How incline walking burns more calories and increases intensity

If you’re looking for an intense workout, try incline walking! When thinking of incline walking, most people think of walking up hills – and that is the easiest way to do it. You can get an incline walking workout by hiking or the incline setting on a treadmill. When you walk on an incline, you burn as much as 50% more calories than walking on a flat surface. It’s also a great way to increase the intensity of your walks, and work different muscles in your legs without having to go to the gym or do specific exercises.

Here’s how you can burn more calories, get a more intense walk and feel great with incline walking.

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What are the benefits of incline walking?

Couple hiking a hill with poles
goodluz / Shutterstock

Incline walking has several advantages over walking on a flat surface, including:

Burn more calories

When walking at an incline, you burn more calories. A 150 lb person burns an additional 48 calories per mile when walking uphill at 3.5 mph. (That’s 68kg, 30 calories/km and 5.6 kph for our metric users!). To lose weight, you’ll need to burn more calories than you take in. Incline walking can help you burn more calories in the same amount of walking time, which is great for busy walkers. Not everyone has an extra hour for weight loss walking, but increasing your calorie burn per minute walked can be a great alternative!

Pump up the intensity

Older male athlete taking a break during walk or run
Rido / Shutterstock

Incline walking is a bit more difficult than walking across a flat surface, which increases your walking intensity as well as your heart rate. While the minimum recommended daily walking is usually 30 minutes walking per day, for maximum benefits the CDC recommends 300 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise or 150 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. That means that for maximum benefits from basic walking, healthy people need to walk an hour a day, 5 days per week. By doing more vigorous exercise you can get the same benefits in a shorter amount of walking time.

While incline walking is not necessarily in the same “vigorous” category as basketball or running, it’s still more intense than regular flat walking. If you’re not able to hit that 300 minutes per week of moderate exercise and you can’t or don’t like to do very high-impact activities, doing a bit more intense form of walking can still be beneficial.

Remember that intensity is a double-edged sword! More intense exercise makes you tired faster and may result in you walking more slowly than on a flat surface. Here are some tips on how to increase your intensity gradually.

Work different muscle groups

When you walk at an incline, you’re also working out a different group of muscles. You’re doing additional work with your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, lower legs and a few muscles in the upper body.

Mixing up incline walks with regular flat walks is a good way to get a more complete leg workout!

Add variety to your walking routine

Sporty woman jogging uphill
Undrey / Shutterstock

Walking is a great activity, but walking the same path every day can get boring sometimes. Finding some hills to walk can mix things up. Going on a hike in a natural, hilly setting is a great way to change up your walking routine, experience the health benefits of being in nature, and feel great!

New milestones to strive for

While walking, you probably have already considered speed, distance and maintaining good energy levels. With incline walking, you can look into elevation increases as you walk, as well as measuring how fast you can walk hilly routes. You can use Pacer’s GPS walk tracking to see the elevation gain from your walks.

How do you incorporate incline walking into your workout?

Incline walking is a great way to feel invigorated and burn calories that’s easy to work into your walking routine. Here are some great ways to add incline walking.

Treadmill on incline setting

Treadmill on incline setting
Microgen / Shutterstock

Using a treadmill is the easiest way to add incline walking, as you can precisely control the amount of incline. Treadmill walking also allows you to walk uphill as long as you like, without having to walk back down the hill to walk up again.

If you’re not used to incline walking on a treadmill, start with a gentle incline and gradually increase your incline level while checking how you feel. If you start to feel tired, or feel an unfamiliar soreness in your legs due to using different muscles, take a break or go back to flat walking. To make your workout more intense, don’t hold onto the bars, as these support your body and make your incline walking less effective. Although the bars can be helpful if you’re a beginner and are getting used to walking at an incline, they can cause you to walk with an unnatural posture that can lead to injuries. Be careful when jogging or walking quickly at an incline on the treadmill, as it’s easy to fall off or injure yourself due to the intensity. Start with a slow walk, and increase when you feel you’re able!

Find some hills

Hilly terrain in the country
welcomia / Shutterstock

If you don’t own a treadmill or just want to get out and into nature, just find some hills and you can incline walk. Chances are, there are at least small hills somewhere near you. If not, there’s probably a park or trail you can find for an excursion. The entire route doesn’t need to be hilly – you can always walk up and down some small hills if you like. Remember that incline walking can tire you faster than regular walks, so start with a small hilly walk so you don’t burn out your energy halfway through.

When you’re walking uphill, make sure you don’t lean too far forward into the hill, as this can make you lose your balance. Trekking poles or walking sticks can help give a little more stability in your upper body. Be extra careful in wet weather as hills can be slippery.

Walking down hills can sometimes be even more treacherous than walking up hills – especially if they’re steep. Be sure to keep proper walking form when walking downhill.


Men and women hiking in hills
Dudarev Mikhail / Shutterstock

A great way to get an intense walk over varied terrain is by hiking. Hiking can be fun and allows you to spend time in nature and the outdoors. Hikes often feature hilly terrain, which is great for incline walking.

Hiking is different than regular walking, so you’ll want to prepare for its unique challenges. Here’s some info from Pacer. Mobile phone service can be spotty in making hiking areas, so make sure to have a map if you’re in a remote area. If you hike frequently, you may want to buy specific hiking shoes that are water-resistant and have soles designed for dirt and rocks. Make sure to take snacks and plenty of water as well.

When hiking hills, make sure to walk carefully as there may be rocks, roots or other features that can trip you up. This is even more important hiking downhill, as tripping and falling while going downhill more dangerous and it’s easier to miss a step. Don’t hike alone – just in case anything happens. Start with short hikes and build up your endurance. If you get tired during a hike, you may not be able to get a car or call someone to pick you up, so you’ll want to ensure you can make the entire route without being tired. You can also use our Pacer Routes Live Tracking function to allow safety contacts to monitor your hiking location.

Safety tips for incline walking

Woman incline hill walking with backpack
Dudarev Mikhail / Shutterstock

It’s always important to stay safe and stay aware.

Mind the conditions and the footing

Mud, moss, moisture, and ice are especially dangerous when going up or downhill and can lead to falls and injuries. Stay vigilant, keep your feet flat against the ground and use a trekking pole if you’re uncertain about your stability.

Prepare to get tired, faster

Keep in mind that incline walking is more intense than walking across a flat surface, which may deplete your energy more quickly. Build your stamina slowly, stay hydrated and challenge yourself little by little.

Maintain your good posture

Pay attention to your body posture when walking hills. Make sure that you keep your upper body upright and that you aren’t leaning far forward or back. It helps to roll your shoulders back to make sure that they aren’t tight or tense.

Don’t walk too fast, at least at first

You should only walk at a speed where you can keep a good walking posture. As incline walking is more intense than flat walking, you’ll want to pace yourself so you don’t tire out too quickly early on.

Challenge yourself

It can be easy to get comfortable doing the same routine, but it’s great to have goals to increase your step count. Try gradually increasing your incline (or finding a bit hillier places to walk), increasing your speed, walking more frequently or walking for a longer period of time. Increase your intensity gradually, and don’t be afraid to take it easy for a few days if you’re feeling sore.

Incline walking is a fun, intense workout that burns more calories and lets you push yourself harder. Use these tips, and you can safely and effectively incorporate incline walking into your workout routine.

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If you haven’t downloaded the Pacer app yet, download Pacer for free (on mobile)! You can also check out our website (mobile or desktop) or follow our blog for more great walking and healthy lifestyle tips.

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