How to Walk Up Hills — Walking for Health and Fitness (2023)

Walking up hills! Does the mere mention of hills send a chill “up” your spine? Love them or hate them they’ll still be there so you might as well learn how to walk up hills.

Let’s forgo the problems with hills; they're too hard, I’ll hurt too much, or I just can’t do them. Let’s focus on the view from the top and what you can do to reach new heights!

Like any other fitness activity, having more knowledge will get you to easily walk up hills. In no time at all, you will be walking up the tallest, steepest, longest hill on your walking route and not even notice it until you get to the great view at the summit.

You’ll conquer them with some sweat on your brow, a smile on your face, and the satisfaction of knowing that your walking fitness training is paying off!

Walking Up Hills - "More Bang for the Buck”!

  • Increases intensity of your walk

  • Quickly improves your fitness

  • Increases your heart rate

  • Increases the number of calories burned

  • Strengthens your quadriceps and hip flexors

  • Strengthens your buttocks muscles

  • Shapes your entire lower body

How to Efficiently and Easily Walk Up Hills

Heart Rate: Check your Heart Rate at the top of a climb

To see how much more intense walking uphill is, check your heart rate at both the bottom and top of the hill

How to Check Your Heart Rate

Checking your heart rate periodically during a walk is a great way to monitor your fitness progress.

Feel your pulse for 15 seconds then multiply that number by 4.

For example, if you count 35 beats in 15 seconds that equals 140 beats per minute. (35 X 4=140 beats per minute)

Walking up Hills: The Psychology

While walking uphill may be difficult at first, the physical benefits you get from walking hills are tremendous!

Just as important is the psychological lift you get from walking up and over a challenging hill.

Conquering a hill gives you a great sense of achievement and a huge boost to your mental well-being as your endorphins kick in (these are the feel-good hormones). Achievement of any endeavor gives us a sense of satisfaction as we hold our heads up high and say “yes, I did that!”

It’s important for our well-being to achieve something regularly. In order to do this, we must set goals that are realistic but challenging. Walking over that hill you avoided will do this for you!

More Benefits of Walking Uphill

  • Enjoy the view from the top: There is a reason that real estate prices are higher for home at the top of hills, the views are awesome. I try to find routes that take me over the various hilly neighborhoods in my areas. The homes are usually larger which means less number of homes, which means less traffic! Then there are the views, which are spectacular even from the road. I can only imagine what it looks like from the back deck of the home.

    (Video) Hill Walking Tips for Core + Pelvic Floor Health

  • Sense of accomplishment: What’s life without a challenge and whether the hill you walk is big or small, when you make it to the top it’s a win. Celebrate! Stop and take a picture. Allow yourself to feel your accomplishment.

  • Build Balanced Leg Muscles: Walking up hills help develop the muscles at the front of your thighs (quadriceps) as opposed to the muscles in the back of your leg built when walking on flat terrain (hamstrings).

  • Hills Burn Calories: Walking up hills burns 3-5 more calories per minute more than walking on flat terrain. Over time this increase in calorie burn leads to a decrease in weight!

  • Boosts Heart Rate: Walking uphill, even at a slow pace, will increase the walking intensity to moderate and even strenuous levels.

  • Improve your core muscles: Walking up a hill engages all your core muscles. Since you must lean slightly forward the hip flexors work harder to move your knees for the next step up. Your core is kept stable by the transverse abdominis and rectus abdominis. Lastly, your arm swing helps activate your internal and external obliques.

Walking Uphill - Tips to Improve Your Form

Walking Uphill Fitness Training Workout

  • Adding other fitness exercises to your routine will develop your body and turn you into a hill walking machine.

  • Stair climbing / Stair climbing machines

  • Step Ups

  • Squats

  • Back Kick Lunge

  • Calf Raise

  • Planks

    (Video) Walking to relieve Back Pain

  • Pushups

  • Treadmill training with the deck elevated

Walking Uphill Mindset - Getting Over the Top

I’ve been preaching that walking will get you in great physical shape. I have believed this from the very beginning of my walking journey. What I found most surprising and beneficial, even more than the physical fitness, is the positive effect on my mindset.

The added benefit of walking up a hill is the boost to your mindset, and the feelings associated with accomplishing the task of walking over a hill are very important, not only to build confidence, and self-esteem but to keep your motivation to continue on your journey, and reach your ultimate fitness goals!

  • Focus

  • Commitment

  • Stay Positive

  • Sense of Achievement

Read more on Keys to Staying Motivated

Walking Uphill Aches and Pains

As with any new activity, you will feel some soreness or other issues when you begin so, proceed with (slight) caution. The following is a list of the most common ailments associated with walking up hills.

