How to Walk Uphill

Benefits of Walking Uphill and How to Do It Right

Walking Uphill
Walking Uphill. Ascent Xmedia/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty

Many walkers have a love/hate relationship with walking uphill. It takes extra exertion and so you know it is probably doing good things for your body. But that exertion gets you huffing, puffing, and maybe even sweating, which you may find unpleasant. What are the benefits of walking uphill, and how can you do it efficiently?

Benefits of Walking Uphill

  • Walking uphill works the muscles at the front of your thighs as well as your buttock muscles more than walking on level ground. You tone and work the muscles at the front of your thigh as well as your buttock muscles.

Tips for Walking Uphill

  • Warm-up: Going uphill will work your muscles, it is best to plan on warming up with a walk on the level for 5 minutes before you tackle a steep hill.
  • Shorten Your Steps: Like a bike shifting to a new gear to go uphill, shorten your steps.
  • Maintain or quicken your step rate: With shorter steps, you won't be going as far with each step. You can maintain your step rate, knowing it will take a bit longer because of the hill. Or you can try shorter, quicker steps on the hill if you want to maintain your pace.
  • Leaning: It is natural to lean into the hill a bit. Try to keep that lean to a minimum, keep your torso over your hips, if you lean too much you put yourself off balance. Do not lean backwards, that will unbalance you. Leaning too far forward or leaning back can strain your lower back.
  • Your Knees: You shouldn't be lifting your knees higher than 6 inches, if you are then you need to shorten your step even more.
  • Exertion: Hills will raise your heart rate, breathing, and exertion level as more muscles are used to carry you both up and along. Keep your exertion at an intensity where you can still speak in sentences rather than just gasping out single words.
  • Heart Rate: Hills are a good way for slower walkers or highly fit walkers to achieve a higher heart rate level. Check your heart rate on hills to see what various rates feel like for exertion and breathing intensity.

What Goes Up Must Come Down - Except on the Treadmill

If your uphill walking is done on a treadmill, you won't have to do any downhill walking. Out in the real world, you usually have to do both. Be sure you have the right downhill walking technique.


Jones, AM, JH Doust. "A 1% treadmill grade most accurately reflects the energetic cost of outdoor running." Journal of Sports Science 14(4)(1996): 321-7.

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