I am 40 pounds over weight. I just started being active again after a few years of poor eating and an unhealthy lifestyle. I tried a running program, but I find that a fast paced hike is a lot more fun to me! I also volunteer with our local SAR team, so hiking with a pack is natural to me.
Anyways, I asked on a well known running forum whether the above mentioned hiking would benefit a beginners running program. I was basically told I was wasting my time with hiking, even with a moderate pack! I was made to feel that unless I am marathon training, I'm not as dedicated. I do not agree with this.
I just quit drinking and cleaned up my diet. Please tell me a 30-minute power hike a few times a week will help get this weight off!
hard core runners maybe skinny but they have a whole host medical problems. Running is quite impactful on your feet and knees. Hiking however is much less damaging.
Physical activity in general is good for you. If your not doing much now, 30 minutes a couple times a week is a great way to get your heart pumping. If after time, you find your short hikes don't get your heart moving, then just start hiking up hills.
What you personally need to get healthy is a question probably best answered by a doctor, but if you got 30 minutes you could be doing a lot worse for yourself than a nice walk.
You don't need to power hike, just hike and enjoy it. Power hiking, especially on hills can lead to problems with the knees and Achilles' Tendon.
If you hike at a comfortable pace all the time, and stop before you get tired, gradually your distance and pace will increase without any big effort. It takes a little longer to do it this way, but it prevents injuries and keeps it fun.
If you insist on running, which is fine if that's your goal, I'd suggest using the same concept. Jog at a comfortable pace and gradually increase your distance. It may start at a 100 feet, but it will go up quickly.
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Hiking is probably always going to give you a better chance of losing weight than not hiking.
The answer you get to any question depends on the bias of the group you're asking. Go to a hard-core ultralight hiking board, and they'll tell you you're not doing it right if you carry more than 10 pounds total, or want to be comfortable.
Keep at it; any exercise is better than no exercise. Just remember to look at your eating habits (sounds like you already are) - the combination of healthy eating and more exercise will help get the weight off. It may take time, but keep at it.
I feel the number one and most important action to loose weight is to eat right. Exercise helps, but, long term, to keep weight off, eating right for a life time does more good. You have to do a LOT of exercise to compensate for a piece of apple pie! People who depend too much on exercise fall off the wagon and gain weight back if they have to stop - say for illness, injury, other life events that tend to interfere with exercise. The best exercise is to incorporate more movement in everyday living. Less driving, more walking, less TV watching, more gardening, etc.
I think long backpack trips are VERY effective for weight loss. For one thing, you take a certain amount of food, a set limit of calories. No refrigerator to raid! I rarely am hungry backpacking, even when I am loosing weight.
Running is efficient if you are really short on time to devote to exercise. If you only had 20 minutes a day, then yes, you would get more from running. But if you can manage an hour a day then walking does about the same. You have to set a pace that works you - strolling along may not do much. Hills are the best. But for the long haul, walking for the rest or your life, because you like it and will stick with it is better than running, getting hurt, quitting. I actually think running when 40 pounds overweight would NOT be good. Walk, hike, backpack, do your SAR and eat right - get weight down, THEN maybe run. You may like it better when you are leaner.
Hiking is about endurance and not hammering or punishing the body. It's a sport of subtlety - one of the amusing parts of running a hiking group is watching the jocks, gym rats, runners, bikers, etc sign up and see how they do - the ones that swagger about their level of fitness are often the ones that find out the hard way, hiking isn't the same. Backpacking works the core muscles and the body in ways that they don't anticipate. I don't look like anything but a frumpy middle aged lady - but I have out hiked treadmill athletes quite a few times.
Don't feel like you have to compete with other sports. Do it because it's exercise you enjoy. It is its own thing. Let the runners pretend superiority - it's not a trivial thing, being able to hoof along at 3 mph with a backpack at 10,000 feet elevation.