Achilles tendinitis: Pain in the back of your heel and lower calf

The Achilles tendon can be irritated by hill walking. Repeated flexing of the foot when walking up and down steep hills or on uneven terrain can also strain the tendon, triggering lower leg pain. If the pain is bothersome then ice the area for 15 to 20 minutes, 3-4 times per day.

Shin Splints: Soreness in your shins.

Doing too many hills too soon will make you susceptible to this injury as your foot has to flex more with each uphill step. This movement overworks the shin muscles cause pain. To prevent this, begin by slowly adding hills to your walking route. To alleviate the pain, ice the affected area and take an anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen.

(Video) 5 Surprising Health Benefits of Walking (And Why You Should Do It Everyday) - According To Science

Calf soreness: Happens when the calf muscles are overworked.

The best defense is a good offense, so get into the habit of stretching your calf muscle, after you are warmed up, by placing the balls of your feet (front part) on a curb or step and dropping your heels down below the toes. This movement will lengthen the calf muscle. Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat the stretch several times. This will prevent soreness in the future. Rest and Ice will help you deal with the current pain.

FAQ’S

What muscles are used used when walking backwards up hills?
Walking up hills backwards work your quadricep and calf muscles. Walking backwards uphill is a great way to balance your leg muscles.

Will walking backwards uphill improve my coordination?
Yes, walking backwards, in general, will give you more body awareness and sharpen your senses. By walking backwards uphill you will sharpen your senses as you must rely on your spatical awareness as to where your feet land when you can’t see them.

Do you have any advice on starting to walk uphills backwards?
When you begin walking backwards uphill, start slowly and begin a few steps at a time. Then increase the length of time you walk. Also, and very importantly, find a hill that has little traffic and a smooth surface to walk on.

Inspiration to Get You Over the Top

Hill Songs to get you moving:

Tom Petty - Climb that Hill

Peter Gabriel – Solsbury Hill

Walking up hills is a great way to increase your fitness and give yourself a psychological boost. As with any new endeavor, the more you do it the better you get at it. Reread the key point to How to Walk Up Hills, keep moving forward and don’t forget to enjoy the view from the top.

Walk on,
Frank Ring
Author: Walking for Health and Fitness, Fitness Walking and Bodyweight Exercises, and my latest release, Walking Inspiration.
Contact Frank at
Frank@walkingforhealthandfitness.com

FAQs

How do you not get tired walking up a hill? ›

Pressure breathing is one of the easiest techniques you can use to making walking uphill easier. It doesn't matter how steep the uphill is, how old you are, or what kind of shape you're in. If you like getting to the top of a hill with less heavy breathing, sweat, and drain on your energy, try Pressure Breathing.

What does walking up a hill do to your body? ›

Adding hills or inclines to a walking workout can increase your heart rate, calorie burning, and activation of the hamstrings, glutes, and calf muscles.

How can I improve my hill fitness? ›

During the week, try to alternate days of brisk walking with a more moderate pace, and try to ensure you cover around 4-5 miles (7-8km) each day. At the weekends you can have back-to-back walks that concentrate more on building stamina for longer distances, developing fatigue-resistance and improving hill strength.

Why do I struggle to breath walking uphill? ›

When you start climbing, you're essentially doing single-leg squats with some cardio mixed in, and your heart rate quickly skyrockets. Your body suddenly needs more oxygen -- hence the feeling of being winded.

Why is it so hard to walk uphill? ›

So what is it that makes walking uphill so much harder? It has to do with gravity. Earth‘s gravitational field is always pulling us toward the center of the Earth, and our feet have to exert an equal and opposite force to keep us upright.

What muscles does walking uphill strengthen? ›

Walking on an incline increases leg muscle activation, stimulating the muscles of the calves, hamstrings and glutes. The muscle fibers that are triggered and worked by walking or running on an incline are called slow twitch muscles, which is tones your muscles.

How do I stop getting winded so easily? ›

Barring the more serious causes of breathlessness, try making these changes to your running routine.
  1. Warm up adequately. Warm up for a minimum of 20 minutes by walking or jogging at a very easy pace. ...
  2. Practice proper breathing techniques. ...
  3. Try running indoors on a treadmill. ...
  4. Incorporate walk breaks in your running.
Mar 10, 2022

Is it normal to get out of breath when climbing stairs? ›

Even if you consider yourself "in shape," it's still normal to feel out of breath after climbing stairs. That's because you're transitioning from a resting state to a high-intensity exercise quickly, and your body needs more oxygen to deliver to your muscles (hence why you start breathing heavily).

