How to Walk Up Hills

How to Walk Up Hills

Walking up hills! Does the mere mention of hills send a chill “up” your spine? Love them or hate them they’ll still be there so you might as well learn how to walk up hills.

Let’s forgo the problems with hills; they're too hard, I’ll hurt too much, or I just can’t do them. Let’s focus on the view from the top and what you can do to reach new heights!

Like any other fitness activity, having more knowledge will get you to easily walk up hills. In no time at all, you will be walking up the tallest, steepest, longest hill on your walking route and not even notice it until you get to the great view at the summit.

You’ll conquer them with some sweat on your brow, a smile on your face, and the satisfaction of knowing that your walking fitness training is paying off!

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Walking Up Hills - "More Bang for the Buck”!

  • Increases intensity of your walk

  • Quickly improves your fitness

  • Increases your heart rate

  • Increases the number of calories burned

  • Strengthens your quadriceps and hip flexors

  • Strengthens your buttocks muscles

  • Shapes your entire lower body

  • How to Efficiently and Easily Walk Up Hills

  • Lean forward slightly

  • Feel your hips and buttocks assist your thigh muscle (the feel is important)

  • Use a relaxed arm swing (do not exaggerate it)

  • Use shorter, quicker strides

Heart Rate: Check your Heart Rate at the top of a climb

To see how much more intense walking uphill is, check your heart rate at both the bottom and top of the hill

How to Check Your Heart Rate

Checking your heart rate periodically during a walk is a great way to monitor your fitness progress.

Feel your pulse for 15 seconds then multiply that number by 4.

For example, if you count 35 beats in 15 seconds that equals 140 beats per minute. (35 X 4=140 beats per minute)

Walking up Hills: The Psychology

While walking uphill may be difficult at first, the physical benefits you get from walking hills are tremendous!

Just as important is the psychological lift you get from walking up and over a challenging hill.

Conquering a hill gives you a great sense of achievement and a huge boost to your mental well-being as your endorphins kick in (these are the feel-good hormones). Achievement of any endeavor gives us a sense of satisfaction as we hold our heads up high and say “yes, I did that!”

It’s important for our well-being to achieve something regularly. In order to do this, we must set goals that are realistic but challenging. Walking over that hill you avoided will do this for you!

More Benefits of Walking Uphill

  • Enjoy the view from the top: There is a reason that real estate prices are higher for home at the top of hills, the views are awesome. I try to find routes that take me over the various hilly neighborhoods in my areas. The homes are usually larger which means less number of homes, which means less traffic! Then there are the views, which are spectacular even from the road. I can only imagine what it looks like from the back deck of the home.

  • Sense of accomplishment: What’s life without a challenge and whether the hill you walk is big or small, when you make it to the top it’s a win. Celebrate! Stop and take a picture. Allow yourself to feel your accomplishment.

  • Build Balanced Leg Muscles: Walking up hills help develop the muscles at the front of your thighs (quadriceps) as opposed to the muscles in the back of your leg built when walking on flat terrain (hamstrings).

  • Hills Burn Calories: Walking up hills burns 3-5 more calories per minute more than walking on flat terrain. Over time this increase in calorie burn leads to a decrease in weight!

  • Boosts Heart Rate: Walking uphill, even at a slow pace, will increase the walking intensity to moderate and even strenuous levels.

  • Improve your core muscles: Walking up a hill engages all your core muscles. Since you must lean slightly forward the hip flexors work harder to move your knees for the next step up. Your core is kept stable by the transverse abdominis and rectus abdominis. Lastly, your arm swing helps activate your internal and external obliques.

Walking Uphill - Tips to Improve Your Form

  • Slow and steady: find a rhythm and step to it.

  • Shorten your stride: A shorter stride will keep your feet under you giving you more balance and power.

  • Do more hills: “Practice makes perfect”! The more hills you walk, the better you will get at it.

Walking Uphill Fitness Training Workout

  • Adding other fitness exercises to your routine will develop your body and turn you into a hill walking machine.

  • Stair climbing / Stair climbing machines

  • Step Ups

  • Squats

  • Back Kick Lunge

  • Calf Raise

  • Planks

  • Pushups

  • Treadmill training with the deck elevated

Walking Uphill Mindset - Getting Over the Top

I’ve been preaching that walking will get you in great physical shape. I have believed this from the very beginning of my walking journey. What I found most surprising and beneficial, even more than the physical fitness, is the positive effect on my mindset.

The added benefit of walking up a hill is the boost to your mindset, and the feelings associated with accomplishing the task of walking over a hill are very important, not only to build confidence, and self-esteem but to keep your motivation to continue on your journey, and reach your ultimate fitness goals!

  • Focus

  • Commitment

  • Stay Positive

  • Sense of Achievement

Read more on Keys to Staying Motivated

Walking Uphill Aches and Pains

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As with any new activity, you will feel some soreness or other issues when you begin so, proceed with (slight) caution. The following is a list of the most common ailments associated with walking up hills.

Achilles tendinitis: Pain in the back of your heel and lower calf

The Achilles tendon can be irritated by hill walking. Repeated flexing of the foot when walking up and down steep hills or on uneven terrain can also strain the tendon, triggering lower leg pain. If the pain is bothersome then ice the area for 15 to 20 minutes, 3-4 times per day.

Shin Splints: Soreness in your shins.

Doing too many hills too soon will make you susceptible to this injury as your foot has to flex more with each uphill step. This movement overworks the shin muscles cause pain. To prevent this, begin by slowly adding hills to your walking route. To alleviate the pain, ice the affected area and take an anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen.

Calf soreness: Happens when the calf muscles are overworked.

The best defense is a good offense, so get into the habit of stretching your calf muscle, after you are warmed up, by placing the balls of your feet (front part) on a curb or step and dropping your heels down below the toes. This movement will lengthen the calf muscle. Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat the stretch several times. This will prevent soreness in the future. Rest and Ice will help you deal with the current pain.

Inspiration to Get You Over the Top

Hill Songs to get you moving:

Tom Petty - Climb that Hill

Peter Gabriel – Solsbury Hill


Walking up hills is a great way to increase your fitness and give yourself a psychological boost. As with any new endeavor, the more you do it the better you get at it. Keep moving forward and don’t forget to enjoy the view from the top.

Walk on,
Frank