I don't know if a 30 minute power hike will help you lose weight. I do know that a single day hike of 8 -10 miles once a week took 10 pounds off me in 3 months, however.
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki
I have read on other forums that hiking won't really benefit a running program. If that's what you asked and that's what you want to do, then the answer you received may be correct.
As to whether hiking will benefit you and your health, well, that is another matter. Discuss with your doctor, but my feeling is the best exercise is the exercise that one will do. Personally, I enjoy weightlifting and hiking. I'm not a superstar at either, but it's what I enjoy and do.
Is it enough? maybe not all by itself, but it will certainly help, along with cleaning up your diet. If you could do something every day for exercise it would be even better.
Starting with what you can do and increasing time and/or intensity of exercise as you become more fit (rather than going out and trying to be a super athlete immediately) seems to be a good tactic. For inspiration, check out Laurie Ann March's story here (she's the author of a couple of excellent backpacking cookbooks). Over time she has reduced her weight quite dramatically, starting with just walking and eating wisely.
Loc: Portland, OR
I can only speak from my personal experience and pass along my opinion on the excellent points made so far. I agree with just about everything said up to now.
I definitely agree that an exercise regime you do not enjoy is a regime you probably won't stick to. I love to hike and enjoy walking more than any other exercise. That's why I do it. If I had to get my exercise in a gym, I'd hate it and never get any.
Walking is a low impact exercise. This makes it very easy to start and very hard to overdo. It also means that in order to get the real benefits of walking you should do it every day -- or as close to every day as you can get. It takes longer to see results from walking, but those results tend to be every bit as effective over time as high impact exercise, but with fewer injuries.
I also agree strongly with wandering daisy that a good diet and avoiding overeating are absolutely essential to achieving an optimal weight and fitness. Habits are extremely powerful. Breaking bad habits takes effort and commitment. Because eating is so big a part of life, eating habits are especially deeply ingrained and difficult to change. The good news is that once you acquire good habits that same powerful force is operating for you, not against you. It is an accomplishment that can last a lifetime.
These above replies are excellent. Many thanks! A lot of good reading and some interesting links as well. I suppose I just needed some encouragement, as I tend to read a lot and may have been misinformed.
Loc: Washington State, King County
"I feel the number one and most important action to loose weight is to eat right."
I think this is exactly right.
"I think long backpack trips are VERY effective for weight loss."
While true, the evil downside to this is that by the time you've brought your weight down substantially, your appetite has grown enormously. When the hike is over you go home with a temporarily cranked up metabolism and the habit and expectation of eating a lot. It's common to gain weight back as a result.
While I'm still in search of the elusive discipline to keep my food intake down (and quality of the food I do eat up), I literally do a sort of slow-motion yo-yo diet. I'll hike about a month on the AT starting mid-March with a friend who's going to thru-hike the trail, as I find a month is about a sweet spot for me. I can lose a good 20 pounds or perhaps a bit more while eating whatever I want, and "the hunger" has just barely started to occur at that point. For me.
That boils down to perhaps what you're referring to as "power hiking" (what exactly is that anyway?) all day, just about every day for a month. So in that context, I'm suspicious that 30 minutes would do too much, and feel that food portion and quality control are more important.
Coupled WITH a good exercise program. In THAT context, 30 minute hikes sound excellent to me. My wife and I tend to do one or two local walks per week just from our house that last more than 30 minutes. I suggest some sort of weight training as well if you can fit it in.
My "long" backpacking is not "power hiking" at all. I keep a moderate pace, go 7-8 miles a day (mostly off trial), stop about 3PM. I am out 10-14 days at a time with a few days in between for the summer. I loose maybe 5 pounds. So my food intake is pretty balanced with my output. I think this is quite different than what you do on the thru-hikes.
I think I have read that for aerobic conditioning, half an hour may be fine, but for weight loss it is better to do 2 hours at a time three times a week vs. one hour six days a week. For some reason duration makes a difference. May be that short duration you just burn the calories from food you have just eaten, whereas, longer duration you are getting calories from stored fat.