Is walking uphill good for seniors? ›

Uphill walking places increased demands on the leg muscles of old adults which could exacerbate age-related changes in leg joint kinetics. We recently demonstrated that overall trailing leg propulsive function is compromised in old vs. young adults during uphill walking.

Is it good to walk uphill everyday? ›

Builds and Strengthens Muscles

People who frequently incline walk will notice a difference in their strength output over time. "Muscular strength is improved as you recruit more leg muscles in your posterior chain on your way up the hill," says Greenwald.

Is it okay to walk uphill everyday? ›

Therefore, if you're looking to get more out of your everyday stroll, we'd recommend making the switch to inclines! This activity intensifies your workout and places a greater demand on your body's muscles and joints, compared to when you're walking on a flat surface.

What skills do you need for hill walking? ›

Basic map and compass skills are useful for many walkers, and essential in hilly, heavily wooded and remote areas. If you're leading a walk then navigation skills are a MUST! The safety of your team is critical.

How do I get fit for mountain walking? ›

Build up your strength by regularly taking part in resistance training a couple of times a week. Concentrate on increasing the strength in your legs, glutes and core muscles. Exercises such as calf raises, squats and lunges are a fantastic way of preparing your muscles for a mountain hike.

What exercise is good for shortness of breath? ›

Pursed-lips breathing is a common exercise that often leads to success. It's all about breathing against resistance—you breathe in quickly through your nose as if smelling a flower, for about two seconds; then you breathe out slowly through your mouth, keeping your lips puckered the entire time.

Is walking uphill good for your heart? ›

From a cardiovascular standpoint, this increase in work means your heart rate will be higher than walking on a level surface alone. A 2013 study that measured the effects of incline running found that a 2 to 7 percent incline increased heart rate by almost 10 percent when compared with running on a flat surface.

Why do I get out of breath so easily? ›

Shortness of breath is often a symptom of heart and lung problems. But it can also be a sign of other conditions like asthma, allergies or anxiety. Intense exercise or having a cold can also make you feel breathless.

Why am I so out of breath when I walk? ›

People can experience shortness of breath while walking for a number of reasons. Sometimes, this occurs as a result of conditions such as anxiety, asthma, or obesity. Less commonly, shortness of breath signals a more serious underlying medical condition.

Is walking uphill good for knees? ›

Incline walking can strengthen leg muscles while introducing less joint load or pressure to the knee,” Wang said. “Therefore, it can be an ideal exercise for these individuals.”

Is it easier to walk uphill forwards or backwards? ›

Walking backwards is easier on the joints and back.

It takes away the usual heel-strike, requires less range of motion in your joints than walking forwards and changes your pelvic alignment to open joints in your spine - potentially easing off back pain.

Is walking uphill good for belly fat? ›

But here's something you might not realize: You can give your waistline (and other body parts) a serious trimming by tweaking that walk around the block. Walking up an incline can help you lose pounds faster than on flat terrain.

Is walking uphill good for your back? ›

Uphill Muscles

The steeper the grade, the greater these forces and the greater the chances for developing back pain and soreness from walking uphill.

Does walking uphill strengthen ankles? ›

Research suggests that walking on an incline significantly increases activity in the peroneal muscles compared with walking on a flat surface. This means incline walking is a great exercise for strengthening weak ankles — perfect if you're recovering from an injury.

How do I know if my shortness of breath is heart related? ›

If shortness of breath happens when you're clearly not exerting yourself, when you're doing something you normally could do without feeling winded, or comes on suddenly, those are warning signs that a heart issue could potentially be to blame.

How can I strengthen my lungs? ›

Aerobic activities like walking, running or jumping rope give your heart and lungs the kind of workout they need to function efficiently. Muscle-strengthening activities like weight-lifting or Pilates build core strength, improving your posture, and toning your breathing muscles.

Why am I short of breath when talking? ›

Shortness of breath when talking: Difficulty breathing while talking may indicate asthma, poor nutrition, lack of exercise, a blocked airway, or a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis), depending on the circumstances.

How do you build stamina for climbing stairs? ›

Experts recommend that when you begin stair climbing for exercise, you should start slow. Start with a 10 minute session three times per week of stair climbing and slowly build up to more time as your endurance increases.

Why am I so winded after walking upstairs? ›

When you go from a steady-state walk to an activity such as climbing stairs, your muscles are not prepared for the sudden burst of speed. The result is a lot of huffing and puffing as your lungs work overtime to supply more air to your body.

