How You Can Use Hiking to Burn Calories

111 MILLION. THAT’S THE NUMBER OF AMERICANS who walk for fitness. But what about hiking? Do you regularly go on hiking adventures? Walking and hiking allow us to get outdoors and are relatively low-risk activities for most.

I am blessed: The sheer number of jaw-dropping hikes in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States is staggering. Today, I want to explore some of my favorites before turning to how you can use hiking to burn some serious calories.

Hiking in the Pacific Northwest

Hurricane Ridge is one of my favorite places to hike. Perhaps it is because I discovered the Ridge as one of my first explorations of the Pacific Northwest in 1993.

Do you want to see extraordinary sunrises or sunsets? Have a young child and don’t want a very challenging hike? Hurricane Ridge may be for you. Located in the Olympic National Park, it has easy-to-access trailheads and is fabulous for an entire family.

Go to Port Angeles (Washington State, USA) and drive about 40 minutes into the mountains. Here’s a view:

Photo by Wild on Unsplash

Ambitious? Given the ease of access to the Hurricane Ridge Mountain area, you might make it a stop on your Olympic Peninsula Road Trip.

Ruby Beach is next. Positioned on the Washington coast, you can get to the beach reasonably quickly by foot. Prepare yourself for towering rock formations, lots of driftwood, and your beach picnic. Here’s a peek at Ruby Beach:

Photo by Ryan Stone on Unsplash

Number three on my list is one I discovered earlier this year. Can you guess what it is if I tell you that it gets as much as 14 feet of rain annually? If you are from the Seattle area, you probably know that I am talking about the Hoh Rainforest in the Olympic National Park.

Here’s a pic of this wondrous, stress-dropping place:

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Hiking to burn calories

I walk. On the treadmill, on the blocks around my suburban hospital, or at Seattle’s Pike Place Market. This simple exercise promotes my physical health and gives my mind a boost, too.

Walking is a low-impact cardiovascular exercise that helps me maintain a blood pressure of 110/70 and good cholesterol levels. Hiking has similar benefits. But what if you want to burn more calories than you can with walking?

Walk, and you may burn approximately 100 calories for each mile. Hiking can easily double that number, depending on the difficulty of the activity. For the ambitious of us who take on challenging and steen terrain with a heavy backpack, you may burn well over 500 calories per hour.

I sometimes do an urban or suburban hike. You can, too — find a hilly (and safe) neighborhood, load up your backpack, and go. Perhaps you can add some trekking poles.

Hiking can be strenuous and can introduce uneven terrain, so don’t hesitate to fall back to my go-to form of exercise: Walking on an even surface.

Thank you for joining me today. I hope you have a health- and joy-filled 2022. Looking forward to the acute phase of the pandemic burning out over the next two to three months, fingers crossed.


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Michael Hunter, MD
Michael Hunter, MD
I received an undergraduate degree from Harvard, a medical degree from Yale, and trained in radiation oncology at the University of Pennsylvania. I practice radiation oncology in the Seattle area.
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