Hiking Vs. Running: Which Is Better?


Many people enjoy getting outdoors and exercising because it feels good to get fresh air and know you are benefiting your body. Hiking and running are two of the most popular forms of exercise. However, is one better than the other?

It depends on the goals of the individual. For example, running will be better to lose weight since more calories are burned during an intense run than an intense hike. Conversely, hiking is better for building muscle due to the inclines one must climb.

When choosing between hiking and running, it is important to know how each can benefit you. They are both beneficial in their own way, so knowing the advantages of each can help you make the right decision. Read on to discover which one is best suited for you.


Hiking Vs. Running: Which One to Choose?

Choosing between hiking and running can be difficult, especially if you enjoy both. Although choosing which one you will dedicate more time to does not mean you cannot still participate in both. However, you need to consider what your goals are in choosing one over the other.

  • Do you want to lose weight? Then you should choose running. 
  • Do you want to build muscle? Then you should choose hiking. 
  • If you want to focus on the muscles of your lower body, you should choose hiking.
  • Do you want to focus on your mental health? You can choose either one. 
  • Do you want to focus on cardio? You can choose either one. 

In some instances, such as when focusing on mental health or cardio, the decision is completely up to you. If you enjoy hiking more, then you should choose to hike. On the other hand, if running is more your thing, choose to run instead.

However, this is just a basic guideline to making the right decision. Other factors may sway your decision one way or the other when it comes to hiking and running.


Consider Your Fitness Level

If you are trying to decide between both activities, consider your fitness level as it can be easier to go for a short, light run than a light hike. Indeed, hiking usually involves more difficult terrains to navigate while a run can be done in your neighborhood.

However, if your main goal is to focus on cardio, and thereby building up your fitness level, either activity can be chosen.

Remember that you can burn more calories more quickly while running. Consider that you can burn almost twice as many calories per hour from running than hiking. Granted, when you are just starting, you will be exercising for less time than that.

Whichever you pick, it is best to start easy. Do not try to hike the first mountain you see or try to run a marathon, for instance. The best course of action is to gradually build up to these milestones as you condition your body for more vigorous exercise.


Consider Where You Live

Where you live plays a big part in which activity you decide to dedicate more time to. If you live in a more urbanized area where it is not easy to get to the woods, hills, or mountains, then running may be the best choice for you.

However, if there are woods behind your home or you live close enough to a hilly or mountainous area, hiking can be a great choice. Consider the following convenience factors when making your choice:

  • If you live in a mostly flat area, running will be the most convenient choice.
  • If you live in a hilly or mountainous region, hiking will be a convenient way to get your cardio.
  • If you can drive to hiking areas in a short time, hiking is a good choice on weekends.
  • If your area has more running than hiking trails, running may be your best bet.


Can Hiking Replace Running?

Many runners wonder if hiking can replace their running routines. Since hiking and running work similarly, it is a valid question. However, you have to refer to your goals to answer this question. Why do you want to replace running with hiking? Are you trying to build muscle mass instead of losing weight? Or do you just want a change of scenery with your exercises?

So, while hiking is not a straight switch for running, it can be used in conjunction with it. It can be especially advantageous if you are training for a marathon. Runners can use hiking as part of their exercise regimen.

Consider these reasons for incorporating hiking as part of your running routine:

  • Hiking will work different areas of the body. There are muscles that hiking helps condition that running cannot. For example, your ankles do not work the same way when you are running and when you’re hiking. When you hike, you have to scramble over obstacles, which will strengthen them.
  • Hiking allows you to rest your knees. When you run, you are putting a tremendous amount of stress on your knees, so it is no surprise that many runners develop knee problems. Thus, swapping a run or two during the week can help strengthen your legs for your marathon.
  • Hiking builds endurance. Marathons require stamina, and hiking is a strenuous activity that requires a lot of attention. It can help prepare that element of your training in a way that running cannot.

Hiking can replace running if you are looking for something easier on your joints but will still give you a good workout. The trick is finding the right hikes that will benefit your body in a way that matches your fitness level.


Alternating Between Hiking and Running

A great way to get the benefits of both hiking and running is to alternate between both activities. If you want the weight loss that comes with running with the muscle toning qualities of hiking, you can choose a routine that incorporates both.

Remember, you can vary your hiking routes from woodland hikes to hiking a mountain. Your runs can incorporate hills and flat areas, too.


What Are the Health Benefits of Hiking and Running?

Knowing which sport is better is difficult because the answer varies among people. However, knowing the health benefits of both hiking and running will enable you to ascertain whether hiking or running is better for your situation.

Hiking Health Benefits Running Health Benefits
Hiking is a medium-intense cardio workout. This means that it takes a bit longer to get the same benefits as running. You would need about 150 minutes Opens in a new tab. per week. Running is an intense cardio workout that requires less time to notice benefits. You only need 75 minutes Opens in a new tab. of high-intensity cardio per week.
Hiking can help you lose weight. The longer and more strenuous your hike is, the more weight you can drop. Running is an excellent way to lose weight due to its high intensity. More calories are burned in a shorter time than when hiking.
Hiking is great for mental health because it gets you out into nature, in the woods or mountains, which can relieve stress. Running will help you sleep better because you are exerting a lot of energy and the body needs to properly recuperate.
Hiking can lower your blood pressure, which is also tied with your mental health because it will lower your anxiety. Running will help strengthen your leg and back muscles as you condition your body to the rigor of the exercise.

Both forms of exercise are great for your body, but it depends on why you want to work out. Of course, hiking can be modified to be more vigorous with a pack and hiking poles, which can enhance the health benefits.



If you are looking for ways to spend more time outdoors and stay fit at the same time, hiking and running are the top activities that you need to consider. Hiking is better at conditioning your muscles and strengthening your lower body while running is great for losing weight. Both, however, can be used interchangeably for cardio, mental health, and other health benefits. The question is: which activity should you choose?

Ultimately, the choice between hiking and running comes down to your exercise goals and the environment you live in. If you are near hiking trails, hiking will be perfect for you, but if you live somewhere more urban, running is the way to go. In making the decision between hiking and running, choose the one that makes the most sense for your life right now.

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