As for re-gaining when home, yes that is hard, but it does not invalidate the weight loss you achieve when backpacking. I find that my gaining weight has more to do with holiday feasts than anything around the time I backpack! However you loose weight I feel your goal should be slow but steady weight loss. After all, it probably took you 10 years go get fat. Why not 10 year goal to get back to the baseline.
I feel you can achieve slow steady weight loss with less than heroic measures. Just be consistent. It really has to be a permanent life style change that you actually like. For example I ate nothing but wild game for meat for about 10 years. Then I had to start eating store bought beef. Ugh! It was so greasy - made my belly ache. I do not even like it. Also went pretty much without sugar for a few years. Now I cannot stand to eat a candy bar - sickeningly sweet. Start paying attention to what food makes your belly feel good an hour after. If it is good food, you will not be hungry, feel boated, or sick. I still crave junk. I eat some, feel lousy. The crave satisfaction only lasts minutes. Not worth it. For me, to get to the point where I avoid bad food, I have had to eliminate the bad stuff entirely for 6 months to a year. I guess that is sort of like an alcoholic.
Everyone is different. I am lucky to start out with a nice high metabolism and grew up in a family who grew a huge garden and we loved vegetables and no junk food allowed.
And, if you love to hike, who gives a dang about what others say about it. Just do it. It certainly is doing no harm.
A 1,000 calorie deficit will result in losing about a pound. At an average pace, a person burns about 100 calories per mile.
Counting calories sucks, so I watch my portion sizes. I figure a cup of anything is about 100 calories. This doesn't work for meat but it's just a concept as the number doesn't matter. If I don't feel physically hungry when it's time to eat, I make the meal smaller. If I get hungry early, I eat a piece of fruit.
I'm an author and I work at home, so it's tempting to sit in a chair all day. To counter this, I bought an app from Welnomics that turns off my keyboard for seven minutes after typing for 20 minutes. I use this time to do housework or just pace around the house.
For weight loss, it doesn't matter much if you walk the distance all at once or a little at a time. I use a pedometer to count steps, and just assume 2,000 steps is a mile. If I'm behind, I eat less. If I'm ahead, I eat more if I want, 100 calories for each 2,000 steps above the sedentary baseline.
Aerobics benefit is a little tricker. People say 20 minutes, but not all exercises are equal. According to studies by Ken Cooper, we need 30 aerobics points a week. You can find the point values here
Jogging/running is the most efficient way to burn calories and to get aerobic benefit. You can find the values using this calculator.
This all sounds too complicated, and it is except for an obsessive person. The best advice I've heard is get on the scale everyday. If the weight is up, eat less and exercise more. If the weight is down, get a normal baseline of food and exercise.
Loc: Washington State, King County
"I keep a moderate pace, go 7-8 miles a day (mostly off trial), stop about 3PM. I am out 10-14 days at a time with a few days in between for the summer. I loose maybe 5 pounds. So my food intake is pretty balanced with my output. I think this is quite different than what you do on the thru-hikes."
What we each find "normal" can vary a lot. From long distance hiking my sort of default approach now is, I guess, relatively fast unless I'm heavily loaded for some reason (which really only happens in very cold weather trips). I've been tooling along at what I feel is a comfortable pace and on occasion folks that either haven't heard of or don't accept the concept of HYOH have said things like "slow down, enjoy yourself" or words to that effect. At a time when I'm enjoying myself immensely. So each to their own. OTOH, there are certainly a lot of people who like to hike faster than me (!). I do find it challenging to hike at someone else's (significantly different) pace, and when I hike with friends now I typically hike my own pace for a few hours and then flop down and read or snooze until we sync back up.
I do think that my approach to diet and exercise is lacking for the "most of the time" that I'm not backpacking. I've a lot of respect for folks who keep it all together in 'normal life'.