How do I control my breathing while climbing? ›

Pursed-lip breathing while climbing stairs: Inhale through your nose while standing still. Exhale through pursed lips while climbing 1 or 2 stairs. Repeat until you are at the top. Stop and rest if you become short of breath.

How many days a week should a 70 year old walk? ›

Adults aged 65 and older need: At least 150 minutes a week (for example, 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week) of moderate intensity activity such as brisk walking. Or they need 75 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity such as hiking, jogging, or running.

How many miles should a senior walk a day? ›

Generally, older adults in good physical shape walk somewhere between 2,000 and 9,000 steps daily. This translates into walking distances of 1 and 4-1/2 miles respectively. Increasing the walking distance by roughly a mile will produce health benefits.

Does walking uphill increase blood pressure? ›

Another research project, released in the Indian Journal of Health Sciences and Biomedical Research Kleu, reports that in comparison to level and downhill walking at one's preferred pace, uphill walking resulted in significant increases in both heart rate and systolic blood pressure among a group of young adults.

Should you lean forward when walking uphill? ›

Keep your back “straight” even if you are bent forward while walking uphill. When we walk uphill, we must bend forward so that way we don't feel like we are literally going to fall off the hill/ incline. Bending forward also helps our muscles generate more power to propel us upward.

Is it better to run or walk uphill? ›

Walking on an incline involves extra resistance than jogging and will engage your glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves and even your core to maintain good posture. The higher the incline, the more of a strength workout it's going to be.

How fast should you walk on an incline? ›

Bhusri suggests walking at 3 mph at an incline between 16 and 18 percent. In general, "the greater the incline and the longer the period of time spent exercising on that incline, the faster you'll see results."

Can walking uphill cause knee pain? ›

Higher inclines, which often requires an increased effort for runners, can be hard on the knees, sometimes leading to sharp knee pain, he says.

What are the 3 basic skills in hiking? ›

We've put together a list of what we believe to be some of the most important basic hiking skills to remember before your next big adventure.
  • Plan your Trip. ...
  • Be Equipped. ...
  • Check the Conditions. ...
  • Pick your Shoes and Socks Wisely. ...
  • Pace Yourself. ...
  • Leave No Trace.

How do I build stamina for walking? ›

Try walking briskly at a 3 to 3.5-mph pace (walking a mile in 17-20 minutes), beginning with 10 minutes per day for the first three weeks. Slowly increase the time you walk by 5 minutes per week until you are able to walk 30 minutes per day, six days per week. If you are already in good shape, start at this level.

How long does it take to get in shape from hiking? ›

As a rule of thumb, most people will need about four months of build to train for an endurance event. You can take a little less time if you are: Starting with a high base fitness. Planning an easy-to-moderate goal trip.

Should you lean forward when walking up a hill? ›

If you are standing up straight your body with naturally lean forward. With a slight lean into the hill and your eyes up you will keep your momentum going forward.

Is walking backwards up a hill good? ›

#3: Walking Backwards Burns More Calories

What is this? Moreover, this metabolic demand increases even more substantially if you walk backwards up an incline. Walking backwards at a 5% grade is 8.0 METs. In this way, you can do high-intensity interval training (HIIT) in a low-impact way by walking backwards uphill.

What position is best for uphill? ›

Use the kneeling position. However, you may need to switch to the posting position because it puts pressure on the track for better traction.

Is it better to run or walk up a hill? ›

Walking might slow your tempo way down, but running could burn up your energy, making you more likely to hit the wall sooner. According to several studies, your approach should rely on two big factors: your aerobic fitness level and the steepness of the hill.

Does walking backwards strengthen your knees? ›

Benefits of Walking Backwards. Walking backward on a treadmill offers several benefits. These include improved range of motion in your knee, quadriceps strength, hamstring flexibility, and mobility.

Is walking uphill better than jogging? ›

Walking on an incline involves extra resistance than jogging and will engage your glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves and even your core to maintain good posture. The higher the incline, the more of a strength workout it's going to be.

Is walking uphill hard on knees? ›

A research team led by Henry Wang, a Ball State exercise science professor, studied 15 volunteers at the university's Biomechanics Laboratory to find that walking on an incline treadmill reduces stress on the knee joint while strengthening lower limb muscles.

Videos

1. Improve Your Uphill Walking Technique | Power Walking
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2. Walking Tips by Walking for Health and Fitness | Walking Tip 1-15
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3. How Walking Compares to Cardio
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4. Beginner Walking Workout | 10 MIN Treadmill Walk
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6. What Exactly is Fitness Walking
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