pack: Stay hydrated always. I use Camelbak products.

Hiking boots or shoes:

New Balance Men's MO689 Multisport Hiking Shoe,Brown,12 4E US
Amazon Price: $64.95 Buy Now
(price as of Jul 19, 2015)
Not totally necessary. It depends on the hikes you're doing. Some trails get wet and crumbly. Hiking boots and shoes can help keep your feet dry and add extra traction.

Beginners Cardio Hiking Routine

First some more points:

In order to build our cardio hiking endurance to burn more calories we’re going to need to build up to it.  Here is my idea of a good routine to make you a hiking monster that kills mad calories. (Of course, please adjust to your fitness level.  If you’re not used to walking that much then you should cut down on the distance and weight below.  If you’re a superstar then go ham.)

Again, this is a beginner’s cardio hiking routine.  If you can do more than go ahead and do it.  However, keep your safety and health in mind (see note 3 below). 

Also, remember that you need to come back just as far as you go out.  Some people feel great on the hike and will keep going before remembering that they now need to turn around and come back the same distance.

  • Week 1

Hike .5 miles out on the trail and then back with a 5lb pack.

  • Week 2

Hike l mile out and back with a 5lb pack.

  • Week 3

1.5 miles and a 10lb pack.  (You may need a regular hiking or backpack from here on out.

  • Week 4

(Don’t hike.  Take the week off.)

  • Week 5

1.5 miles and 10lb pack.

  • Week 6

2 miles and a 5lb pack

At this point, you should be doing the whole trail and you’ll be able to adjust the distance, the weight carried and the pace on your own.  If you’re not progressing that fast, then don’t worry about it.  Do what you can.  However, keep in mind that the goal here is to do cardio so don’t take it too easy on yourself.  You’ll be happy you didn’t later on.

One of My Short Hiking Trails and Video


Note 1:  I usually go with my Camelbak as the weight but sometimes I pack a bigger pack and stuff with weight if it the hike is not that challenging in itself.

Note 2:  I can’t stress enough how important it is that you never hike alone.  Especially on isolated trails.  I understand that you may like the serenity of hiking and throwing on headphones and just going for it but it’s just not safe.  Anything can happen.  Get a workout partner that is like-minded and won’t be chatting the whole way if that’s how you feel.

Note 3:  As with any workout routine or regimen, make sure that you are healthy enough for this exercise.  Consult your doctor before doing anything new.  Especially if you don’t usually workout already.

Here's a Good Hiking App with Trail Information

AllTrails - Hiking and Biking
Amazon Price: $0.00 $0.00 Buy Now
(price as of Jul 19, 2015)
Available on Android and iOS as well as Kindle.