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Incline walking: Benefits and drawbacks

Walking is a simple way to staying fit. Walk on an incline to make it a little more challenging. We tell you about incline walking for weight loss.

If you love nature, you must have tried walking up a hill. It can leave you a little breathless, but it is a good workout. It is similar to using a treadmill at home or a gym. You can use the workout equipment to walk or run. Whether it is a hill or a treadmill, you can try incline walking for weight loss. While walking on a flat ground is great, add a slope to it and see how it becomes challenging! Read on to know how to start incline walking for weight loss.

What is incline walking?

Incline walking involves walking an upward slope, be it a natural terrain or an adjustable setting on a treadmill. Unlike walking on a flat surface, incline walking requires people to work against gravity, essentially providing resistance training along with cardiovascular exercise, says fitness trainer Juily Wagle. Identifying inclines goes beyond the obvious slopes. It encompasses any ascent, be it a gentle hill, a flight of stairs or even a steep driveway. Each elevation introduces varying degrees of difficulty, demanding adaptability and engagement from different muscle groups.

A woman walking on incline
Incline walking is a full-body workout. Image courtesy: Freepik

This is not your average stroll in the park. it is a full-body workout disguised as a leisurely hike. Incline walking isn’t just about reaching the peak. It is about challenging yourself against the incline, pushing your limits, and sculpting a stronger, fitter you, says transformation and nutrition coach Rajat Goel.

Incline walking for weight loss

A 2012 study published in the Journal of Biomechanics showed that metabolic cost of the participants increased by 17 percent at 5 percent incline, and 32 percent at 10 percent incline compared to flat ground.

Walking on an incline helps in weight loss by intensifying the workout, says Goel. Imagine you are used to lifting a 5 kg dumbbell, but then you switch to a 10 kg one because the 5 kg no longer challenges your muscles. Similarly, an incline adds resistance, making your body work harder. This increases calorie burn and engages more muscles, especially in the lower body and core. While the exact number of calories burned depends on factors like speed, weight, and duration, walking uphill generally burns more calories than walking on a flat surface, potentially aiding weight loss efforts.

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What are the health benefits of incline walking?

Walking on an incline means engaging quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves, and core muscles. As you ascend a steep incline, quads power each step, glutes stabilise your hips, and core muscles maintain alignment and posture. Since so many muscles are involved, its health benefits are also numerous.

  • It boosts stamina by challenging your cardiovascular system more than walking on a flat surface, which makes your heart and lungs work harder. This increased effort builds endurance, allowing you to engage in physical activities for longer without feeling tired, says Goel.
  • Walking uphill strengthens the posterior muscles, including those in your lower back and glutes. This improved muscle strength can make walking and other daily activities easier as your body becomes better able to handle physical exertion.
  • Its gentle impact on joints makes incline walking accessible to people with joint issues, while still delivering significant fitness outcomes, says Wagle.
  • By engaging core muscles to maintain balance and stability, incline walking strengthens the core, fostering better posture and overall strength.

What are the drawbacks of incline walking?

Incline walking generally has no specific drawbacks, but certain conditions might limit its suitability.

  • If you have lower back issues or low strength and stamina, you might find it challenging.
  • Incline walking increases the heart rate and requires more oxygen, which can be strenuous if your body isn’t accustomed to such activity.
  • For newcomers or those with joint issues, the intensity of incline walking may pose challenges.

You can start with gentle slopes and gradually increase the intensity. Focus on building strength and mobility before tackling steeper inclines to avoid overexertion, suggests Wagle.

A woman walking on a treadmill
Start with walking on flat surfaces before incline walking. Image courtesy: Freepik

How to get started?

To get started with incline walking, it is crucial to prioritise staying within our comfort zone. Consider your abilities and environment before engaging in any exercise, says Goel.

  • Begin with a few minutes of walking on a flat surface to warm up your body.
  • You can then do brisk walks on flat surfaces.
  • Gradually transition to incline walking by using a treadmill or going up a hill to avoid sudden strain or injury.

By starting gradually and listening to your body, you can safely increase the intensity of incline walking and reap its benefits.

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