Is Hiking Harder Than Running?

Hiking and running are both great cardio exercises that help tone and strengthen your core and lower body (via Livestrong). They're both good activities for your heart health and can vastly improve your athletic performance, stamina, and endurance. However, there are some notable differences between the two aerobic activities.

Despite their similarities, hiking and running activate different muscles in different ways. For instance, hiking generally engages the hamstrings more than running does. That's because running is actually easier on your hamstrings. Since running propels your body forward in a jumping motion, your hamstrings aren't extended as much as they are when your feet are planted on the ground.

The same goes for the glutes. As opposed to running, hiking requires your glutes, or gluteal muscles, to work harder in order to support both your weight and the weight of your hiking backpack. The degree to which your calf muscles are worked, on the other hand, largely depends on the terrain. Hiking and running uphill is much more strenuous on your calves than hiking or running on flat terrain. Overall, however, running has a stronger impact on your abdominal muscles.

Which burns more calories?

Although running and hiking are both physically demanding exercises that are great for your overall health, running generally burns more calories than hiking (via Heathline). Even though running usually occurs on flat terrain, it burns twice as many calories as moderately-paced hiking. While the exact number of calories you burn depends on your weight and the speed and duration of your run, running is considered a more vigorous and high-intensity cardio exercise than hiking. As a result, running is a more effective and efficient way to lose weight. 

It's important to note, however, that people usually spend more time hiking than running. Depending on the length of the hike, hikers can potentially burn more calories in one trip than the average person burns in a single run. Nevertheless, there is no right or wrong choice between the two activities. At the end of the day, it all comes down to personal preference. Running and hiking are both great ways to tone your muscles, burn calories, and potentially lose weight.