For those who enjoy the splendors of nature, it can be difficult to decide between hiking or walking as a way to explore and appreciate the outdoors. Both activities offer a chance to discover nature, get some exercise, and enjoy the fresh air. But there are some key differences between a hike vs a walk that may make one activity more appealing to you than the other.
In this article, we will explore what makes hiking and walking distinct activities, their respective advantages and disadvantages, and when each may be the better option.
What is a Hike vs Walk?
At first glance, walking and hiking may seem like the same activity. In fact, you’ve probably heard the terms “walk” and “hike” used interchangeably. But what exactly is the difference between the two?
What is Considered Walking?
Most commonly a walk is a leisurely stroll, usually taken for exercise or enjoyment. Walks are typically shorter and less strenuous than hikes and are often done on flat, paved surfaces like sidewalks or trails. Walks can be done anywhere and last from a few minutes to several hours and don’t typically require any special equipment or supplies.
Examples of walks:
- Talking your dog for a walk around the neighborhood.
- Walking around a park or nature preserve with your family.
- Strolling along a beachfront promenade.
- Window shopping at your local mall.
What is Considered Hiking?
A hike is a long, strenuous walk in the countryside or the mountains. It’s typically done for pleasure and exercise, and often involves steep inclines, rocky terrain, and uneven ground. Hikes can last anywhere from a few hours to several days, and often require hikers to carry a backpack with supplies like food, water, and a change of clothes.
To put it simply, hiking is a much more involved activity than walking!
Examples of hikes:
- A day hike up a nearby mountain.
- Backpacking in the wilderness for several days.
- An overnight backpacking trip to a remote lake.
- Visiting a national forest and following the trails to see landmarks.
Major Differences Between a Hike vs Walk
One of the biggest differences between hiking and walking is the terrain. Hiking typically takes place on trails that are more rugged and uneven than walking paths. This means that hikers need to be prepared for steep inclines, rocky terrain, and uneven footing. On the other hand, walking is usually done in urban areas such as sidewalks and walking paths which are generally flatter and more even, making them more accessible to a wider range of people.
Another key difference between hiking and walking is the distance. Hikes are generally longer and more strenuous than walks. While a walk might be a leisurely stroll around the block, a hike could take several hours and cover several miles, almost exclusively over 2 miles. This makes hiking a better choice for people who are looking for a more challenging workout.
The equipment required for hiking and walking is also different. Hikers typically need to have sturdy footwear with good traction, as well as appropriate clothing and gear for the weather. They may also need to bring a backpack with water, snacks, and other essentials. Walkers, on the other hand, generally don’t need any special equipment beyond a comfortable pair of shoes.
Read more articles about hiking gear!
The experience of hiking and walking is also different. Hiking is often seen as a more adventurous activity, with the potential to encounter wildlife, navigate difficult terrain, and enjoy breathtaking views. Walking, on the other hand, is seen as more of a leisurely activity, with a focus on relaxation and enjoying the scenery.
Hikes are often done for pleasure, exercise, or to reach a specific destination, like a summit or a lookout point. Taking a walk can be an activity for both leisure and productivity—whether it’s to get your daily exercise, run errands, go shopping, work, or simply enjoy the scenery.
Some hikers see hiking as a way to challenge themselves physically and mentally, while walking is more focused on the social aspect and mental well-being.
Another key difference between hiking and walking is the challenge. Hiking is generally more challenging than walking. Hiking trails can be steep and rocky, and the distance can be longer. This means that hiking is a better choice for people who are looking for a more challenging workout.
Is Hiking Better Exercise Than Walking?
Hiking and walking are both great forms of exercise that offer a range of physical and mental benefits. Both activities can help to improve cardiovascular health, strengthen bones and muscles, and promote weight loss. However, hiking may be considered a more intense form of exercise than walking in certain aspects.
Hiking generally burns more calories per hour than walking. The uneven terrain, inclines, and carrying a backpack can increase the intensity of the workout, leading to a higher calorie burn.
Make your walk a hike to reap the benefits of burning twice as many calories per mile! Each mile you cover burns around 100 calories, but if you decide to hike instead – that number jumps up to 200. Of course, these numbers vary depending on your weight, speed, and terrain.
For example, if you weigh 155 pounds and walk at an average pace of 3.5 mph for one hour on flat terrain, you’ll burn around 267 calories throughout that time. However, if you choose to take a more mountainous path with your bag in tow for that same amount of time, your total caloric expenditure could reach up to 439!
Hiking requires the use of multiple muscle groups, such as the legs, glutes, core, and upper body. The uneven terrain and inclines also engage the stabilizer muscles, leading to a more well-rounded workout. In contrast, walking is mainly a lower-body exercise.
Hiking can be a more challenging workout for the cardiovascular system because of the steep inclines, uneven terrain, and varying speeds. This can help to improve endurance and cardiovascular fitness.
Both hiking and walking are great for mental health and stress relief. However, hiking offers the added benefit of being in nature, which has been shown to have a calming effect on the mind. When it comes to exploring the outdoors, nature enthusiasts would much rather admire deer and birds in a natural habitat than seeing their least favorite neighbor on the porch while walking down the street.
So, without a doubt, hiking provides many health benefits. But is it the better option for your health and well-being?
Well, not entirely!
It’s worth noting that the intensity of hiking and walking can vary depending on the individual’s fitness level and the specifics of the hike or walk. An intense hike for some may be a casual walk in the park for others.
Everyone has different needs and preferences, after all, you wouldn’t expect a beginner to take on a difficult mountain hike! The best exercise is the one that works for you. Ultimately, what’s most important is that you get out there and do something active. Whether it’s a casual walk, an intense hike, or something in between, the important thing is to stay active and enjoy your time in nature.
Remember to make sure to choose the activity that aligns with your goals and interests and to always listen to your body and not overdo it.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Each Activity
Exploring nature through either hiking or walking has its own unique benefits and drawbacks.
Advantages of Hiking:
- Challenging workout.
- Potential to explore beautiful places in nature.
- Opportunity to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Disadvantages of Hiking:
- May require more specialized equipment, which can get expensive if you’re on a tight budget.
- Can be more difficult and dangerous than walking.
- More time-consuming than walking due to the distance covered.
- Less beginner friendly, especially in challenging terrain.
Advantages of Walking:
- Low-impact exercise that is good for joint health.
- Easier to fit into a busy schedule since it takes less time than hiking.
- Great way to spend quality time with friends and family.
- Easier to get started.
- Can still get outdoors.
Disadvantages of Walking:
- May not be as challenging or engaging as hiking.
- Can become repetitive if walking the same route frequently.
- Not as many options to explore wild places in nature.
Overall, both activities offer great benefits for physical and mental health, but ultimately it comes down to personal preference. Whether you prefer to take a leisurely stroll or tackle a challenging hike, both activities can be a great way to get out and enjoy nature.
When it comes to choosing between a hike vs a walk it is not so black and white. And lies more on a spectrum that really depends on your fitness level, the type of scenery you want to see, and the amount of time you have. If you’re looking for a challenging adventure and don’t mind a bit of sweat and dirt, a hike might be the perfect choice. But if you’re looking for a more relaxed, low-key experience, a walk might be more your style.
No matter whether you’re planning a hike or a walk, make sure to wear appropriate footwear, bring along enough water, and dress in layers to be prepared for any weather. But really do not get too wrapped up in what is a hike vs walk. Ultimately, it is just about having fun and spending more time outdoors!