Small group of happy friends running in the woods in the autumn.

Fall is a great time to get outside to hike. Lower temperatures and dewpoints coupled with changing scenery all make great reasons to take your fitness routine into nature.

Benefits of Hiking vs Walking

Have you ever wondered what the difference between hiking and walking really is? Aside from intentionally choosing a scenic hiking route, both use the same lower body mechanics.  The main variant is uneven terrain. Sand, packed dirt, rocks, and other natural materials found on nature trails create surfaces that force your body to work harder than flat, paved surfaces. In fact, hiking on an uneven surface increases your energy use by up to 28%, according to a University of Michigan study*.

This study found that your heart rate and metabolic rate go up, and you burn more calories.

Slope grade and switchbacks create differences in step gait and balance that require subtle shifts and increases in leg work throughout the hike.

Steady State Cardio with a View!

According to ACE, steady-state training (SST) focuses on maintaining a consistent, low-to-moderate intensity work-rate for an extended period of time. It is an established and proven method for improving cardiorespiratory fitness and enhancing aerobic capacity. 

Fall hikes are a great choice for mixing some steady-state cardio into your routine.

Jump into fall with this awesome exercise combo!

What if we took your favorite hike, and combined it with some amazing outdoor interval training?

HIIT training, (High Intensity Interval Training) can increase the effect of EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption), helping to burn calories after the exercise session is completed.

Plus, it’s a great way to add intensity and variety to the steady-state cardio part of your hike.

In any case, it should make for a completely memorable workout. Studies show that you will have better retention and repetition of your workouts if you find them enjoyable. 

Medicine Ball Fall

Try this:

  • Stair intervals: Find a set of stairs within
    your hike and run up and down 5 times.
  • Box Jumps on Benches: Find a very sturdy bench
    and try sets of 10 box jumps. (Be sure to ask if you are on private or public
    land, and make sure that your jumps will cause no damage to the structure).
  • Weighted Backpack Trail Sprints: Put a couple SMART
    Medicine Balls
    in a backpack to increase the challenge of your sprints. Be
    sure the weight distribution is even and not pulling on your neck and back. Pick
    a spot on the trail and make a start and stop point. Run at top speed back and
    forth 5 times. Be sure to watch for fallen rock, roots, or other obstacles.
  • Rock dips and pushups: Find a rock, bench,
    downed tree or stair on your trail and hammer out a set of 10 tricep dips, then
    turn it over and do 10 pushups.  Repeat
    five rounds.
  • SMART Medicine Ball Jack Presses: Hold the Medicine Ball to your chest with your feet
    together. Jump out to a wide stance while pressing the medicine ball straight
    out in front of you. Try sets of 20 on repeat for 5 rounds. (Tip: Carry the
    Medicine Balls on the entire hike with you in a backpack for extra challenge!)

*Voloshina, Alexandra S et al. “Biomechanics and energetics of walking on uneven terrain.” The Journal of experimental biology vol. 216,Pt 21 (2013): 3963-70. doi:10.1242/jeb.081711

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