How Many More Calories Do You Burn Walking Uphill?

Man walking uphill with his dog

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It certainly feels like you are burning more calories when you walk uphill or add incline to your treadmill workout—you're not only using different muscles but also fighting harder against gravity, which ups the intensity.

But how many more calories are you burning by walking uphill? The answer comes from two sources: research measurements for metabolic equivalents and equations used by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

Calories Burned Walking Uphill

Research in metabolic equivalents uses actual measurements of the calories expended by people walking uphill at a brisk 3.5 miles per hour compared with those walking on flat, firm ground at the same speed.

The results showed that a 150-pound person burned 80 calories per mile on flat ground while walking uphill burned an additional 48 calories per mile, a 60% increase. This research of metabolic equivalents (MET) is used in walking calorie charts and some calculators.

The second method for calculating uphill calorie burn uses the equations from the American College of Sports Medicine's "Resource Manual for Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription," which shows:

  • For every 1% of uphill grade, a 150-pound person burns about 10 more calories per mile (an increase of about 12%).
  • That means that at a 10% grade, that 150-pound person burns more than twice as many calories per mile as they would walking on flat ground.

Incline Matters

The amount of incline makes a big difference. On a treadmill, you can accurately set your incline depending on what you're aiming for. Some treadmills have percentage grade settings, and some use numerals like 1.0, 1.5, 2.0—these are equal to 1%, 1.5%, 2%, etc.

But in the great outdoors, not all hills are alike—they have different inclines (percentage grades). The varying inclines found in nature are why hiking is often listed in calorie calculators as burning many more calories per mile than walking.

When walking outdoors, you can use a tool such as Map My Walk to map out your walks and determine your route's inclines. A 5% incline will really get your heart rate up and you'll likely be breathing hard.

Calculate Your Calorie Burn

Calorie burn is affected by the duration of your walk and your weight. You can get an approximation of your calorie burn walking uphill by entering your weight, walk duration, and selecting "hiking" on the calculator below.

Calories Burned Walking Downhill

Unless you are on a treadmill, what goes up must come down. Walking downhill burns fewer calories than walking uphill or on level ground—but only by a little.

MET research shows that you only burn 6.6% fewer calories per mile when going downhill compared to walking on flat ground. That means burning five fewer calories per mile for a 150-pound person. Overall, by adding a 1-mile uphill walk followed by a 1-mile downhill walk, a 150-pound person would burn 43 more calories than they would have walking those 2 miles on flat ground.

Tech Tools for Uphill Calorie Counting

The numbers for calories burned as shown on your treadmill display and those counted on your fitness tracker or heart rate monitor probably don't match each other, particularly when walking on an incline. It can be difficult to know which of them, if either, is most accurate. In every case, setting an accurate weight in whatever tool you use will help it calculate more accurately.

Some fitness trackers and smartwatches use your heart rate and an altimeter to know when you are going uphill. These devices may use this data to refine the calorie estimate. Others don't have these functions and may not be able to determine when you are going uphill or downhill. The treadmill, however, has the incline data, which hopefully influences the calorie data it presents.

Add Uphill Walking to Workouts

If you're looking to add hills to your usual walking route, take stock of your surrounding areas. Look for any nearby trails with hills of varying degrees, or check out safe hilly neighborhoods that you can walk through. You can even walk up and down your sloped driveway.

If you'd rather use incline in your treadmill walking workouts, you can do that too. Treadmills usually give you the option to adjust the incline for your workouts, and you can often even select pre-programmed incline interval workouts.

Now that you know how to set incline and incorporate hills into your outdoor walks, you can focus on good form, posture, and technique to get the most out of your uphill and downhill walks.

How to Walk Uphill

Use this uphill walking technique for those climbs:

  • Don't raise your knees too high.
  • Keep your torso over your hips without leaning excessively either forward or backward.
  • Shorten your steps and try to maintain the same pace.

How to Walk Downhill

Walking downhill can place a strain on your knees, as those with knee problems probably already experience. You should learn good techniques to help protect your knees on the downhills:

  • Don't lean back. Keep your hips over your knees in an upright posture or even lean very slightly forward for better stability.
  • Keep your knees slightly bent at all times on steeper slopes.
  • Your stride will naturally elongate going downhill, which will help you brake while still moving faster than usual. If you find yourself going too fast, shorten your stride or slow down your steps.

A Word From Verywell

Hills add a new dimension to both treadmill and outdoor workouts. Use them to add extra intensity to your walk so you can burn more calories over the same amount of time and distance.

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  1. Ainsworth BE, Haskell WL, Herrmann SD, et al. Compendium of physical activities: A second update of codes and MET values. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011;43(8):1575-81. doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e31821ece12

  2. Swain DP, Brawner CA. ACSMs Resource Manual for Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2014.